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Chelmsford 100: Connecting hidden gems opens at Chelmsford Museum

C100 At Chelmsford Museum

Chelmsford Museum has launched a new exhibition, Chelmsford 100: Connecting hidden gems.

Through colourful hand-painted silk batik flags, Chelmsford 100 uncovers the untold personal experiences of Chelmsford’s residents during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chelmsford 100 festival unites communities

In 2022, the independent charity Chelmsford CVS established a new community festival in collaboration with international arts organisation Kinetika.

The festival – Chelmsford 100 – is inspired by the annual T100 Festival in Thurrock, which was founded by Kinetika in 2015. It aims to connect communities and get people across Chelmsford creating, talking, and walking.

The project enlisted diverse individuals and local community groups and asked them to each share a story about what living in Chelmsford means to them. It particularly looked to understand what impact the recent pandemic had on communities across the district.

Together, the participants turned each of the 100 stories into its own hand-painted silk batik flag. The flags were then carried by volunteers across 100 miles of local walking routes, forming an epic mobile installation of 100 works of art. As they travelled, stories behind the flags were told, sharing a central theme of community will and spirit through difficult times.

C100. Photo Credit Paul Starr
Photographer: Paul Starr.

Sharing diverse narratives

The narratives that emerged during the project varied enormously. They included local heritage, favourite walks, environmental concerns, family histories, beloved pets, key workers, community diversity and poetry.

Now, these themes have been further explored through a colourful exhibition at Chelmsford Museum.

Chelmsford 100: Connecting hidden gems showcases a selection of the flags and interprets their meanings and untold stories. Alongside these are photographs of the participants and film footage of the 100 miles travelled by the flags and volunteers.

The display also explains the complicated process of waxing and painting the participants’ creative designs onto the hand-woven silk flags.

Sarah Harvey, Curator at Chelmsford Museum says the museum’s latest collaborative exhibition reveals what’s most important to Chelmsford’s residents.

“Chelmsford 100 has given a voice and a creative outlet to many individuals and organisations across Chelmsford. It has also given us an insight into what matters most to Chelmsford’s communities. It reminds us of all the things we have to celebrate in Chelmsford, and particularly those things that helped us through difficult times. Our green spaces and waterways, our heritage and landmarks, our businesses, charities, and key workers.”

Sarah Harvey, Curatorial and Learning Officer, Chelmsford Museum

Co-curated and co-produced with Chelmsford CVS and Kinetika

The exhibition Chelmsford 100: Connecting hidden gems has been co-curated and co-produced by Chelmsford Museum, Chelmsford CVS and Kinetika.

Chelmsford CVS is an independent organisation that champions, supports, and strengthens local charities and voluntary and community groups throughout Chelmsford. They offer specialist advice, help groups to find funding, work with partners to develop local projects and encourage local people to get involved in voluntary and community activities.

Kinetika is an internationally renowned female-led arts organisation that creates world class bespoke silk-based designs. They specialise in working with local communities on projects that change the way people feel about where they live. They’ve worked on high-profile international events, from the Atlanta Olympics 1996 to the Platinum Jubilee Pageant in 2022.

On launching Chelmsford 100, Chelmsford CVS and Kinetika aimed to tell Chelmsford’s full story and to showcase the talent and community spirit which resides across the entire district.

Sally Medd of Chelmsford CVS says the project demonstrates how arts and culture can be utilised to share stories and ensure those who are often marginalised from society feel welcome and at home.

“We began Chelmsford 100 with the belief that it is absolutely fundamental to both art and community, to listen to each other.

"The lockdowns of Covid-19 damaged our ability to do this, and severely impacted those who were already at risk of being overlooked or excluded. This festival was a powerful opportunity to reach out through our district, and to amplify our connections and commitments to one other.

"Sharing the stories, workshops, and walks was a wholly joyful experience, and one we were enormously proud to be a part of. We hope that the finished silks go just a little way to reflecting the drive, diversity, challenges, triumphs, and love present in our community.”

Sally Medd, Chelmsford CVS

Ali Pretty, Artistic Director of Kinetika, says C100 reveals the impact that the arts can have in communicating and connecting across communities.

“During the C100 project, we were fortunate to be able to celebrate cultural and artistic exchanges not only across Chelmsford, but across continents too. The fabric used for our C100 flags is hand-woven Murshidabad silk imported from weavers in West Bengal, India. This had great resonance during the project as ten of our flags were designed by Sankalpo, who celebrate and promote Indian art, culture, and heritage locally. They incorporated elements of Murshidabad’s heritage into their designs, uniting communities across the two cities.”

Ali Pretty, Artistic Director of Kinetika and Founder of the T100 Festival

Chelmsford 100 festival will grow in the coming years

The first C100 festival had a great impact on those who took part. Comments from participants included:

“I turn to art to help with my anxiety and my mental health; it helps me focus and ease my mind. Being a part of Chelmsford 100 was amazing. I really enjoyed making my flag and drawing all the pictures to go onto it.”

Clodagh, Keep it 100 Youth CIC, Chelmsford 100 Participant

“My personal experience of the pandemic could be represented by “bubbles” which is what I have tried to represent in my flag…

"I have learnt how important it is to value connections in our lives with people, communities, nature and ourselves. Something I had not realised was quite so important until we were forced to recognise it.”

Susie Nankivell, InterAct, Chelmsford 100 Participant

Following the success of this first festival, Chelmsford 100 will continue over the coming years. It will expand to become part of Chelmsford’s cultural heritage, connecting people and giving a voice to diverse communities.

If you’re interested in being part of future C100 festivals, visit the Chelmsford 100 website: www.chelmsford100.org.uk

Exhibition now open

Chelmsford 100: Connecting hidden gems is on display at Chelmsford Museum from 25 March to 4 June 2023. The museum is open and free to visit between 10am and 5pm every day, including bank holidays.

An accompanying programme of events will run alongside Chelmsford 100: Connecting hidden gems. Join the museum’s mailing list and follow them on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to be the first to hear more.

An accompanying book is also available to pre-order on the Chelmsford 100 website, where you can also view each of the flags.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.