When I first moved to Wakefield, I was a little underwhelmed at what little there seemed to be on offer ‘culture’ wise.
I am a true city girl from Sheffield so I am used to lots of art projects everywhere and I grew up in a very diverse, impoverished but expressive community.
But moving just 30 minutes down the motorway and I was in a completely different environment where suddenly I was asked about “where I came from.” And I was subject to a bit of racism.
Thankfully, the more I have learnt about Wakefield through working at the local paper the more I have grown to love and adore the city.
I have also discovered a plethora of ‘culture’ such as the Theatre Royal that engages young people from a wide range of backgrounds, the Hepworth art gallery has been built and offers lots of free family-friendly activities and I have found the amazing Well Women Centre who not only provide counselling, support and complementary therapies for women but they also offer a wide range of arts and crafts.
Wakefield also has a really interesting history of mining and sadly with the closure of Kellingley Colliery recently.
But new and refurbished venues such as Unity Works (a former dance hall) on Westgate has played host to a variety of exhibitions on mining and many other subjects as well as being a creative powerhouse for the city with offices, meeting rooms and event space.
When it comes to mining, there is of course the National Coal Mining Museum which we visited recently for some free Easter fun to learn about fossils.
There is of course the museum in Wakefield One in the city centre as well as the Create cafe and Lightwaves Leisure Centre which now plays host to We Are Wakefield a pro-active community group fighting for equality in the city and beyond.
And what I love most about Wakefield is the fact that there are so many emerging artists, experimental festivals and events and most of them are free and family-friendly.
I am really passionate that ‘cultural’ events are accessible, I hate the term ‘high’ culture when it comes to theatre, opera and certain arts.
It’s not an us and them. I love reality TV because it gives people hope (I am aware of the negatives too) and reality TV gave me a chance to pursue my ambitions.
But that does not mean that people like me shouldn’t be engaged by non-commercial arts.
I hate snobbiness when it comes to ‘cultural’ activities and there is something so lovely in Wakefield. It’s the atmosphere around the arts.
Wakefield Cathedral run kids crafts, put on a wide range of events and messy sessions too.
Just tonight, my daughter and I are going on our first Art Walk in the city centre where venues open their doors and showcase art for free. We’re starting off at a solicitor’s to see a friend of mine’s work hung up and then on to Westgate Studios for a book launch and Georgian-style evening. We are then crossing the road to go to Theatre Royal as we have been given tickets to Strictly Musicals by Wakefield Youth Music Theatre and again, it’s kid-friendly hurrah!
There are so many hidden gems in this city we really should shout about them more! I used to hate art galleries as I associated them with quiet, dullness and static paintings. But My daughters see them as play centres where they can draw and create. How fab is that?!
Kids should definitely be seen and heard – a perfect example of this is Baby Raves by BoomChikkaBoom which take place at Hepworth Gallery. They’re noisy, creative, fun, engaging and a great way for art to just ‘be’.
So rather than complain about too much noise, not enough ‘respect’ for the arts, it is up for the arts to attract a new generation of art-lovers that isn’t just for the laa-di-dah but it is a platform for expression.
When I was in Sheffield Youth Theatre, if audience members (often young), weren’t listening when we were performing (one guy was even listening to the football on his radio), our director’s words stayed with me: “Rather than waste your energey getting annoyed that they are not listening to you, engage them, it is your job as actors to make them want to listen.”
And I am so pleased to live in a city where all of our kids are championed as they should be.
Tonight there is also a spoken word night on at Unity Works called Unity Words and it’s pay what you can/want.
I love this. As it’s a signal that artists need to engage and impress but it also means that people who can’t afford such events, can just pay what they can.
I have been inspired to start teaching dance again and I have set prices but also the offer of ‘swapping’ services or people just paying what they can. Because to me dancing is a gift that shouldn’t just be for the elite of society but we should all be brought up moving and openly expressing ourselves as well as communicating (without too much technology!).
So rather than add restrictions to art workshops and viewings – we should serve the whole community – as art is a gift but it is a gift everyone should enjoy.