The West End Centre: Conversations with Aldershot


Since March I have based myself (a couple of times a week) out of the fantastic West End Centre in Aldershot. As a cultural hub that has been in Aldershot since the mid 70s (when it was closed down as a school and taken over by artists and musicians!!) it is the perfect place to base my research!

I want to know what exists in Aldershot already, community wise and arts wise. What do people want, audiences and artists? What is missing? What has happened before? What could happen in the future?

I have joined some of the many sessions that the Westy runs over the past two months, the sewing cafe, crafty culture, senior moments, u3A discussion group, the probation team. The staff at the westy have put me in touch with people from local organisations, from forums as well as artists and creatives who live or work locally. I’ve had so many fruitful conversations already, started to see potential partnerships and exciting opportunities. I’ve also seen that the Westy is just this amazing creative and community space as well as a fantastic venue. It currently has a focus on music, comedy, theatre and workshops – all of which are awesome. What I would love to see going forward is a link with more contemporary art – or more accurately NON TRADITIONAL ART FORMS, specifically with the context of Social Art. For me Social Art is a practice that works both in and with the community, that looks at local social issues, that can cause debate, discussion, and can challenge or potentially influence local social change…… potentially.

Lets see artist and community collaborations, lets see installations within the town centre, in public spaces and buildings, lets make films, performance and live actions!

I’m excited…….!!


May Update: Conversations with Aldershot


In the last post I started to think about what I have learnt so far. In several of the conversations I have been having with local organisations I had to start being clear with myself about what the project aims are. A tricky task when you are researching and developing just that!

So where do I fit in, in Rushmoor? Where can Statements in Semaphore fit into all this?


I don’t want or need to create a project to do what is already happening. This project has not developed to become another support group or an add on arts activity that may replace something already in existence. It should support or work with what exists already or do something new.



What we have done over the past two years has worked and is important to reiterate. We worked WITH organisations who wanted us! Who had a NEED. Who did not have access to an artist or to creative input.  We provided workshops or sessions for these organisations, not for THERAPY but to support individuals, groups or staff members to increase self esteem, to have time to talk about issues that come up whilst being creative/learning new skills or simply have time for themselves. The sessions were a SAFE FREE SPACE. Free financially but also with regard to what happens. A space that allowed no outcomes, no agenda, other than having space to be quiet, try something new or refresh previous creativity, have access to materials or ideas that may be new or that people may not have the time, money or resources for. Sometimes just a place for a cup of tea.

The events we then put on were in direct response to the conversations and time spent with the organisations, their staff and the people who benefit from the service. These again created conversation spaces, time to talk about campaigns, debate and discuss potential changes and encourage dialogue.

FiLiA Poss 5
Three Impromptu Exhibitions in Aldershot 2017, Susan Merrick


The project is also for ARTISTS. Local and National Artists to work in Rushmoor. It is vital for me that the project encourages Artistic practice. Where Artists are creating their own art work, artistic responses and research, not just delivering workshops. This is not simply about providing workshops for local people. It is also about providing and supporting artist’s practice by supporting them to instigate work that focuses on local social issues. By recruiting Artists who want to develop their practice in a social research base and through working with local organisations who want to utilise having a professional Artist working with them, we can create more fulfilling working relationships. We can support local organisational need, create opportunities for local participants, create and support local artistic practice and research and create a focus on local social issues – which can then potentially benefit the local community in general.



The project for me must have a community engagement element. It needs to in some way interact with the wider local community either in the process or via events of some kind. These may be exhibitions, they may be talks, they may be by using public spaces or buildings within the community that are open to the public. A space or event to discuss or raise awareness of the issues that come up, that are dealt with by the people we work with, by the organisations we work with and then by the artists. A space where the wider community can join in the conversations, where others can have a say, make their mark, join in.




April Update: Conversations with Aldershot


Semaphore Alphabet 2016

Across March and April I have started to meet with many of the organisations that exist in Aldershot and Rushmoor.

I have a notebook that is steadily filling with Names of people, Groups, Forums, organisations, charities, volunteer services, council run services, drop in groups, regular groups, paid workshops, free stuff, stuff that can be public, stuff that needs to be private, hard-to- reach groups and people, impossible to reach potential individuals and families, activities that exist, activities that no longer exist, activities that exist while there is money, activities that only exist when they remain voluntary…. Some of this info is online, and I want to start sharing where I can. I will do this initially here!

Farnbrough and District U3A Did you know that the U3A (University of the third Age) has over 110 groups in the Rushmoor area? An amazing learning co-operative of retired/semi retired people with groups covering everything from ceramics and jewelry and walking groups to politics, debate and coffee! It’s £25 for the year and then most groups are then free!

Rushmoor Voluntary Services – a charitable organisation that has been running for years has over 380 member groups. Which means that there are over 380 groups supporting local people in Rushmoor!!!!! RVS has a register of volunteers and matches volunteers in the area with groups who need them and vice versa.

This site lists all the amazing groups (who wish to be named publicly) on their site, and if you are looking for specific support and can’t find it, it is worth asking them as they will probably know who to connect you with! The list of their member groups is here.

There are forums, support groups and organisations to support and provide info/opportunites for example: Citizens advice, homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, disability, scouts/guides/young people groups, one off projects, larger projects, country parks, churches, support for elderly people, foodbanks, swimming clubs, sports and activity groups, schools, colleges, cultural community groups, parent support, mental health support groups… and more!

Community Matters Partnership Project (CMPP) (Rushmoor) Is another community interest organisation that partners local businesses with groups, projects, organisations and charities who are looking for volunteers, resources, skill sets or possibly funding. They are based at Farnborough 6th Form College and also utilise the link to provide amazing work experience opportunites for local young people. They are also always looking for other appropriate work experience for their students, specifically within the Arts, media, publishing and producing environments.

Culturally there are several communities where (with limited budgets) events are planned locally, in Farnborough, Aldershot, the new Wellesley community, with community and town centre programme planners/coordinators in post.

There are arts/creative activities happening on small scale, with groups running things themselves, and there are arts/theatre/creative activities that happen all the time at the West End Centre, Princes Hall and library for example. Some of these are free, but many of them have to charge a fee.

And honestly… I think I’ve only just scratched the surface!

However. Everyone I speak to also says how much need there is for more, and how needed Arts, creative and community activities are. Much of what happens goes on voluntarily, underfunded or in isolation from other activities. Much of the community is often unaware or unable to access the support available and activities available for various reasons.

Personally I also see Artists working hard in the area, but not having time to consider their own practice, to develop their work, to consider the wider social local issues and to make work, develop a practice that can challenge these. There are also very few spaces and opportunities in which to share or develop work which challenges or creates space for discussion and exchange. Rather than thinking about ‘finished work hanging on walls’, I want to encourage work in the area that values the process, the research, the stimuli of Rushmoor, its communities, it’s people, the social issues faced here, what we love, what we hate, what we can change.

so……. I need to start developing a plan……. see the next post for my initial thoughts on this!


Social Art Assembly: April 25th

Socail Art 1

On 25th April I attended the Socail Art Assembly at Tate Exchange in London.

This day allowed space for around 80 social Art practitioners to come together, share practice and raise their questions, concerns, fears, strategies etc for Social Art in the UK.

Below are some of the thoughts that came out of one of the sessions I instigated along with Artist Jennifer ……. We wanted to consider how to look at long term projects in our communities. How we think about our work, working with others, our roles, what we say yes/no to and how other people see us.

This was a really valuable opportunity for me as it allowed me some time to speak with more experienced Artists and practitioners about longer term and larger scale projects, which in turn will help me plan the project going forward more thoughtfully, making sure I get the right partners involved and with more logistical insight.

Social Art 2Social Art 3Social Art 4SOcial Art 5

April Thought Chain

This month I’ve been pondering on:

Practicing to share
Who working with
Which organisations
Which groups
Who fits the project
Do I decide
Do they decide
Do they want me/this
What does it look like
Is there a need
Is there a desire
Hidden voices
Hidden people
Hidden from whom
Hidden by whom
Hidden from what
Hidden by what
Aldershot and Farnbrough
Funding boundaries
Military history
Social history
Nepalese community
Military community
Civilian community
Where are the women in Aldershot
New military statue?? Another one?
Art language
Whose language
People move on
More names
Groups with no rules
Groups with rules
Community partnerships
Partners in community
My practice
Others practice
Open minds
Open hearts

March: Practicing to Share!

Debrief 2018 Susan Merrick and Melissa Mostyn – Performance and Film

Last year I worked with the insightful Artist, writer and film-maker Melissa Mostyn. We spoke long and hard about the workshops we ran last year and what it meant to work with survivors of abuse, to consider Deaf women and men in this position, access to support and art, and access to debate in these areas. We also talked about access to the art world as parents and carers, fitting in work, practice and exposure to other work within lives filled with other responsibilities.

I asked Melissa to be the first Artist that I worked with this year, so that we could continue these conversations and consider how we each develop our work, support each other and other artists who may have restrictions on time or resources or both. We met in Aylesbury, Melissa’s place of residence, in a pub near the town centre market. We shared our ideas around working with other projects and with each other. How it can work, what does work and what is difficult. We talked about remote working on projects and the pros and cons of this. We spoke of the isolation at times of not having a shared artist space, or living away from bustling art spaces/towns and cities. We talked about David Bowie (there is a statue of him in Aylesbury!) and antiques, about Grayson Perry and Art Galleries, about writing and being inspired. I bought some victorian zines for girls and covertly photographed people in the square.

This time is so valuable. Not having shared studio space with otehr artists, not living with other artists or even seeing them regularly…. we have to find other ways of practice sharing. And as my title suggests, this takes practice.

‘Practicing to Share’ is about my development as an artist now and going forward. Spending time with other artists, communicating with other artists face to face and perhaps remotely.

Listening, looking, watching, talking, describing, playing, walking, sitting, drinking, eating, exploring, questioning, debating, challenging and supporting.  This is Practicing to Share.

March 2019 Update


Whats Happening now?

This stage of the project is a 7 month research and development phase.


Over the past two years the project successfully worked with 4 different organisations and the participants who use their services. As project lead I worked with 6 different artists to provide workshops for the organisation and from these workshops we (myself and collaborating artists) developed artistic responses through our own practice.

This resulted in :

-over twenty free workshops for the organisations (Women in Prison, YouTrust Hampshire and Deaf Hope) to offer to their audiences.

-employment opportunity and artistic instigation for 7 artists over the two years.

-art events and exhibitions in central London, Wandsworth common and Aldershot, Hampshire.

What next?

To grow the project I want to initially focus in on one area, where I live and have worked for two years – Aldershot and Farnborough- Rushmoor Borough! Not only do I live here but it is the area of lowest arts participation in the whole south west region! *according to Arts Council England.

To attempt to make a project that is both wider reaching and has staying power I wanted to spend this year:

-mapping out what organisations and groups exist locally.

-learning what artistic or creative activities are already in place or happening for them

-learning where there is a need for something creative

-connecting with local artists that would provide mutually beneficial partnerships with these groups

– connectioning with artists or projects elsewhere who I can speak to for advice and who can  provide alternative perspectives.

-researching social art projects and their work

-developing my own artistic practice.

I’m going to begin by starting an informal role as Associate Artist with the amazing Aldershot based arts and music venue – The West End Centre.

This will allow me to have a physical base in the centre of Aldershot and also utilise the wealth of knowledge that the centre, it’s amazing staff and the community who use it have!

Grant Awarded for R&D Phase!!!

Street Art in Aldershot (Seen 2019) Anonymous
I have been lucky enough to receive a new grant from Arts Council England for a Research and Development phase of SIS during 2019!. This is a time for some personal practice development, to activate new skills, keep my brain being challenged and to ensure my practice remains impactful and to share not only the funding, but my work!
It is also a period of development for the project, with a particular focus on making sure the project remains and becomes more relevant to my base, Aldershot. I want to find out what organisations are based here, in my home town. What support exists for the hidden communities (and women) locally? What Arts activities are here, who runs them? Who accesses them? Are there gaps? Are there great partnerships? Are there potentially great partnerships that are not currently happening? And finally… what can Statements in Semaphore do within all of this? What is wanted or needed by those who who live and work here?
In order to do this I am basing myself at Aldershots Award winning Arts and Music venue, West End Centre as their Associate Artist, tapping into their long standing arts knowledge of the area and the many activities they already conduct.
I am also meeting with Seven amazing Artists and Producers over the period.
I will be documenting my time as I go through FB Susan B Merrick, on this page, via Instagram posts
and some longer blog posts on the website. I will also be recording some film and gathering documentation as I go… mapping what I find and creating a resource for myself (but hopefully others in the end too…?).
Want to know more? Get in touch!!
Susan xxxx

October – A SERIES OF EVENTS – Part 2 – In Pictures!

September – A SERIES OF EVENTS-Part 1 Some Pictures!