A NEW arts project launched this week explores the hopes and concerns of people living in Stockton on Tees.

What’s On Your Mind? is an ARC Stockton project in which 14 artists respond to consultations with a range of local communities which regularly use the venue, including disabled people, care-experienced children and young people, LGBTQIA+ people, and refugees and asylum seekers.

Themes that emerged from the conversations include how the town is changing and whether people feel welcome.

Artists are now interpreting their individual responses in new pieces of work. The form each piece will take is up to the individual artists, but they will all be made available to audiences digitally, whether that’s a video, online exhibition, streamed live performance, or an interactive piece.

Two new pieces of work will be released each week until Friday, December 3, and will be available to watch free of charge via ARC’s website (www.arconline.co.uk) and social media channels.

The first two What’s On Your Mind pieces are from punk poet Henry Raby and filmmaker and sound artist Dermot Daly.

Paula Clark is Creative Director of the project, which is being funded through an Arts Council England grant. Paula arranged the conversations with the local community groups who use ARC Stockton and has then worked with each artist to relay the hopes and concerns expressed.

Paula said: “It’s been a really interesting project so far and I’ve loved working with the different communities to uncover what they’re thinking about and then identifying artists to respond to these thoughts.

“So often people feel their opinions don’t matter and are not cared for, especially people who are already marginalised. What’s On Your Mind is all about having conversations and actually listening. ARC wants to know to how people feel right now coming out of the pandemic, what feels urgent to them, what are their fears but also hopes and dreams for the future. It’s so exciting to work for an arts organisation who wants to have that dialogue at the core of the work. I am absolutely delighted to be a part of it.”

Originally from North Wales, Paula is a freelance theatre maker and creative director based in the north. She has worked for 20 years producing and delivering high quality theatre, co- creation and talent development projects for children, young people and adults.

Other artists Paula has already commissioned include Syrian photographer and filmmaker Khalid Aljawad; writer and director Leo Skillbeck; Sunderland-born musician Ross Millard; artist Paula Varjack; writer, activist, poet and actor Lisette Auton.

One of the aims of the project is to give ARC’s audiences and users more of a say in the work of ARC Stockton and to ensure its work reflects what’s important to its communities.

Annabel Turpin, ARC’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director explained: “Although we’ve continued to offer events and activities throughout the pandemic, our building was closed for many months and so this feels the perfect time to carry out a major listening exercise.

“This isn’t just about listening to local people though, it’s about using the creative skills of artists and the new digital platforms we have developed to make their views heard. We’re delighted to have Paula on board to lead the programme, and can’t wait to see what artists create.”

More information about What’s On Your Mind? and ARC’s other work can be found at www.arconline.co.uk and social media channels, or by calling the Box Office on 01642 525199.