Young people with and without learning disabilities create feathered friends for Milton Keynes’ Redway

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Throughout September and October, award-winning charity Create has been bringing together disabled and non-disabled students in Milton Keynes to develop inspiring new artwork to encourage increased use of the redways.

The health and social benefits of access to green space has been well-publicised over recent years with Natural Health England reporting that if everyone was given equal access to green space, the estimated saving to the NHS would be £2.1 billion. Access to these green spaces is not equal, however. The Diversity Review published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that those with learning disabilities and young people are much less likely to access the natural environment despite health and social benefits being particularly advantageous to these groups.

To increase accessibility for local young people, award-winning arts charity Create is enabling students from White Spire School and mainstream students from Milton Keynes Academy to enhance the Milton Keynes redway system by designing a series of artworks. The redway system is a set of shared paths for cyclists and pedestrians spanning 270km. The project has been designed by Create in consultation with intu Milton Keynes to enable local young people with and without disabilities to collaborate creatively and, in the process, feel welcomed into these green spaces by involving them in the decision-making around their improvement.

Guided by Create’s professional visual artist Daniel Lehan, the young people have started by building and decorating clay birds, constructing a ‘bird hotel’ and producing models of other wildlife, which they will paint and collage. These designs will be used as inspiration by a professional artist, being commissioned by intu Milton Keynes, for a new artwork to be included in the redways. The young people’s original artwork will be displayed at intu Milton Keynes during January 2016 after being included in a two month exhibition at KPMG in Canary Wharf London.

This project is part of Create’s creative:connection programme which brings together young people with and without disabilities in creative arts workshops led by professional artists. The programme encourages friendships between young people who may not normally have the opportunity to socialise, tackling disability prejudice and helping students to build confidence in their communications skills. These collaborative creative experiences enable young people to see past the stereotypes and assumptions that can break down community cohesion.

Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Create, Nicky Goulder, commented, “It’s fantastic to see this project bringing together young people from different backgrounds and fostering relationships between those with and without disabilities. Not only that but we’re seeing how the creative arts can be used to get young people engaging with their local natural environment and experiencing the benefits. We hope that their artwork will inspire the artist who is creating the final piece and strengthen the sense of community within the Milton Keynes redway system for everyone to enjoy.”

Shelley Peppard, general manager at intu Milton Keynes, added: “We are delighted to be involved in this project; it’s lovely to see these young people working together to create something so positive for the local community. This artwork will vastly improve areas of Milton Keynes’ redways; we want these green areas to be somewhere that we can all be proud of and that will attract more people to enjoy being outdoors, and the benefits that come with that.”

Founded in 2003, Create (www.createarts.org.uk) has run 5,873 creative arts workshops that have helped transform the lives of 30,158 disadvantaged and vulnerable participants, mainly as part of sustained, life-changing programmes. Aimed at those who are excluded through disability, disadvantage, ill-health, imprisonment, poverty or social isolation, participants are given access to high quality creative arts experiences that help them develop creativity, learning, social skills and self-esteem. Every project helps to create a society that is fairer, more caring and more inclusive.

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