The Open Art Group smile at the camera around their brightly coloured mosaic petals for Lumiere

Stanley art group ready to light up Lumiere.

County Durham Community Foundation heads to Stanley to visit a community art group taking part in Lumiere’s Learning and Participation programme. Match funding from the Foundation supports the programme and encourages other businesses to help fund the festival.

Snip, rustle, hiss.

The room is quiet with concentration as the members of Stanley Open Art group focus on their creations.

Brightly coloured plastic, from shopping bags, tins of beans and parcel wrapping, is being carefully transformed into beautiful mosaics for one of this year’s Lumiere installations – Plastica Botanica.

Each piece is ironed gently into place and each participant has chosen a different pattern and colour scheme. Over the next few weeks, the sheets will be moulded into flower petals for 25 abstract flower installations that will help light up the city of Durham from November 18th for the internationally acclaimed festival.

Inclusive art

Laura, who runs the Open Art Group said: “Having these workshops is so important. Many of the people in our group may never attend Lumiere because of mobility issues, so it wouldn’t mean anything to them. But because they’ve taken part in this, it does. It includes them.”

The group is for people with mild mental health problems, and people with disabilities or long-term pain caused by stroke. It was founded six years ago, is based at The Venue, in Stanley, and for some members, is their only form of contact with other people.

Tight-knit group

Laura said: “I am so passionate about bringing art and mental health together because I know the impact it can have. I have had mental health issues myself and I know that during the pandemic, for many of the members, I was the only person they spoke to. We are a very tight-knit group.

“One member is in pain all of the time, except for the two hours she spends here each week, when she can get lost in the activity and forget about that pain for a time. Isn’t that remarkable?”

The Open Art Group is one of 12 community groups taking part in Plastica Botanica through Lumiere’s Learning and Participation programme. The crafty artwork has been designed by Plastic Shed and created by County Durham groups ranging from Scouts through special needs groups to those working on food poverty.

Lumiere is the UK’s largest light festival. The festival, produced by creative company Artichoke, debuted in Durham in 2009. The festival has attracted more than a million visitors to the city. This year, installations will also be showing at locations across the county.