Creative Cafe: In Conversation with Shazia and Carla
Creative Cafe Artists Carla Ferrari and Shazia Ur-Rehman share their experiences of the Creative Cafe on Marks Gate project so far. Both have been involved in the project since it began in 2015 with lead artist Sadia Ur-Rehman. Here is an informal conversation between the two of them.
Carla: What do you like the most about the Creative Cafe?
Shazia: What do I like most about the Creative Cafe (CC)? Well for me, my absolute favourite thing about the CC is the residents that come, take part and take something of value away with them. Whether it’s something physical made with us, advice taken from other residents or staff, support, a good chat, new friendships, a different experience or just a belly full of Denise’s infamous cakes. To feel that the CC can provide a space where all that can happen is special!
Carla: Wait! How about our quote search moment for the CC chalk board? ?
Carla: I’m hurt.. I thought that was top of the list..
Shazia: Hahaha well you should have let me finish…
Shazia: But my most favourite part of the CC is searching for weekly quotes with Carla, Google really does have the answer to everything!
Shazia: So Carla what in particular do you enjoy about the CC?
Carla: I think I would have to agree… Best part of the CC is the people that come. From the cute babies that crawl in between chairs and people’s legs to our oldest & wisest visitors. It makes my Latino heart feel warm & fuzzy to see people come back time and time again.
Carla: Ok. I’ve got another question!
Carla: Favourite activity so far?
Shazia: Hmmm I have a few, so recently my favourite has definitely been Shrinky Dink jewellery, but I’ve also loved marbling and printmaking.
These are activities that I’ve done as a child and the feelings of nostalgia are ones that can’t be matched anywhere else. Do you have a favourite? And this time I get to ask a new question… What has the CC brought to you personally? Professionally?
Carla: Yes, marbling is fun! It’s definitely in my top favourites too! But I think what I enjoy the most is working on the murals where everyone gets to contribute to one big piece of art. Like the Rangoli or the “Welcome to Marks Gate” drawing, both of which have been massively praised and that, of course, makes me very proud.
Carla: Ok.. let’s carry on..
Carla: As an educator, the CC has given me the chance to work with age groups that I hadn’t worked before. For example, adults were a mystery to me! I’ve always worked with children in the past.
Carla: Also, it’s been very interesting to see what the CC can do for people. AND what people can do for the CC! Sometimes I wonder, would the CC be what it is now, in another community centre, in a different borough? I think the Marks Gate community has allowed us to try a variety of activities and pushed us sometimes to our limits and beyond… in a good way of course! Would that have worked in another place?
Carla: Anyway… Being involved in a community / art project for this long has been an incredible experience. I like the ties that we have been able to establish with all of the participants. And it’s been very important for me to recognise myself as an artist and apply my skills in my job.
Carla: Does that make sense?
Shazia: Yes it makes perfect sense! ????
Shazia: Ok so I’m going to try and answer the last question bear with me…
Shazia: So in terms of personal and professional development, the CC has been something that’s a little out of my comfort zone. I’m a trained filmmaker by trade, who runs and facilitates film-making workshops with various groups and ages across England. I’ve never considered myself to be particularly artistic with my hands (making things), so the CC has really pushed me into using my creativity in ways I haven’t done since I left school. And I’ve realised that there’s more that I can do than I realised. It’s been thoroughly rewarding and I leave each week having learnt a new skill, (not every one can say they get that at work!)
Shazia: In terms of professional development, I’d say that the CC has given me room to grow in terms of how I communicate with people of different ages and different socio-economic backgrounds. It’s provided a platform to also grow in leadership skills and I feel that I’m much more confident with taking charge and taking some ownership of project based work.
Shazia: I’ve got a story/anecdote that I’d like to share about my CC experience.
Shazia: It is in memory of one of our regular participants that we had coming every week last year. She went by the name Dadi and was the grandmother of one of our regulars. Dadi had MND (Motor Neuron Disease) and lost function in many parts of her body but amazingly she was still able to do things with her hands. This is where it felt like the Creative Café fitted into her life. Zenab (her granddaughter) would bring Dadi in; she would sit with us and be surrounded by people, conversations, smiles and laughter. She would knit, stitch, draw, colour, print, and have a go at whatever activity was taking place and always with a smile on her face. And what always amazed me about having Dadi participate was first her willingness to get involved in everything despite challenges and that she wouldn’t give up. An inspiration.
I think for the next and last question, if there was anything you could change about the Creative Cafe what would it be?
Carla: Oh.. I’ll answer the question now.. before I forget again. .
Carla: If I could change something I think it would be the size of our tables [surprised??].. like perhaps have a couple of big ones and a couple of small ones too instead of the five small ones that we have. I have the feeling that that would encourage more interaction among people, increasing the chances to share and chat to others..? Perhaps it would also make things a little easier for us when we work with the little ones..? But of course that wouldn’t work given the space that we have, we would have to knock a few walls first.. ha! But having said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job with what we have so let’s keep the walls where they are. Ha!
Carla: Ok. Done. Your turn to answer before the end of the project!
Shazia: If I were to make any changes hmmmm I’d keep the creative cafe open forever!!! It’s starting to feel very real that we will be closing shop soon and it’s making me frown.
I think the changes I’d like to make are on the basis of not having any limitations on time and space. I’d love the cafe to be open later but of course the community centre closes at five so we’re adhering to that. And a bigger space would be very useful so we could make room for your bigger tables but also just be able to manage the area better. Other than that everything’s perfect.
It’s been a great pleasure meeting Carla, Shazia and Sadia. I’ve had many laughs and loved just taking time out doing such an array of activities. The community centre won’t be the same without them. The creative cafe has given me the opportunity to meet many people from the community.