The Story So Far

November 2019 to March 2020
Pre-Covid we were planning 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.

April 2020: Community Listening
We asked 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. From these chats we launched the Active Wellbeing and the Voices programmes.

April – July 2020: Active Wellbeing & Community
In response to what we discovered during our listening exercise we secured funding to implement a 12 week wellbeing programme to provide social connection and motivation. 550 Preston people participated in that programme run by Mandala Yoga & Wellbeing CIC and the feedback was excellent.

May 2020: Online Festival
We held a mini weekend festival over the May bank holiday with dance classes, performance poetry, live music, yoga classes, positive environment activities and zumba – bringing a sense of activity and connection to our community. Thousands of people watched, listened and participated online.

April – July 2020 – Voices
The initial listening exercise was so rich that we wanted to find out more about what the people of Preston were experiencing and what they wanted from a Living City. We set-out to listen to people with varied experiences – a challenge in the early days of lockdown with low Zoom take-up.

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.

While talking about what they wanted from a Living city people naturally reflected on their current circumstances and what they were missing, fearing and hoping for, creating an archive of real-lived experience of hopes and fears during lockdown in Preston.

Participants were aged 15 – 70 and included those living alone and with large families; those working as DJs, musicians, company directors, farm workers, nurses, fitness instructors, sales people, youth workers, retail workers, factory workers and more; those who were new mums and those who were recently bereaved.

They told that they had really enjoyed the opportunity to be heard and this became our focus – bearing witness to voices, documenting real-lived experience so that we could respond artistically and practically to what we were told.

100s of hours later we had the Preston Voices. The real lived-experience of people in Preston during this pandemic. We have artists responses to these voices.

November – December 2020
Towards the end of 2020 we reviewed the Voices to determine what the people of Preston might want from the arts. From this we put together the Everyday Wellbeing Creative Workshops series running from March to April 2021.

March – April 2021
We asked artists to listen to the Preston Voices and to create a series of workshops in-keeping with the theme of giving voice to lived experience, hopes and fears and creating community.

The workshops are free to attend for the people of Preston and aim to give people an opportunity to use art to support wellbeing by exploring memories, the present moment and hopes.

What Next?
We are particularly interested in understanding how lived experience may be different from that depicted by the mainstream media how this comes to be and what its effects are.

We plan to work with artists to creatively reflect the Voices so that we can get them heard by more people, helping to cultivate a sense of being heard, of better understanding of those with different experiences, hopes and fears.

We also aim to set off on a journey to get the voices of Preston people 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.