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Artist Ben Mills aims to find ‘common thread’ that brings community together

By Emma Roberts

Artist Ben Mills was commissioned to bring together people from the Calverley & Farsley ward where he lives and works.

Ben engaged people from the ward, which covers Stanningley Bottom, Farsley, Rodley, Calverley, as part of Leeds 2023 year of culture.

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His project started last October when Ben took to social media to ask people questions about where they live, to provoke a response from the community to bring people together to share stories about their community. 

His work culminates in a free creative community event ‘Common Thread’, which will tell the stories of Calverley, Farsley and Rodley on Sunday, 1 May, at a venue to be confirmed in Farsley*. 

Ben describes himself as a co-creative artist, a galvaniser and a doer, and has been bringing people together from across the ward for creative meetings. These have taken place on evenings and weekends at various venues across the ward. 

Ben designed creative artistic group activities that explored different kinds of art techniques, the process of making art and included visits from local artists.

Creative meetings were thematic, relating to the ward’s identity, heritage and geography. This gave people an opportunity to enjoy some unique experiences such as guided walks, creating a ward Monopoly board, writing a manifesto for the ward and baking a mythical beast.

It helped that Ben is a professional baker, who works at the Mill Kitchen bakery. He has an interest in combining baking and creativity and was on hand to guide people through the making process. And, of course, tea and cake was in good supply! 

Ben said although he lives and works in the ward, he is relatively unknown and doubts if anyone knows he is an artist. He would be surprised if many people knew that the Mill Kitchen in Farsley has its own bakery. 

Prior to this project Ben said he had less experience as co-creative artist and initially felt daunted by the task of bringing together a group of people who had no prior connection, varying opinions and experiences. 

Ben described people from the ward as grafters – talented people with a surprisingly varied array of skills and creativity. 

He is pleased that people had come away from the process with a feeling that they have been involved in something valuable and worthwhile. And he has found his experience in the ward will shape his own identity as a co-creative artist. 

People have made new friends, built networks and have invested creativity into the future of the ward as the project has inspired the group to form a new creative collective,  C.R.A.F.T (Calverley, Rodley and Farsley Together), which is open to all and the page can be found on Facebook.

‘Common Thread’, a free community crafting event championing the ward’s creativity, will be happening on Sunday, May 1 in Farsley.

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