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Create and learn playkits

Battersea Arts Centre collaborates to fundraise for Christmas art supplies for Wandsworth kids

Battersea Arts Centre launched a collaborative fundraiser this week to provide Wandsworth and Roehampton’s most vulnerable children with arts and crafts supplies this winter.

The centre hopes to raise £3,000 to continue the Create and Learn playkits initiative.

Between June and September, 3,900 kits were delivered to families and schools containing craft materials, creative ideas for how to use them, and work from local artists after more than £17,000 was raised.

Reverend Betsy Blatchley, pioneer minister in the Arts in Nine Elms of Nine Elms Arts Ministry, said: “What we’re really hoping to do for Christmas and the winter season is to actually create something that can bring a bit of joy and magic to the children.

“It’s something that can help families celebrate and actually have some fun time amidst what is going to be a very difficult period for some people.”

Reverend Blatchley started by creating a dozen collage packs to go out to some of the most vulnerable families as an activity in the Easter holidays.

The initiative started in response to the challenges facing families during the pandemic.

Nine Elms Arts Ministry collaborated with Battersea Arts Centre, Wandsworth Council and local arts charities to grow the scheme.

The project brought volunteers together with Agora Arts Circle, Battersea Arts Centre, Love To Learn, Nine Elms Arts Ministry, Roehampton R.O.C.K.S, Royal College of Art, Creative Wandsworth, SenTalk, Tara Arts, 575 Wandsworth Road (National Trust) and Wandsworth Council.

On the response from families and schools Reverend Blatchley noted: “They have said that it’s been an absolute lifeline for a lot of families, and in a lot of ways it’s the fact that people feel they haven’t been forgotten.

“When you realise it’s as basic as children not having pens and paper even to do their schoolwork, it’s just been brilliant to see the initiative take off and go across the borough, and hopefully bring some joy as well as some practical help to families.

“It’s absolutely vital that we don’t see need as just the absolute basic practical needs. If we think about what makes life worth living, some of the other cultural elements are absolutely essential.”

Nine Elms Arts Ministry’s work focuses on art, spirituality, wellbeing and social justice.

By commissioning specific work from artists in the winter season, it hopes to allow more children to take part in winter festivities, such as its advent calendar project.

The theme for the Christmas playkit will celebrate sharing and the season of light.

Marie Bidegaray, Agora Arts Circle director, said: “We constantly adapt, when we started we came together not knowing how the situation was going to evolve.  

“We know that this period is going to be even harder than the summer.

“Christmas is going to be harsh for quite a few families and this is why it is important for us to keep on going.”

Agora Arts Circle, based in Battersea, supports the project by creating resources for the packs and developing educational activities based around artists and artistic movements.

Bidegaray said: “Creativity and culture cannot be forgotten. It’s a starting point for children to start using their imagination independently.

“For a child to use his or her imagination is part of their development.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, schools in Wandsworth and Roehampton identified children who would not have access to creative materials.

Teachers believed that after food banks the biggest gap in the community would be in providing vulnerable children with a creative outlet.

Across Wandsworth borough 30.2% of children lived in poverty between 2018 and 2019 according to the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, for the End Child Poverty coalition.

This represents an increase of more than 2,000 children living in poverty in the borough since 2014, rising from 15,740 to 17,828.

By providing practical resources, this initiative aims to bridge the gap for children without access to the internet, television and games.

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