4.14 Final Event: September 30, 2011
The closing event for the "Therapeutic Living" project, the final Occasion, when the whole range of stakeholders in the project were brought together - Trustees, HLF, project team, Community members, volunteers, Project Management Group and Advisory Panel members, members of the wider P.E.T.T. team, Trinity Catholic School, and the wider public (in the form of the Gloucestershire Echo) -, took place at the Trust's premises in Toddington, Gloucestershire, on September 30, 2011, the last day of the original project. In retrospect there was a consensus among the team that it might have been best held in association with the project Conference, less than a fortnight before: The demands made on the team as the organising group, and the demands made on other participants, many of whom had taken part in both or had to choose between them, would have been less intense. But it was a very successful and productive occasion. It was also the first event in which members from all five of the focal communities took part.
The team set the stage with exhibitions and displays, using the new permanent display boards which were installed during the course of the project, as well as temporary display units kindly loaned by the Mulberry Bush School (another indication of the growing relationship: See 8.3). A DVD presentation created by the project oral historian, developing work begun by the project archivist, was played on the Trust's new electronic display screen, another innovation. Continuing a tradition of the project, a number of participants had come down the day before in a kind of mini-Archive "Weekend", in which several members of different communities met for the first time, and older relationships deepened. It meant a relatively early start could be made the next day as well, and with so many new-to-one-another people to introduce themselves to one another and to talk about their experience of the project and their thoughts for the future, the traditional opening circle went well beyond its scheduled time: HLF South West Region Committee member Roger Goulding arrived in time for the the originally-scheduled coffee and biscuit break, to find himself part of the ongoing circle.
The post-break Welcome and Overview of the Trust's vision of future possibilities by new Executive Director Richard Rollinson was followed by the project director's detailed end-of-project report and account to stakeholders, highlighting history, activities, outcomes and issues. In the midst of the report the entire group responded to a request from the Gloucestershire Echo photographer for a whole group photograph outside, which subsequently appeared in the Echo; and after questions, and responses, and a fine lunch in the tradition of the Trust and the project, Stephen Steinhaus and four Trinity Catholic School performance students joined the day. Stephen Steinhaus spoke of the development of the performance concept and project, the students presented updated and new elements from the performance work-in-progress, and a wide-ranging and in-depth feedback and discussion session gave a great deal to take back to the rest of the performance team as well as enriching the afternoon session.
After more coffee and cake the Trinity team left, and Project Management Group Chair and Executive Director of the Trust Richard Rollinson led the group in a facilitated story-telling session based on objects. Ralph Gee of Red Hill School told the story of the 1954 mural he painted of his Red Hill from the air, and his digital reconstruction of it from a contemporary black and white photograph in which he added colour from memory; Jean Costello introduced and spoke about the painting she had done capturing the essence of the Caldecott Community, where she was a child; David Neale of Shotton Hall spoke about fellow-student Danny Beath's beautifully detailed map of arborescent flora - trees and larger bushes - as they were at Shotton Hall in 1975, and of his experiences and thoughts; Linda MacDonald of Caldecott rang the handbell that had belonged to Leila Rendel, which she had been given following an auction of Caldecott memorabilia, and spoke movingly of the giving and of the bell's meaning. Discussion then slipped naturally into the final session of the day, discussing"What Next?"
Although at the 'closing' event and at the end of the day, there was a sense expressed in the "What Next?" discussion of a building momentum rather than of a winding down. This was the first time many members of the project and of the different Communities had met each other, but there was a strong feeling of community, and a clear feeling that further links among the communities and with the Trust could only serve to strengthen the future. The possibility of Community member representation on the Trustee Group was raised, as was a pan-Community Advisory Group. The practical step of a Communities/Trust email group was suggested (and has since been realised), and there was a keenness to promote the performance work with Trinity and to become more involved with current practice. The comment by one Community member after the Event - "Friday was absolutely brilliant" - echoed the experience of the project team. As noted in 8.1, below, two Community Archive "Weekends" are already in the calendar for 2012, among other developments; and in many respects the "Final Event" felt very much a beginning, not an end.