The Friend - 27 April 2007
Q-eye is on holiday. Back next week!
A creative centre: Bainside Arts
It is three years since Bainside Arts featured in The Friend at the start of an imaginative and creative venture. The project, brought to life with the encouragement and support of local Quakers in the Dales, was first ‘tested’ in 2001. It has been based since 2004 in the Barn next to Bainbridge Meeting House, which has been lovingly restored by Friends and which provides simple facilities for arts and crafts courses. We believe that the work we are doing is raising the profile of Quakers in the Dales. We are aware that we need to be cautious with our use of the words ‘Quaker’, ‘spiritual’ and ‘religion’ as we have been told it has put some off attending. However we also know that some participants have learned more about Quakers during their visit and others have had their misconceptions about Quakers put right. We are now listed in the Directory of Quaker Work. The project aims to give an opportunity for spiritual growth and development through the pursuit of arts and crafts. We want the activities to reflect Quaker values and testimonies, and acknowledge that there is an educational aspect inherent in all these activities – arts and crafts, spiritual and environmental. We hope that this use of the barn, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, can encourage closeness to the natural world and deeper understanding of the environment.
We aim to attract visitors to come for holidays, use the B&Bs and so strengthen the local economy. We have encouraged the whole community to make use of the facilities and welcome participants of all faiths or none. * In its first three years the project has attracted a number of generous grants and donations including a sizeable non-lottery Arts Council grant, and we have had the benefit of a bursary fund supported by our own local Quaker Trusts. We have however found it quite difficult as a small organisation to ensure that income from course fees is sufficient to cover course expenses. We have to balance the fees against the costs and what our participants can afford, but the bursary fund is underused. We are now in a process of change as we seek to incorporate what we have learned from the experience of the last three years. The new arts manager/ administrator appointed last July is broadening the scope of our work to include activities with local children, developing the idea of acting as an agency to provide arts related courses for other organisations, and also building a different balance of courses. We have arranged an exciting new programme for 2007. We will be monitoring our progress carefully and often and may have to make more adjustments. We are launching ‘Friends of Bainside’ with the aim of giving
us a modest background income and with a view to gaining some insight into the extent of support we have both locally and nationwide. We are looking at finding more volunteer help for the administrators. Participants have sometimes found it difficult to find single accommodation so local Friends have offered to provide simple B&B facilities without undercutting the local providers. We have received very positive feedback, and know that the Bainside Experience’ is a special one. Let some of participants speak for themselves:
When we signed up for a week-end at Bainside Arts two years ago, we knew it would be enriching and challenging but not what it would involve. We were welcomed by the tutor to the warm clutter-free upper room where the only sounds were the cawing of rooks and the bleating of sheep grazing in the old burial ground. In school I was brought up to believe I ‘couldn’t do art’. This sense of inadequacy still influences my attitude to doing creative things, so I was relieved to find that the instructions were nothing more daunting than to wet the paper and paint a line on it. We were invited to observe what was happening to the paint. With a strong work ethic I wondered at first whether it was self-indulgent to give time
the Friend , 27 April 2007
Judith Bromley Nicholls, Wensleydale and Swaledale MM, describes the changes at Bainside
without interruption just to look at paint on a piece of paper, but found the invitation simply to observe wonderfully freeing. In the silence I found the clamour of thoughts and emotions were stilled to a degree where it felt like prayer. We were then encouraged to explore together our perceptions of what was happening in us as we watched the paint. Life makes so many demands that if I allow myself to respond to each I become drained and ineffectual. This space at Bainbridge helped me to tap into the core of myself, to recognise the needs and strengths and weaknesses of the essential ME, and to discern what clutter in my life I could bonfire and which of my experiences are valuable compost. I’m sure the same atmosphere pervades on other courses because the building and the people absorb the vibes from each other. The building no doubt has absorbed the prayers and silent promptings from the presence of many generations of Quakers worshipping. In some small way we deepened our experience of the creative Spirit in us, by becoming more alert to it’s movement, in the space we allowed for it free from any input of our own.
My two weekend stays for your courses gave me some valuable ‘time out’ for my own creative work, aside from busy personal and family commitments and aside from work as an art therapist, which
uses enormous amounts of personal emotional and creative resources. The ethos of a space devoted to creative spiritual well being and growth was very important and appealing to me. The Quaker basis particularly so because I am not of the Christian faith and I welcomed an approach which seemed very open and inclusive to other faiths. I chose not to attend the Sunday meetings, but the images I made strongly expressed a peace of mind, non-judgmental acceptance of me and my work, and a sense of warmth and comfort in being there. I had no previous experience of participation in Quaker activities, and so a large part of my comfort and understanding is due to the excellence of the tutor’s facilitation /teaching and how she expressed the spirit of Quaker life. As an artist, art therapist, wife and mother, I came away from Bainbridge feeling refreshed and invigorated and ready to rush to my studio to work!
Bainside Arts Centre is a place for peace, creativity and spiritual refreshment. A perfect retreat from all external influences. The silence when you’re in the Centre is the centre of stillness – the perfect setting for self-meditation aided by whatever form of creativity one is involved in. Each time I’ve visited the Centre I’ve come away feeling spiritually nourished and my batteries re-charged. When I was on the ‘Wide
Horizons’ course we spent most of the two days outside and I still remember the view across the valley – the clouds pushing across the sky as more rain fell, but it still evokes a wonderful memory of timelessness and beauty. On the appliqué course this year we were inside the whole day but the stillness was all around us. We talked, of course, whilst we were sewing and I found it was, also, an opportunity for Quaker Outreach, among other topics. Bainbridge is such an appropriate place for an Arts Centre not just the Quaker history of Wensleydale but the fact that it seems to be a centre of incredibly talented creativity – nearly every village around has some person/persons engaged in art, painting, drawing, sewing etc. I intend to return again this year and every year to join a course – because for me it’s a very special place not just for the creativity it inspires in me but also for the continuing links with Quakers and Quaker history. Not all of the courses have an obvious spiritual element, some are quiet and reflective, some great fun, even noisy, and some are opportunities for learning skills. We also organise concerts and host talks. Come and find out for yourself: look out for the brochure giving details of the programme for 2007 and the leaflet for the ‘Friends of Bainside Arts’, which should be arriving at your Meetings via PM clerks in the next couple of weeks.
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