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Kim Wide

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Kim Wide is the founder and CEO of Take A Part, a social enterprise based in Plymouth and started in 2006

Take A Part uses art as a catalyst to support community cohesion, celebrate local identity, challenge local issues and champion change where people live. 

Kim received an MBE in 2021 for Services to Social Engagement in the Arts – the first time ever that social practice has been acknowledged in this way.

“I work on projects that engage new audiences, support and invest in community-based placemaking, social enterprise and talent development opportunities for community members,” says Kim. “I love working with people where they are, listening to what they want to do and supporting that ambition to thrive.”

Currently Take A Part are working in Plymouth with the communities of Coxside, Stoke Village and Efford on long-term placemaking projects around creative mapping, blue spaces, green spaces and creative education.

“We are also working across the South West, regionally and nationally on partnership projects that support local authorities, arts organisations and community groups to develop and embed their own projects, such as Yeovil Art Space, Take A Part Carlow and Meadow Arts.  

“Working hyper-locally like us, you know your audience intimately. Where they live, where they work, what their likes and dislikes are. You are tuned in.”

When COVID hit, Take A Part picked up the phone and asked people what they needed. 

‘The local school wanted creative ways to keep their frontline and vulnerable families engaged, so we made art packs,” Kim explains.

“The community wanted to share information on where to get support from one another and what was happening on the ground, so we made a zine. People wanted to get outside and take walks, so we made a ‘suggest a walk’ project and beach cleans. 

“We created a digital learning suite – Social Learning – to support communities and artists to think about their approaches differently and gain the tools to try new things. We established the South West Social Art Network – currently at 230 members – to network and support practitioners in the sector at a time of crisis.”  

Their approach gained attention. Take A Part’s work was case studied by Arts Council England, Engage, ArtWorks Alliance, Centre for Cultural Value and Gulbenkian Foundation as well as featuring in a book on creative approaches to placemaking by UCL Press.

“We became a CIO to diversify our funding, brought all our team onto PAYE to build legacy and structure and have been able to expand to new roles,” says Kim. “We are soon going to recruit to our board in order to support our growth and future plans.

“We have done really well overall. We were at a point of possible closure when COVID happened. But this year we increased turnover by 76% – testament to the fact that our work is relevant, needed, useful and supportive.

“What comes out of our initial position of listening, asking and offering is where the wonderful stuff happens. It could be literally anything – radio stations, carnivals, allotments, performances, social action marches, storytelling…”

Mural painting in Efford by Take A Part

The work of Take A Part draws attention to people in a place and gives weight and decision-making power to those living in it.  

“By bringing local community members, agencies and organisations around one table we put everyone in an equal power dynamic to support better conversations around collaboration. 

“Our approach is to collaborate with others to give them the tools they need to make work happen where they are that supports social change and community cohesion.  

With each project Kim and her team leave a legacy of learning in the community to allow residents and organisations to carry on the work beyond their time with Take A Part.  

“I hope that the work of Take A Part has fostered mutual understanding, respect and more authentic approaches to local decision making. I hope it has empowered those who have historically been told they cannot make decisions to stand up and be bold about their needs.”

Since moving to the UK from Canada in 2003, Kim’s practice shifted from museum management and social history curation towards a focus on socially engaged practice – co-creating work with others as a means to support community engagement and infrastructure to develop.

“I sort of fell into it! My background is in Near Eastern Archaeology (Indiana Jones got to me). I have no art degree or background in contemporary visual arts. I worked on collections for historic houses and social history collections in Canada and was a curator for the Government of Ontario Art collection. I was always behind the scenes.”

In the UK, Kim initially worked at a contemporary arts centre in the New Forest called ArtSway as Audience Engagement and Marketing Manager.

“I loved working directly with people on exploring creativity and culture together. ArtSway – now closed – had a real connection to their local community and audience and often created collaborative projects. That started me off.”

Kim went on to work at Equata (Kaleido) South West Disability Arts Development Agency where she developed an understanding of the regional context as well as diversity and inclusion through the lens of disability and d/Deaf arts. 

“It taught me a lot about activism, politics and power structures. I then met Michael Bridgwater and we started a pilot project to work in Efford on creative approaches to engaging the local area in the regeneration of the high street. And the rest is history…

“It has been an organic process of learning by doing. I never set out with an agenda. It was seeing where the energy was and responding to it. I never knew I was community building via creativity until impact studies were authored and case studies written.”

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Kim is also a Critical Friend for Seed Sedgemoor, the South West’s first Creative People and Places project; Chair of Bricks Bristol, supporting the intersection between creative and community spaces; Mentor for Filwood Fantastic, part of the Local Trust’s Creating Civic Change programme, Engage South West representative and part of Plymouth’s With Flying Colours management team. 

She says: “I want everyone to have the opportunity to make creative projects where they live that are relevant and useful to their communities and their lives. I think no matter what I will always be doing that.” 

For Kim, this is more than a job.

“This is my political activism. I want to continue to share and shout about the fact that when you REALLY involve people in creativity, REALLY listen and REALLY invest then you can make significant and lasting changes.” 

Her advice for creatives emerging from lockdown centres on being bold, collaborating and loving what you do. 

“Go outside of ‘normal’ cultural frameworks to practice your art. Don’t wait to be invited or commissioned. Make it happen.  Look at the energy around you and work with that to make things happen. Don’t try to do it all alone.

“Be human. Fail (we all do) and then try again (or abandon it!). Take a risk. Start today. Don’t overthink what your gut tells you to do. But most importantly, do it if you get joy from it.”

Looking to the future, Kim’s hope for Plymouth is that the city stays true to itself.

“It is proud, social, resilient and has a quiet ambition that doesn’t look to others for permission,” she says. 

“It is a DIY city and we need to retain that tenacity and then shout about the amazing innovations, collaborations and projects that result from it. We need to get Plymouth on the national narrative.

“How can we create space for new conversations? We need to understand Plymouth more by playing with the idea of it and sharing it – amplifying our uniqueness as a city.” 

What is it about living and working in Plymouth that attracts/keeps you here?

Plymouth is different from the rest of the region. It has its own pace, approach and ethos. The sense of community is strong. It is a very special identity that can sometimes be problematic of course, but people hold great pride in the place and an active ambition to see it celebrated.

What’s the one thing you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth?

“Stonehouse is Plymouth’s real arts quarter – born out of grassroots approaches to developing places and spaces through the work of residents and Nudge Community Builders. Whether you want to have a pint at The Clipper, take part in poetry readings at Union Street Corner, have a spot of pop-up food at The Plot or experience street parties on Union Street itself, this street has everything. And not forgetting KARST, the gallery around the corner showcasing the best in contemporary visual art. You cannot go wrong! 

If you’re near the Barbican, get some chips from Rock Salt and stroll over to the small and beautifully formed Teats Hill park for the very best views in the city (but don’t tell too many people!). Look out for the monthly live performances from Barbican Theatre and regular events put on by Take A Part with the community.

Finally, In Praise of Trees, Peter Randall-Page’s work in Ham Woods is a testament to what a community-led and collaborative artwork can be if time is taken, conversations happen and trust is developed. ‘It is more than beautiful, it is essential to this place’ – Cllr Brian Vincent.

Kim is also a Critical Friend for Seed Sedgemoor, the South West’s first Creative People and Places project; Chair of Bricks Bristol, supporting the intersection between creative and community spaces; Mentor for Filwood Fantastic, part of the Local Trust’s Creating Civic Change programme, Engage South West representative and part of Plymouth’s With Flying Colours management team. 

She says: “I want everyone to have the opportunity to make creative projects where they live that are relevant and useful to their communities and their lives. I think no matter what I will always be doing that.” 

For Kim, this is more than a job.

“This is my political activism. I want to continue to share and shout about the fact that when you REALLY involve people in creativity, REALLY listen and REALLY invest then you can make significant and lasting changes.” 

Her advice for creatives emerging from lockdown centres on being bold, collaborating and loving what you do. 

“Go outside of ‘normal’ cultural frameworks to practice your art. Don’t wait to be invited or commissioned. Make it happen.  Look at the energy around you and work with that to make things happen. Don’t try to do it all alone.

“Be human. Fail (we all do) and then try again (or abandon it!). Take a risk. Start today. Don’t overthink what your gut tells you to do. But most importantly, do it if you get joy from it.”

Looking to the future, Kim’s hope for Plymouth is that the city stays true to itself.

“It is proud, social, resilient and has a quiet ambition that doesn’t look to others for permission,” she says. 

“It is a DIY city and we need to retain that tenacity and then shout about the amazing innovations, collaborations and projects that result from it. We need to get Plymouth on the national narrative.

“How can we create space for new conversations? We need to understand Plymouth more by playing with the idea of it and sharing it – amplifying our uniqueness as a city.” 

What is it about living and working in Plymouth that attracts/keeps you here?

Plymouth is different from the rest of the region. It has its own pace, approach and ethos. The sense of community is strong. It is a very special identity that can sometimes be problematic of course, but people hold great pride in the place and an active ambition to see it celebrated.

What’s the one thing you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth?

“Stonehouse is Plymouth’s real arts quarter – born out of grassroots approaches to developing places and spaces through the work of residents and Nudge Community Builders. Whether you want to have a pint at The Clipper, take part in poetry readings at Union Street Corner, have a spot of pop-up food at The Plot or experience street parties on Union Street itself, this street has everything. And not forgetting KARST, the gallery around the corner showcasing the best in contemporary visual art. You cannot go wrong! 

If you’re near the Barbican, get some chips from Rock Salt and stroll over to the small and beautifully formed Teats Hill park for the very best views in the city (but don’t tell too many people!). Look out for the monthly live performances from Barbican Theatre and regular events put on by Take A Part with the community.

Finally, In Praise of Trees, Peter Randall-Page’s work in Ham Woods is a testament to what a community-led and collaborative artwork can be if time is taken, conversations happen and trust is developed. ‘It is more than beautiful, it is essential to this place’ – Cllr Brian Vincent.

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