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Between The Lines: Creativity and Connection

“Connection,” is the one word Kat Beeton says encapsulates her latest project, Between The Lines.

Peterborough’s Poet Laureate, Kat, understands the significance of her position and platform to share artists’ work. “I have two major focuses. One is collaboration with other artists and raising awareness of the cultural scene here. A lot of people I encountered didn't realise there was one or how many people there were in the arts here.” Combining paintings with poetry and originally called My Words Your Art, Between The Lines’s beating heart, lies in artistic collaboration. Kat would write poetry to the artists’ paintings, (known as ekphrasis) and vice versa - art was shared between people from all walks of life. “I shortlisted and interviewed. I chose three artists from Peterborough College. It was a pleasure to work with them. They were really talented, really professional; I can't say enough good things about them,” Kat expressed.

Kat welcomed artists varying in age to the project. “One of the artists is straight at the end of their educational journey. I had another who was 22 and he dropped out previously and then went back into education; he wanted to be a role model for his little brother. We had another one who's 26, but she's older than the others who are just turning 18 at the end of their college journey.” It feels vital that artists at different stages of life have their work showcased, otherwise only a small amount of stories are told. The dismissal of artists who have surpassed the usual 18-25 age bracket, is a frequent issue. This kind of ageism isn’t exclusive to the arts but to society in general. “A lot of the time, older people who have had personal issues, behavioural issues when they were younger - for whatever reason, they've dropped out of education, or they've just not had opportunities before that are available now they've gone back. I wanted to lift up those voices too. I like to celebrate difference and diversity, and that includes all ages.”

Between The Lines had a theme: identity. The artists explored their individuality while nurturing self-expression through art. Peterborough is a diverse city; it feels special that Kat made room for artists to tell a chapter of its story, by sharing elements of their own identities. While the artists were seizing the chance to hone their craft, a sense of community was born out of mutual trust and passion. “It was quite open between us; we had created a space where you can say ‘this isn't working, could we change this’, without being hurt by it or feeling criticized or judged. It was just an open exchange.” Poetry and painting were conduits for tackling issues such as mental health. Kat shared what the creative process looked like for this. “I write about my own experiences, but I write about what I see around me and what I hear other people going through. And when I'm doing that, I try to put myself in their shoes a little bit. It's a little bit like acting. I used to perform, and when you act and you take on a character, you're trying to think about how they would react.” An original piece of art was made for Kat to write a poem to, which told a story about a person’s psychotic break. Emotional and thought-provoking, this artwork fought mental health stigma. Kat felt passionate about it but had to be mindful of her humanity and not be “hypocritical” of her work, letting the open-minded environment she had built for the other artists set the precedent. “I had to do that piece justice, so I felt more responsibility to write something that meant something to the artist, as much as it did to me.”

Initially, it was planned that Between The Lines would be marked with a get-together or a meal, but Kat and the artists wanted to invite others into it. “They asked if we could do something like the launch of the anthology here. I love mixing, I love the multiple different kinds of stimuli when you go to an event. We have the art with the poetry, and the poetry was all printed next to the art. I was performing the poetry live; I wanted another level. I had the idea to invite the musicians from Peterborough College to come.” The end product was not only artistic work but a successful night of socialising and appreciating all kinds of art. “We actually got decent numbers. I was really grateful for the people that came out and braved the frosty cold to be with us and it was a great night for the artists and I think the musicians enjoyed themselves too. The musicians were playing songs that either meant something to them personally or expressed them artistically. Guests were invited to come dressed up too - coming in jeans or coming in a suit, whatever you feel like. I got some really good feedback from the guests as well.”

Human connection became sacred after lockdown; the arts bridge the gap between us all. Artists are stepping out of the shadows of the pandemic to share their work in events like this, which is why Kat believes they are so vital. “I want to keep the conversation going between artists and non-artists. I just think that art in every form, whether it's music, it's painting, it's performance, or writing is so important to everyone for our well-being, and for our journey through this life.” For Kat, one of the highlights was being able to connect and witness artists in their element. “I've got a lot from watching them, listening to them, working with them, and it's been so much fun and such a pleasure to be a part of. It really cemented it for me that I want to keep doing these kinds of things. I want to keep collaborating and keep a conversation going. I think it's great for that creative spark to go and do something with someone who is not like you - who does not do what you do and see what you can do between you.” There are hopes that events like this will continue - so watch this creative space.


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