Curation & Learning – Women’s Pop Up Museum Project

This summer I worked on a short Heritage Lottery Fund project to create a Women’s Pop-Up Museum in Hastings.        

This link takes you to a short film about the project.

The project explored ways women’s lives are represented historically using local museum collections, and encouraged women to consider objects from their own homes as museum exhibits. We wanted to investigate how our sense of identity, family and community contribute to our ideas about heritage.

By using these artefacts to tell stories the women learned about their own past, and about each other; the similarities and differences in their stories. History (Herstory) became a living process owned by the participants rather than something remote and organised for them.

Throughout history there has always been a rich relationship between art and museums as a way of understanding the world, interpreting and representing it. We invited women to tell their stories using tile-making, textiles and creative writing.

This short film is about women’s stories, but it is also a reminder that when you give people the opportunity to use their own creativity, they become empowered and inspired, which is something that a lot of adult education seems to have forgotten.

The women in the project continue to meet to develop it. They have set up a blog at https://womenspopupmuseum.


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Creative Constraints

What do you do when you get into a creative rut? You know the signs.  Suddenly, you suddenly feel stuck, uninspired and wonder why you’re bothering.  At this point you usually take one of two paths: you either walk away to start on something new, or attempt something impulsive and bold to redeem your project and ruin it in the process.

Ironically, one of the best ways to reconnect with your initial enthusiasm comes from less rather than more.  Anything that imposes a limit – time, space, energy, materials, colour, word limits etc – forces you to push your creative thinking harder and further, which  in turn flexes your imagination and frequently makes you more inventive, original and edgier.

I call them creative constraints. Here a couple of examples of how they work in practice:

This month I entered a story for a competition. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the rules. The competition had a 4,000 limit. My story was 800 word over.   My first response was to stuff it in the drawer and switch on the TV. To cut a long story short (groan), three cups of tea and a Mars bar later, I lost 1,000 words, and ended up with a story which was tighter, and far better than the original.

Recently, working with women on a display for a Women’s Pop Up Museum, we discovered we weren’t allowed to use any permanent fixtures (no nails, screws, etc) which scotched our plans for wall-hangings.  After an initial wave of despondency, someone had the brilliant idea of using old fashioned wooden clothes horses and washing lines to hang and peg the artefacts. Not only was this idea truer to the theme of the display (which is based on using objects from women’s own homes to tell stories), but also spawned the idea to make a display which could fold into suitcases and travel to other museums and communities.

So, constraints! Love them!  Embrace them! If you haven’t got at least one bedevilling your ideas/projects, create one.

Next blog we look at how assumptions can trip up our creativity.

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Confidence and Creativity

What’s the vital quality that enables people to pursue their dreams, turn ideas into reality, to change the way they live? Is it passion, enthusiasm, skills, time and space to do it? Clearly, these are all important, but what emerged from participants at our KickstartYourCreativity course was none of these are any good without confidence.

Feeling good about yourself, your choices, trusting your instincts, your decisions to explore certain ideas, to believe they have value, is difficult if you lack creative confidence.  Confidence is linked to our sense of entitlement. If we know we have the right to return a pair of shoes, we feel confident marching up to the counter, demanding (in the nicest possible way) a refund. However, if we sense we’re in a legal grey area, unsure of our rights, we feel hesitant, may put it off, or make do with something we don’t want.

The same goes for developing the creative muscle. If you stop for a moment and think about what inhibits your creative confidence, chances are you’ll hear a host of negative voices – whether from childhood, school, or work – along the lines of  ‘you’re no good at playing the flute/making pastry/it won’t get you a job/how will it help our sales?…’ 

What these voices basically say is:  ‘You don’t have the right to be creative.’ This school of thought believes creativity is innate – like blue eyes, we have it or don’t have it. However, science proves differently.  In 1968 NASA gave 1,600 5-year-olds a creativity test used to select innovative engineers and scientists. The same children were re-tested at ages 10 and 15. 98% at age 5 registered genius level creativity, 30% at 10 year and 12% at 15 years of age. The same test given to 280,000 adults placed their genius level creativity at only 2%.

The conclusion: creativity is something we can learn and unlearn. So, consider ways  to reconnect with your creative gene: play, explore, experiment, have fun. Or as Anton Chekov said: ‘If you want to work on your art, work on your life.’

Join the debate:  Twitter: #kickstartyourcreativity  @createLconnect


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Creative Training & Facilitation  


We are running three linked workshops over 6 weeks in November and December 2014 aimed at people who develop and deliver training or adult learning, facilitate groups, offer supervision, coaching, mentoring or manage volunteers or staff.

The workshops will:

  • Introduce you to a variety of creative approaches and opportunities to explore your own creativity
  • Develop your confidence to design and offer creative training & facilitation
  • Enable you to understand how creativity fosters ownership and independent learning
  • Provide opportunities to experiment, critically reflect and share innovative practice
  • Enable you to identify ongoing support for your creative development

By the end of the workshops you will:

  • Feel more confident about using creative training techniques
  • Understand your own creativity (blocks and motivators)
  • Know how to create a training space/learning space to foster creativity
  • Understand different processes involved in creative learning and apply them to your training

Three workshops will be held at The Writers Place, 9 Jew Street, Brighton BN1 IUT

Session 1 – Creative approaches, catalysts and confidence –  November 14th (9.30-12pm)

Session 2 – Experiment & implement – November 28th (9.30-12pm)

Session 3 – Reflect, sustain and grow – December 12th (9.30-12pm)

Cost: £60.00 for all 3 workshops

The workshops will be co-delivered by Yvonne Rivers and Chris Sanders. We will provide opportunities to focus on your individual professional development as well as a series of self-directed learning activities to support the course.

For more information contact: Yvonne on 07540 598241 or Chris on 07738 763161 or


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Get Your Creative Juices Flowing….


Creativity is self-expression, confidence and identity. It effects the way we negotiate our lives, families and work; it creates a sense of well-being, playfulness and resilience.

This is for:  anyone who wants to explore their creativity, feels blocked, uninspired, wants to get excited, motivated, or reflect on their life.  We will look at ways to stimulate creativity, capture it, nurture and support it.

We cover:

Debunking creative processes:  Finding your own creativity & confidence: Ways to well-being; Environments that support creativity: Creating opportunities to develop your dreams/plans/projects

By the end of this course:

  • You will learn ways to inspire and energise your thinking/doing
  • Recognise what helps and hinders your creativity
  • Learn how to keep yourself motivated and going
  • Feel clearer and more confident about your creative abilities

Where and when:   Hove, start Fri Oct 10th 9.30-11.30 five weeks. £45.00

For more info:   Call Chris on 07738 763


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Discover/Recover Your Creativity


Kickstart your Creativity course outline

 This course is aimed at anyone who wants to explore their creativity, feels blocked, uninspired or wants to get excited, motivated, and discover a sense of playfulness.  We will look at the nuts and bolts of creativity, ways to stimulate it, environments which support and block it; how to nurture our inventive and resourceful selves to manage the ruts and bumps, and ways to cultivate the creative habit.

 By the end of this course:

  • You will learn ways to inspire and energise your thinking
  • Recognise what helps and hinders your creativity
  • Learn ways to keep yourself motivated and going
  • Feel clearer and more confident about your creative abilities

 Session One 

What is creativity? We look at models of practice and what they teach us about the process.  We focus on what it means to you: the benefits of approaching life creatively, ways to get the juices flowing and develop your creative confidence. We introduce your creative tool-kit.

Session Two 

Exploring ways to stimulate our thinking; focussing on identity, opportunities & play.

Session Three (NWS)

Creative environments – creating safety– recognising blocks to creativity, both internal and external: how to identify and manage them and nurture ourselves.

Session Four (NWS)

Growing our practice; we look at the creative cycle, how to work with ruts and blocks, how to stay on task and develop the creative habit.

Session Five (NWS)

Make your own creative manifesto, working with your sense of agency/power, creative planning to help you set and meet projects/goals

Materials – pens and notepad (during the course you may like to get yourself pens/crayons/charcoal/chalk/ink/glue/scissors/pencils, sketch pad which we will discuss in the first session.)

For more info call Chris on 07738 763 161, email: To book go to:



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In-reach not outreach – widening access to museums

                                     2014-04-29 11.48.36

Women often find displays uninspiring, factual information boring, and rarely see any connections with their lives. This is what women involved in our recent Pop-Up Museum project say about museums. Of those who did visit museums frequently (more than once a year), most visits were prompted by the desire to entertain or educate children, rather than pleasure.
According to data from a 2011 DCMS survey, women are more likely to visit museums than men. However, women with low educational attainment, who often face multiple barriers to access (transport, confidence, etc), are also among those least likely to consider museums as interesting; this also holds true amongst Asian, black and minority ethnic groups.
The Pop-Up project worked with 23 women from marginalised communities in Hastings. ‘It’s not for us,’ is an attitude we encountered time and time again. 23 % of our cohort had never visited museums. 30% say they’ve visited museums less than twice in their lifetimes.
The aim of the Pop-Up was to tackle these perceptions by turning the idea of a museum on its head, encouraging women to consider objects from their own homes as museum exhibits, and inviting women to let each object tell its story using a variety of different media. Creative writing, tile-making and textile sessions were run in community venues. At the end of the workshops the original item and the created objects/stories were displayed together in two community Pop-Up museums attended by friends, family, neighbours and residents.
Overwhelmingly, women chose objects and pictures which reflected their own personal histories, their families and communities, and used this as a basis to develop their stories.
The ability to tell one’s story is fundamental to a strong sense of identity. To be heard, acknowledged, to receive empathy when that story is shared by another is liberating and empowering. It is a way to learn about each other, our differences and similarities, to make sense of our place in the world: ‘Why I live here,’ came up frequently.

We termed the word ‘in-reach’ as opposed to traditional outreach activities which bring communities into museums, as the project started in the community, with women’s interests, their definitions of history, their ideas about ways their lives should be represented, and used this information to lead back into the museum.

Working with women’s own stories made it possible for women to define how they wanted to be viewed – rather than it being predefined and presented for them. They had to make decisions about how they wanted to display their artefacts, what information they wanted to share and where. All of this created a strong sense of ownership and has lead to a number of sustainable outcomes. After the formal 8 week period of the project finished, women continue to meet to run a self-managed textiles group; two are exploring funding to learn self-publishing skills to document the project; three have become volunteers, and one has signed up to do an A level.

Creating an ‘object, or an artefact’ to interpret stories was pivotal to creating enjoyment and ownership. This approach drew from David’s Gauntlett’s work on Making is Connecting1, in which he succinctly explains why making something builds confidence, community and skills. The project also drew on a number of pedagogical and community development approaches including the work of: Marjerie Mayo, Paulo Friere, Kolb, and Veronica McGivney.

The project was managed by Hastings Women’s Voice, funded with a small grant by Heritage Lottery Fund.

A display will be held in November in Hastings Museum November 17th – December 30th. For a full evaluation or more information about the project contact Chris Sanders.
1Gauntlett, (2011) Making is Connecting, Polity Press

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