In response to the pandemic, the CAST-Off programme offered creative activities for children and families out of doors, replacing CAST’s usual summer building-based ‘Think and Make’ workshops.
CAST-Off provided a self-guided trail for families, offering creative things to discover and do along the Cober Valley – from Lowertown, through the Moors beside the river, to the boating lake, Penrose and Loe Bar.
Families were encouraged to pick up a free trail map and sketchbook from the CAST building on Penrose Road or from cafés at Coronation Park and the Penrose Estate and set off to find out more about the history, geography and nature of this special place.
In addition, on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout August, artists were stationed at key locations to inspire invention and making. Artist-led demonstrations and activities took place at 3 or 4 different locations between 10am and 4pm on each day – eight days throughout August (a total of 58 sessions).
The demonstrations and activities included creating inks and dyes from natural pigments, making clay bricks, making Hal-an-Tow sticks, making charcoal and listening to the sounds of the landscape in a fun and focused way.
We had overwhelmingly positive feedback:
“Super ideas, many of which can be enjoyed on any walk. Really enjoyed seeing children engrossed, e.g. the wild painting. Even old grown-ups can have fun”
“Discovering new places on the trail and the range of creative activities on offer. The friendliness of all of the CAST team and artists is lovely and was also a great idea to provide children with sketchbook. Great for adults and kids.”
“We have really enjoyed these workshops, which are well organised and feel safe. We loved the sketchbook and pack, which we have been working on throughout the summer.”
[We enjoyed] “the openness, creativity, generosity Adventuring and discovering in nature Thank you – completely magical!”
“It’s great to see little people discovering all the lovely things in the woods that elude most people.”
“Nice wooded walk, lovely natural activities to encourage children to work creatively and use their fine motor skills and engineering. Visiting a different part of the lake and an outdoor activity!”
“Interesting and exciting, children engaged in all activities. Magical”
“Such a nice atmosphere Really informative teaching V Smiley teachers V Inclusive activities which aren’t too difficult”
“The people running them, they are so creative and friendly that my daughter just loved joining in and was made to feel welcome and important”
“Love the map and that it has taken us to places we have never been. Love the connection to nature and enjoy the snippets of history on the map too. There is a lot of ideas that you can do at other times, the map design is lovely too.”
By taking our creative activities out into spaces used widely by the local community we were able to reach families who had never been to CAST or a CAST workshop before – 44% of those surveyed*
Our facilitators reached out to families who were out in local parks and woodlands, offering free packs and activities. We published the trail map in the local free paper, The Advertiser, and also made a decision in the second week of the programme to place packs at popular cafés where families buy ice-creams, to ensure we were reaching families who might not be engaged with our usual marketing channels.
One in five families reported that it was essential for them that the activity was provided free.
42% of families who engaged with the activities were from the TR13 postcode, our immediate area. Children from other TR postcodes made up 41.6% of the remainder. The programme was largely enjoyed by a local audience.
Our feedback survey was completed by 198 families. With an average of just over two children per family, this is representative of approximately 40% of all participants.
Following our experiences on the trail we have developed a series of workshops for primary schools. We are also planning to run a new version of the trail in August 2021, learning from the successes of the 2020 programme and aiming to increase engagement with children aged 10+.