This is part of a series of conversations with member organisations of the Connection Coalition.
Window Wanderland provides resources for communities to set up magical window displays that bring their neighbourhoods together – reducing social isolation and inspiring creativity. Here, Lucy and Allex tell us about their project, how it works, and their challenges in keeping it going.
We have all these doors in our streets, but so many of us don’t know the people behind them. Window Wanderland is about connecting the people behind the doors. Although it’s very creative, it’s about pure fun and not about art. The beauty of it is, it’s a leveller. People that can’t come out or are vulnerable really engage with it because it’s safe. The simplest image will come to life when back lit through a window – this means it is easy to participate in, whatever your skill set.
We see Wanderlands as local festivals run by the community, so we’ve tried to make them really easy to organise by providing accessible tools on our website. Ideally people would organise a festival in a small team of part time people, starting around 4 months ahead. We’ve developed different toolkits depending on the level of support people need.
We started in 2015 and our festivals have had some high profile coverage on The One Show, BBC News, The Times, and The Guardian. Although we see local festivals as the core of what we do, we’ve also worked with the Arts Council, The Barbican, The Sage Centre, City of London Housing, and Basingstoke and Deane Council to put on large events. The pandemic was explosive for us, it doubled how many festivals were taking place around the country from 48 to 100. People had the capacity and motivation to organise these festivals. Even established festivals used them. Although we have a high repeat rate of festival organisers, it’s not continued in the same way and the number of festivals have been decreasing since lockdown eased.
We carried out many surveys in our early years to help us understand the impact of the project, but we’ve found it a challenge. Organisers are volunteers and are busy people, they don’t hang around long after they’ve delivered a festival to conduct a survey! So our understanding of the power of what we do is mostly through stories, which we record and promote as much as we can.
“I think that’s pretty good”
For the last two years we’ve had some grant funding to work in care homes, with people with dementia and head injuries. It’s been transformative for some. One person never spoke or came out from their corner. They had a go at making a Wanderland window display – they made a flower. They sat back and said ‘I think that’s pretty good’. Like we said, it’s a leveller.
We would love for there to be a national weekend of Window Wanderlands all over the country. Or the world.
And we want to do a weekend Wanderland festival about climate change. We feel like a focussed theme on something so important could be really powerful, and might also help drive up interest in the initiative which we know works.
We charge a little for the toolkits which helps us operate, but it’s not enough for us to stay afloat – we rely heavily on project grants. Now, in order to keep Window Wanderland going, we need to develop more partnerships and work together on grant fund applications. We’d love to hear from anyone in the network who might be interested in partnering with us. We’d particularly love to speak with any on-the-ground community groups that might like to apply with us for an Awards for All grant – or any other small grants for local community groups.
If you’d like to connect, please reach out to us by email: [email protected]