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  • Writer's pictureWill B.

From Cowgate to Beamish and back again – creativity and communication

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Most of us know Beamish as the living museum of the North, and for its trams, sweet shop or old Victorian school house. But perhaps something we know less about is the team's brilliant work supporting and empowering people in its local community.

Michelle Kindleysides leads the health and wellbeing team at Beamish, running a range of programmes with local people, including a Men’s Group, set up in 2014 to help support local men’s mental health, including those living with dementia, through community and creativity.

Thanks to Michelle and Henry Collingham from the design school at the University of Northumbria, Kids Kabin was able to collaborate on a new creative project in partnership with Beamish, called Dovetails.

The aim of the project has been to explore what Kids Kabin and Beamish’s Men’s Group have in common through their creative practice, and to make some beautiful projects for one another!”
Henry Collingham

Throughout the last few months, children from Kids Kabin Cowgate and members of the Beamish Men’s Group have planned, designed and made a number of hand-crafted wooden products for the benefit of the other group.

The bench made as part of the project that was presented to the Men's Group

Based on principles of learning, sharing, and linking communities, each group made short videos of their ideas, prototypes and progress and shared these throughout the project.

This process inspired new ideas and product improvements and built a virtual ‘making’ relationship between Beamish and Kids Kabin.

Henry showcases a video for Kids Kabin members.

The project culminated in the grand unveiling of the creations at Orchard Cottage at Beamish during which kids from Kids Kabin presented the Beamish group with a hand-carved garden bench and a tool store for their work shed.

In return the Men’s Group presented a modular ‘FlexiGames’ set for building indoor and outdoor games, and a bespoke toolbox measured to fit the Cowgate mobile woodwork bench. Both projects are complete with beautiful hand-carved and stippled handles!

The project has been hugely rewarding for members of both groups.

“I think I can safely say that everyone in the Men’s Group has thoroughly enjoyed working on this project.
"It was great to be set a ‘challenge’ and to work together to problem solve. The groups were really inspired by being able to make something that would be used by Kids Kabin, and then being able to actually meet the children and show them what they’d made at the end was the icing on the cake!
"It’s been a massive boost for the men’s self-confidence and a great way to get to know each other, as we’ve had quite a few new members since the summer.”
Michelle Kindleysides

Following the success of this project, Kids Kabin and Beamish group plan to keep in touch and we'll hopefully work together on another activity. The Men’s Group is really keen to share its skills in woodcarving with Kids Kabin.

Some of the Men's Group with one of the creations.


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