Art project aims to empower single parent families


A community art project is helping single parents tackle some of the challenges they are facing in the wake of the pandemic and benefit rule changes.

Single parent families are among the hardest hit when it comes to job losses following the pandemic, and according to Child Poverty Action Group, many fall foul of the two-child policy restrictions in universal credit and tax credits.

Since April 2017, some of these benefits have been limited to the first two children in a family.

To raise awareness about these important issues, artist Polly Braden started working on her ‘Holding the Baby’ project, which incorporates childcare and parenting, a podcast series and a travelling exhibition.

Over the past two years Polly has worked with several families capturing their ambition and resilience in the face of austerity, and the environment that they find themselves in, through pictures.

Aa part of the project, a banner-making workshop took place at Liverpool’s Open Eye gallery over the weekend to start thoughtful conversations on what could make the biggest changes to single parent families.

Open Eye Gallery - banner making
Open Eye Gallery – banner making

Polly was inspired by a United Nations report on poverty in 2019, and the experiences she faced as a single parent herself.

With help from law firms, charities, communities, arts and women organisations, she was able to get in contact with several single parent families and gathered a diverse range of stories.

She said: “It’s to try and change an attitude towards single parents and to see that generally 75% of single parents are working parents doing their best, and to open discussions on how difficult it might be for them, not taking away the stigma and think about actual lived lives.”

The artist went onto explain how hard it is to juggle having a job and taking care of a child at the same time: “If your child gets sick as a single parent you’re the one who has to not work that day, and since 91% are women, its hitting them a lot harder than men.”

Pattern designer and illustrator Lydia Meiying led the free interactive workshop from 12-3pm on Saturday 16 October.

Materials such as craft, pillowcases, and a bed sheet were provided for people to express themselves through art on what they thought would help single parent families the most.

Topics such as free childcare, cheaper housing, and the need for more mental health support groups were often brought up among people.

The banners were then displayed across the gallery over the course of the weekend and documented as part of a wider project with Collective matters which explores, ‘what really matters to you?’

Lydia explained how creative spaces allows people to express themselves more freely on important topics such as helping single parents: “Workshops like this bring together people who might not normally meet and allow them to discuss their views and ideas in a safe space.”

“Having an activity happening allows participants to relax and chat freely over a long period of time.”

To round off the day, local ukulele band The UkeLaLas and the women ukulele players from the Women’s Health Information and support centre (WHISC) covered well-known hits at 3pm.

The UkeLaLas are a group of friends who play and love the ukulele. They do gigs for dementia patients, open mics and play requests.

Sorcha Boyle, Responsive Programme Coordinator at the Open Eye Gallery, said how important it was for creative spaces to be opened to the public again: “In short it was brilliant; this was one of the first events in our Collective Matters events programme and it’s been so lovely to have people back in the gallery together.”

She added: “There was a great sense of connection, both during the workshop and the ukulele performance afterwards, I think everyone left feeling uplifted and I’m looking forward to the upcoming events.”



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