Rebecca Frankenberg, Appetite Builder.
Rebecca is part of the management team at B-Arts, one of the groups that made up the Appetite consortium in years 1-3. Her role at B-Arts includes bid writing, project working and community engagement. In recent years Rebecca has focused on working with women from displaced communities and older people.
“I wouldn’t describe myself as an artist, I work with people to find out what is the right thing to do”.
Having been involved in the bid writing process for Appetite years 1-3, Rebecca was seconded to the project as an Appetite Builder for 2.5 days per week. She was responsible for 4 hubs; Stoke South Carnival, Meir, Hanford Village Residents Association and Hanley Park.
The role of Appetite Builder officially ended in December 2015, with B-Arts leaving the consortium for the next phase of the project to be replaced by 6 Towns Radio.
Recently back from maternity leave, Rebecca is currently working on bid writing and planning for a number of community events and will be supporting her hubs to continue developing events into the next phase .
As part of the B-Arts team, Rebecca was involved in writing the role of Appetite Builder.
“The aim was for each builder to support 5 hubs but it became clear early on that we had underestimated the level of support that some groups would need.”
“Some of the groups I worked with had very little experience of the arts or organising events”
Rebecca worked very closely with all four of her hubs to organise their events, but less so with Hanley Park, which had a park liaison officer with a little more experience.
Working with Hubs
Hanford Residents Association was made up of a mixed group of working professionals including Charlotte Eccles who works for the City Council and the group had strong ideas about the qualities they wanted for their event. Having organised traditional village fetes in the past they knew they wanted to involve music and highlight the quirky identity of their village in their event. The members had seen things in other cities, were able to express their wishes and were keen to work with Capsule as suggested by Rebecca and Gemma. This resulted in The Grand Cross Fayre, which happened in 2014 and 15 on the Hanford Village Green. In 2015, while Rebecca was on maternity leave her role was taken up by Steve Cooling of B-Arts, which involved leading the group to take on more of the organisation now that the idea of the fayre was established and the materials were available. Though the group were less pleased with the music choices at the 2nd event, they are keen to continue, perhaps with more local acts.
It has been suggested to the group through the Appetite team that the Residents Association apply for a small Arts Council Grant for the Arts, but are concerned about dealing with this amount of money. They have talked about creating a role for a production manager within the association to focus on organising the Grand Cross Fayre.
“Being an Appetite Builder was useful because being independent meant that focus wasn’t distracted by any group politics”
The Stoke South Carnival Group that Rebecca worked with had previously delivered one carnival event in 2012 with very little budget, a few dedicated volunteers and in-kind support from The City Council and other organisations. This event attracted 1500 visitors and was attended by Hilary Hughes from B-Arts who went along to meet the community and introduce them to Appetite. The event reflected it’s organisers interest in the military, featuring the Air Cadets and RAF fly over as well as poisonous animals-
“The event was quite blokey !”
Rebecca became involved with the Stoke South Carnival group to help produce their second Carnival at Fenton Park.
“The group were really ambitious but had always organised things in an informal way; calling in favours from friends and organisations to make the carnival happen”
Rebecca found that the group had strong ideas about what they wanted at the carnival and were sometimes reluctant to let them go. Negotiating Appetite involvement within an arts remit, she developed a artist commission with the group for ‘Old Bill’ a full sized replica tank to be paraded at the carnival .
“For the group, seeing how much the commission would cost was a shock to the system, having produced the entire first carnival on much less money they thought the amount was enormous. But the tank was a real tangible outcome that they appreciated.”
The second Carnival received 4500 vistors.
In 2015 Emily Andrews took over Rebecca’s role while she was off on maternity leave to help them produce their third Carnival. Emily helped to refine the groups “filmic” ideas of dividing the park into ‘kingdoms’, resulting in commissioning walk about acts for the carnival. This event also included more ‘things for families to do’, the group having taken advice from Nic Gratton fro Staffs Uni’s CCU, who gathered audience feedback at the previous carnival.
Having been so informally organised, Appetite helped them produce the event more professionally, bring their ideas into fruition and helped with promotion and communications.
“It was both a challenge and very exciting working with this group, there are strong characters in the group that could be protective of their ideas, so we had to be quite sensitive, and there was give and take from both sides. There was also a lot of energy and ambition and out of all the hubs I worked with I’d say they put the most time into making the event happen”.
Rebecca says the group have struggled to find funding to replace the Arts Council money, but plans to continue to encourage the group to develop working relationships with artists to add value to their next Carnival.
Rebecca cites the biggest impact of working as an Appetite Builder as the Meir hub’s reaction to negativity surrounding the Christmas Tree by Lumiere.
“The group received really terrible feedback about the tree from some parts of the community, it was horrible. At that point the group could have easily blamed me or Appetite for the decision but they owned it. They took responsibility for the tree and stood by their choice. I was amazed”
“Like in Hanford this group is a mix of working age people and very active older people which again was a strength, they confidently made the decision to have this contemporary art piece in Meir, they knew what they wanted”.
Rebecca says that the group would now like to do another arts project involving young people, potentially around spoken word.
“This group are active and inspired, they just need a little push to start organising their own cultural events”
Being an Appetite builder:
“As an Appetite builder it is sometimes difficult to maintain contact- our main contact in Meir for example can only be reached by phone, so with round robin e-mails about supper clubs etc. it’s easy for people like her to fall out of the loop”.
“What was great about being an Appetite Builder was being able to go to groups with guaranteed money and ask them to be as imaginative as they want. That’s rare in this line of work as you’re usually having to think about writing funding bids.”
Rebecca says that another advantage of being an Appetite builder was that she was able to go and see lots of different community groups in the city
“I was able to spread my net wide and build a much better picture was what the community of Stoke-on-Trent is and what it needs”
Rebecca also met the Jubilee Group at the Supper Club and continues to work with them on other projects.
“They’re really embraced bread club, over 30 of them came to B-Arts for a workshop”
As with most creative projects with community involvements, roles change to suit the needs of the people involved.
“As you do when you begin a project, you hope participants will be endlessly enthusiastic and proactive, and want to turn up to every event, meeting and supper club but it didn’t work that way”
Because of this Appetite builders were under more pressure to work closer with hubs and therefore couldn’t take on the 5 each that they were meant to.
Also, there was a high turnover of Appetite builders, which didn’t help with continuity of the role.
“The main change I would hope to see if it were to happen again would be more cross working between Appetite builders, this might have resulted in more cross working between hubs”
Though the builders attended group meetings and training in the beginning, cross working rarely occurred, due in part to the pressure of establishing relationships with their own hubs and facilitating trips for the ‘taster menu’ in the first year.
“I do think the taster menu was a good idea though, it gave participants a frame of reference and encouraged them to get involved in the first place.”
What themes would you use to categorise this case study?
Community engagement, producing events, community ownership, building capacity, building confidence, building knowledge, cross working, introducing the arts, guidance
[R1]I’m not sure this is still the case (supporting hubs) as it seems to be contained within the continuing appetite programme
[R2](i.e. not just charlotte)
[R3]Which for me made it stand out
[R4]Gemma and I led a session with them to develop this brief, we basically asked them questions and the answers went directly into the brief so they were very much involved in actually writing it, and 2 members of the group along with Gemma and myself were on the interview panel for applicants.