We are The Living City. Pre-Covid we had planned a festival exploring what makes a city a great place to live, work and play.
When Lockdown started we pivoted our festival online and reassessed how we could best serve the community during what we thought would be a short lockdown.
We thought it best to ask our community what they wanted, 90% shared that they were low on motivation and felt lonely and isolated. They told us that the mainstream media narrative of baking banana bread and finding new hobbies wasn’t reflective of their experience. They told us of their love of their city and the hopes and fears for the future of their families and community.
We secured funding to implement a 12 week wellbeing programme to provide social connection and motivation. 550 Preston people participated in that programme and the feedback was excellent.
Those who spoke to us told that they had really enjoyed the opportunity to be heard and that then became our focus – bearing witness to voices, documenting real-lived experience and responding artistically and practically to what we were told. We sought out diverse voices and asked what a place needs in order to be a place they want to live, work and play in – but we also just listened. A trained person-centred therapist held space and allowed people to explore their thoughts and feelings without leading or interruption.
100s of hours later we have the Preston Voices. The real lived-experience of people in Preston during this pandemic. We have artists responses to these voices and now we are setting off on a journey to get those voices heard by those in power and to empower those voices and more – so that we can help transform Preston into a Living City loved by those who live, work and play here.