Gattis lantern parade
Gattis community lantern parade
an example of Why participation is so important in our communities
Gattis is a community centre in a deprived area on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. The area has many issues as many of these outskirt areas often do, but this area is fighting back. They have a community engagement program that is run from within the community. This place is run on goodwill and participation
In an area such as that Gattis is situated in, it would be easy to bolt the doors of the local community centre and walk away at the first sign of trouble, but Gattis takes a different approach, they are an example of what community centres should be. They have community groups, an affordable café, a surplus food market, hold sessions to upcycle or swap clothing, craft and games sessions and a garden, for both play and growing food.
The area surrounding the community centre, is plagued with petty crime, with substance abuse being a particular problem, this propagates a fear of being out and about in the area, I particularly at night and so the idea of reclaiming their streets through a lantern parade was conceived. Several Workshops were held to make the lanterns from willow canes covered in wax paper, some were large and elaborate, whilst others were small and simple. they were lit with led lights and the larger lanterns were attached to harnesses and carrying poles. A storyteller was recruited, who wove a tail in rhyme and song around the theme of the area, canals and eels.
On the evening of the parade the lanterns were lit before being hoisted into the night sky, to be paraded in a group procession along the route, led by the story teller and his guitar, there was much excitement from all ages as the procession began to wind around the local streets, stopping at various points to sing the theme tune which would signal the next instalment of the story.
There were spectators gathered along the route, some joining in and some looking on from doorways and upstairs windows, I hope that what they could see, wasn’t just a lantern parade, but their community and that the participants were having fun, but also that they had bonded as a tribe, they were sharing in a story and making their own at the same time.
AS the procession snaked its way back to Gattis, a bonfire had been lit and the last part of the tale was told sitting on handmade benches around the fire. The lanterns were placed in the garden for everyone to admire. The evening ended with food and chatter, gathered around the embers and a real feeling of not just warmth from the fire, but of belonging.
It Is This sense of belonging and ownership that Gattis nurtures through the act of participation which strengthens a community, it would not have had the same effect to have watched the procession as to have taken part. The spectators may have been touched for a while at the passing of the lanterns, it may stay in their memories, hopefully it will encourage them to join in with the next project, but the effect it had on the spectators cannot compare with the effects of those who made and carried lanterns, sang the songs, walked the walk and ate the food around the fire.
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