The Shakespeares project took place in 2021 in Burmantofts, an inner city area of Leeds. The area has a large proportion of social housing and highrise flats, with an industrial past linked to textile manufacturing and pottery.
The Shakespeare flats are three highrise blocks near to St James Hospital which house older people in the community. They have a community room on the ground floor. However, at the time of the workshops, this was being used as a site office for renovation works that were taking place.
We met at St Agnes Church Hall, which had recently been refurbished for community use. Throughout the workshops participants spoke about how their lives had changed after lockdown. Conversations centred around isolation, friends, family, and memories.
Some participants had experienced isolation before the pandemic and were now struggling to access support. To some, the local church was a vital part of getting back to normal. Being able to access services and prayer made a huge difference to their wellbeing and they welcomed the new community space in the church hall.
The conversations highlighted the need for community space to help reduce isolation, support good mental health, and develop friendships.
This project was supported by funding from Leeds Inspired part of Leeds City Council and Leeds Inner East HAP funding.