WOMEN from the award-winning Alana House community project in Reading are taking part in an exhibition as part of an innovative photography project.
The exhibition, called My View, is a participatory photography and storytelling project in which women from Alana House were supported to use photography to reflect on their perspectives on identity and community. The exhibition is being hosted by the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) on Redlands Road, Reading, until Monday 23rd September.
Eight women took part in the Photovoice project at Alana House. It was facilitated by Kate Watson and funded through an award of £15K from Reading Borough Council’s ‘Reading, Place of Culture’ scheme and Cultural Commissioning Programme.
Two groups of women took part in weekly workshops exploring technical photography skills, visual literacy, portraiture and storytelling. The exhibition is the culmination of their efforts.
Alana House is a community project run by Parents And Children Together (PACT) which uses a holistic approach to support women with complex needs by empowering them to take control of their lives, make informed decisions and improve their life chances. In 2018, 225 women accessed Alana House for groups, courses, drop-ins and one-to-one support.
All of the women who took part in the project said they gained confidence and positive experiences as a result of taking part in the course. Here is some of their feedback.
Anne: “It’s a fantastic course and Kate was very inspiring and encouraging to us. It’s been a huge achievement to take part in this venture.”
Sam: “PhotoVoice has given me more confidence in taking pictures. I enjoyed going out and about with the camera and meeting new people.”
Carol: “I found PhotoVoice very enjoyable, learning about the cameras and the meanings behind the photos.”
Zahra: ‘I really enjoyed the course and would like to continue developing my photography skills.”
Clare: “‘PhotoVoice was good. I hope to take more photos in the future now I know how to use the camera.”
Jan Fishwick, Chief Executive of PACT, said: “This project and the wonderful exhibition of the resulting photographs has been inspiring.
“Alana House is continuously striving to empower vulnerable women into making positive life changes by helping them to develop new skills and boosting their self-esteem.
“The Photovoice project is a great example of this in action. Congratulations to all who took part, and my thanks to those who supported it.”
Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the ‘My View’ exhibition and to experience the impact our cultural funding has had on the lives of the women who have taken part in this innovative and engaging photography project.
“I’d also like to extend our thanks to the generous support from National Lottery players and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England, which has enabled projects like this to take place.”
Alana House and The MERL have worked in partnership since 2015 on a series of different collaborative projects. Photovoice will be the latest exhibition to be featured in The MERL’s Community Case.
Phillippa Heath, Learning and Engagement Manager at The MERL, said: “We are delighted to be showcasing Photovoice here at The MERL as part of our series of community displays.
“The museum’s collections tell us so much about people’s identities and the complexity of our collective understanding of community. The women’s photography undoubtedly adds many interesting personal perspectives and further insights into this fascinating theme”.
Alana House has twice been awarded The Howard League for Penal Reform Award in the Community Programme for Women category, acknowledging the positive impact it has on the women it supports and their wider communities.
Last month Alana House celebrated its ninth birthday and also launched a community café – a project where the women have been trained in barista and baking skills and taking the lead on running the café each week.
PACT, which supports families across the South East through adoption and award-winning adoption support, also runs a second community project, Bounce Back 4 Kids which supports families affected by domestic abuse.
To find out more about Alana House and its programme of activities, which include weekly drop-in sessions, see www.alanahouse.org or call 0118 9217640.
PhotoVoice is a UK-based charity that believes in a world where everyone has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story. PhotoVoice uses participatory photography and digital storytelling to build the skills of under-represented communities and individuals, creating new tools of self-advocacy and communication.
About the project funding:
The funding for this project is part of Reading Borough Council’s ‘Reading, Place of Culture’ scheme, supported by the Great Place Scheme, which is funded thanks to National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England. This project was funded as part of the Cultural Commissioning Programme in 2018. To find out more visit http://readingplaceofculture.org/greatplaces
About The MERL:
The Museum of English Rural Life is owned and managed by the University of Reading. It uses its diverse and surprising collection to explore how the skills and experiences of farmers, craftspeople and rural communities, past and present, can help shape our lives now and into the future.
The community case in The MERL is open Monday – Friday 9am to 5pm, last Thursday of the month – 9am to 9pm, Saturday & Sunday – 10am to 5pm. The museum is located at 6 Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX. More details can be found on The MERL’s website https://merl.reading.ac.uk/