Common Ground

Discover, Define and Design Your Heritage

Time Travel and Stolen Eggs – My Time with Common Ground

Written by Community Artist, Jack Wilkin

A few weeks into September, I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. One by one, we spoke in detail about our summers. One of my mates had gone on a romantic trip to Greece, another was wrapped in the stress of work.

When it came to me, I’m not sure which part of my summer got more of a confused reaction. Explaining that I worked with a group of young people to create a game that transported an audience back in time to discover the truth about a 3,000 year old ancestor of mine? Or that I acted as a park ranger for a game where the audience searched for the egg of the ‘Rainbow Legged, Spotted Bellied, Blue Beaked, Marsh Squawker’?

My friends are used to hearing about my odd jobs, asking ‘is that really what you do for a living’? After graduating from a Drama and Creative Writing degree, people often said ‘so what’s next?’. Little did I know that next was getting involved in youth work, and working at an arts organisation called Metal. Now I can proudly add Common Ground into that mix.

There’s a sense of possibility and of trying, not matter if it’s successful or not.

I first discovered Common Ground through my work at Metal. Common Ground is all about helping young people discover, define, and design Heritage across the East of England. In August, four week-long projects took place at four sites spanning across Peterborough, The Fens, Suffolk and Norfolk. During these weeks young people worked with a group of community artists, which I was lucky to be one of, and the lead artists Coney, to connect with these sites through the power of game making.

I was fortunate to be based at Flag Fen, an archeology site in Peterborough, and Carlton Marshes, a nature reserve just off the coast from Lowestoft. At Flag Fen, the young people were inspired by the history and people of the site to create a game around time travel, to help discover the story of a fictional character called Finn by interacting with tribe members through mini challenges. Over at Carlton Marshes, the young people focused on the ecosystems of the nature reserve, creating a game where an egg from a rare bird was stolen. Players discovered the consequences on the local ecosystems should the numbers of the rare bird decline.

One thing that always amazes me when working with young people is the pure magic they bring and this project was no exception. There’s a sense of possibility and of trying, no matter if it’s successful or not, which is something you often lose when you’re an adult as there’s pressure to get things right first time.

However, this pressure was never given by Common Ground. They too were open to all the possibilities of what could be made, putting the young people’s voices and choices at the heart of the project.

It’s so rare to connect with other emerging artists on a project and to share your skills, hopes and struggles with one another.

Common Ground also did great work at holding space and allowing time for learning throughout, from both Coney, the other community artists, and from the young people. It’s so rare to connect with other emerging artists on a project and to share your skills, hopes and struggles with one another.

This whole opportunity with Common Ground has helped to see what the next steps could be, with both my youth work and arts practice. It’s inspired me to explore facilitation and new ways of working creatively with young people, as well as adding to the toolbox on how to help young people feel they can grow and be confident in spaces where they have often felt unable to.

Photo credits: Jack Wilkin

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