Shelley Tracey speaks about Lockdown and this year’s Poetry in Motion project.

How are you coping during the Lockdown?

For me,  the Lockdown has produced many challenges, as I am sure it has for many others. The terrible events in America are very depressing. Amongst other things, I am concerned about the loss of work in the arts sector. At the same time, I am aware that the arts are sustaining many people during this time. Poetry has been really popular, and so have online theatre and musical performances and film as well.  I am enjoying continuing with choir practice online, but missing singing in the same room as the other members of the very large community choir I belong to.

I really miss my weekly sessions at Cranmore Integrated Primary School as writer in residence. I loved the interaction with the pupils and their teachers and the amazing creativity. I wish everyone at the school very well.

How are you preparing for the new annual programme?

Preparing for Poetry in Motion Schools and Community programmes is not as straightforward as in the past, because we need to take a lot of new factors into account. There are questions about the best ways of presenting an online programme and how to ensure participation. I have been reflecting on what makes CAP’s programmes special and what aspects we want to take forward, and also how to engage our poet facilitators in the process, We are very lucky to have experienced facilitators who can share their expertise. It’s an ongoing conversation.

What challenges are there in conducting community arts classes during this difficult period?

Funding cuts to community groups and to community arts programmes are a major challenge. I also think that offering programmes successfully online requires dedicated funding to explore and develop the first approaches. It would be good if government and arts councils could invest in this developmental aspect.

What new skills are you working on in order to deliver the programme?

I have been building up my experience of delivering creative writing courses online in my freelance practice. I am now confident about using platforms such as google classroom and Zoom. I feel confident now about developing online writing communities. I have also made a series of poetry videos for the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn, sharing inspiring poems and ideas for using these poems as prompts.

Why does Community arts matter during this period?

It matters because it connects communities, and because it gives people the chance to develop their creativity and express themselves.

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.