Love Ties – Material Changes and Social Capital

This was a report written by myself and my friend Professor Nick Lee.  Initially I had proposed a lot more community engagement for Love Ties.  Stoke Approach who were commissioning some of the project disagreed with this and nearly pulled the plug on the whole commission! After I made this presentation they agreed to let me carry on, although much of the engagement had to be forfeited.  It shows how relevant community engagement can be to regeneration policies.

‘Love Ties’: Report for Stoke Approach

 Section A: Introduction


Material changes and social capital


  1. Love Ties is bringing about two kinds of change in Hanley Park. It is making material alterations to the islands of the lake and to the risers of park’s new stairs. It is also generating a resource that the park and surrounding communities need – social capital.
  1. The benefits of the material changes run from simple cosmetic improvement, all the way to enriching the experience of park users by inviting them to reflect on love and connection. Together these factors should help improve both the perceived quality and the quantity of park visits.
  1. But what is ‘social capital’? How is ‘Love Ties’ building social capital in the park and surrounding communities? Social capital is generated when people talk to each other and co-operate toward common ends. Another name for it is ‘trust’. The ‘Love Ties’ development strategy has maximised contact with and amongst diverse actors who are key in setting the ‘tone’ of the park.
  1. Some actors’ affect the tone of the park by their presence. They may be understood as off-putting or even threatening. Other actors shape the identity of the park by using it less than they might. ‘Love ties’ has successfully built networks amongst them all.
  1. In the short and medium term, greater quantity and quality of involvement in ‘Love Ties’, considered as part of the park experience, means more connection for park users with the park and with others through the park. More connection means more love for, and life within, the park. Material changes are key here as well. See Appendix One for a breakdown of how the project is meeting Strategic Objectives.
  1. In the longer term, as Stoke begins a new and promising phase in it’s regeneration, ‘Love Ties’ is delivering a pool of community members who are enfranchised and who feel enfranchised to inform future developments.

Section B: Activities and Legacies

  1. Hanley Park has been assigned Arts and Performance status by Stoke on Trent City Council. Love Ties employs 12 local and regional professional artists, all looking to remain in the area. Many different community groups are being targeted directly engaging them in a range of creative practices. As well as improving the appearance of the park, this project is a springboard for both the artists and communities involved to generate further funding for creative projects in the community and in the park.
  1. Coming from the immense amount of community engagement, are many added value elements to Love Ties that feed the city’s wider regeneration strategy. For example Love Moves and working with creative writers in the community can feed Hanley Library’s plans for a Lit Fest. Love Moves can be used as a projection for Living Light. The involvement of the Community and Participation Degree at Staffordshire University means that people in Local and Voluntary Sector Work are directly seeing the benefits of Engaged Art Practice. These are people who are in the position to apply for funding and set up projects. Letting in the Light, a local Community Arts Organisation, developing the links made during the workshops in response to the community. This organisation is currently looking for funding to work further with Love Ties, shifting the focus from a public artwork to ongoing community development and regeneration.
  1. On top of all the above there is a huge amount of work being produced in Love Ties. Discussions have taken place that indicates possibilities for further installations, when the bandstand area and canal side area are redeveloped. Funding for further installations could come from ACE and British Waterways. Other possibilities for installations could be at Stoke on Trent Railway Station, giving the visitor to Stoke an immediate sense of value.
  1. The importance of a legacy for future developments from this project should not be underestimated. If further funding and support for projects is going to be attained in Stoke On Trent, then projects such as Love Ties have to show that the Arts and Creative Industries are fundamental to raising self esteem, bringing communities together and raising a City’s profile.




Section C: Outcomes and Relevance of Community Engagement

  1. Before detailing the particular outcomes of each element of Love Ties it is important to point out that Love Ties is a progressive piece of art. As well as raising the profile of the site, Love Ties rises the self-esteem of the viewer through it’s content. It’s impact lies with the viewer’s emotional experience of the piece. Rather than looking at an artwork and making connections to site or history, Love Ties connects with the viewer on an emotional level, from the inside. This allows for an immediate reference to themselves and their own lives. It is important then that this work doesn’t ‘shout’ at it’s viewer, it’s aesthetic is being carefully researched to ensure the scale and visibility are right for the artwork and site.
  1. In order for this to work for a community the project needs to:


  • engage the communities in a creative experience, so that they can understand the value of experience rather than just looking.
  • ensure that the issue of love is dealt with sensitively.
  • start to fill the park with love, as temporary interventions in preparation for final piece.
  • ensure that the texts retain their reality.
  • be representative of the huge variety of communities that use the park.
  • work with and inform as many members of the community as possible.
  • engage younger members of the park’s visitors, to prevent vandalism as much as possible.
  • utilise the project to create as many opportunities for development of arts project as possible.


Section D: The Sub-Projects


  1. Flowers of Love


Artist Jayne Murray has been working on the sub-project ‘Love Seeds’. Jayne has twice intervened in Hanley Park using a flower stall. From this stall the public are invited to select flowers that signify love to them. They are then asked to state who they will send them to and what they will say. These comments are feeding the final Love Ties work. Through local press and flyer distribution Jayne is delivering a competition called ‘From Stoke with Love’. The public are invited to enter the competition stating who they would send the flowers to and what they would say. From this 10 winners will be selected and their bouquets sent. This is furthers the aims of the flower stall. It identifies which flowers are associated with love and provides source text for the Love Ties final piece. This part of the project extends outwards from Stoke, as depending on competition entries, bouquets may be sent internationally. The culmination of these two processes is a huge bouquet of the flowers based on the findings and being built in Hanley town centre the day before Valentines day. Jayne is working with a flower designer – also a public artist and local florist ‘Flowers by Craig’ – on this part of the project. The bouquet will be left either in the town centre or transported to the park on Valentines Day for people to then take the flowers.


 Offers the opportunity to value experience and participation, which introduces a different way of experiencing art.

  • Feeds the final Artwork
  • Introduces a different way of looking at art.
  • Positive media coverage
  • Communicates with a huge variety of different people.
  • Temporary interventions in the park
  • Artworks being sent throughout the world – ‘From Stoke with Love’
  • A performance/event to Publicise Love Ties as it nears or is completed.
  • Working with local businesses.

2.     Love Dress

Artist Anne Kinnaird is working on the project Love Dress. The project is working with:

  • Asian Women’s Embroidery Group.
  • Students on the Community and Participation Degree at Staffs University.
  • Members of Sure Start.
  • Children and Young people in the park.

Love Dress encompasses a variety of different art forms including wax resist, photography and digital imaging. These techniques are used to put image and text onto relevant items of clothing, such as T-shirts and Saris. There will be an exhibition of these in the Asian Clothes Shop adjacent to the park.


  • Working directly with a variety of different communities.
  • Gaining relevant texts in Urdu
  • Publicising project through clothes being worn and exhibition.
  • Facilitating a number of creative activities.
  • Opening up possibilities for development (Staffs University Students)
  • A series of photographs of participants wearing ‘Love Clothes’ to be used in publicity
  • Possibility of exhibiting at The Potteries Museum and Art gallery

3.     Love Moves

Love Ties is a complex project that employs many different media. Love Moves is about pulling together those elements in a film that will support public understanding of how this way of making public art works. Love Ties is an intimate piece of work that talks of real experiences. Professional filming taking place attracts visitors to the park. It gives both them and the park a sense of value and engages them in conversation. The film-maker Darryl O’Hara is spending time in the park, filming the intimate moments and gestures of both its visitors and it’s changing scenery. Love moves will be a film that talks about the experience of the park and the experience of love in the Park.


A film that creatively pulls together all elements of the project.

  • A film that shows the benefits of community engagement and public art.
  • A film that advertises the park itself.
  • A film that can be used for future funding bids and developments.
  • Engaging with anglers, Asian Male, Young People, General Park Visitors, enabling conversations with communities about Love.
  • Use in Hanley Library’s Lit Fest plans

Distribution to local community groups, libraries etc.

4.     Dr Nick Lee

Dr Nick Lee is a Sociologist at Keele University. Integral to understanding and developing progressive public art projects is research/writing that assess method, outcome, relevance and value. Nick will conduct a series of interviews with volunteer participants from the project. In his subsequent papers and talks, Nick intends to look at the role of engaged public art and regeneration in relation to the area’s economic and social history and Love Ties. This paper will be distributed with Love Moves and will be disseminated in informal talks with community members.


  • An accessible discussion paper to accompany creative film.
  • A vehicle to open discussion about local economic regeneration.
  • A product to use for future funding bids and development.
  • A source to be utilised in evaluation.
  • A source to be used in proposed catalogue
  • A source for the website.

5.     Creative Writers – Marian Adams and Christine Watkins

The two creative writers employed in this project are integral to working with all involved communities to deal sensitively with a highly emotional subject. They are both trained counsellors and employ different working methods. This allows access to the wide range of different communities. Christine is a more performance based writer and has been holding ‘outreach’ sessions in the park, talking to the wide range of different visitors about their love experiences. These conversations are then transcribed and used in the final texts. Marian works more with invited groups, forming intimate workshops where people can explore their experiences more deeply.


  • Texts that are used in the final artwork and other projects.
  • Forming important relationships with communities.
  • Building self-esteem through communities being given a voice.
  • Facilitating creative writing in communities involved.
  • Preparing communities for final artwork.

6.     Love Sounds

DJ Gary Oliver and Singer Charmaine Baine have been employed to make Love Sounds in Hanley Park during the workshop drop in sessions. Gary Oliver runs the local DJ School in Hanley and is also therefore also working on outreach with young people in the park.


  • Advertising sessions.
  • Raising awareness of project.
  • Temporarily filling the park with Love.
  • Positive press.
  • Giving a ‘feel good’ factor to events.
  • Working with young visitors to park.

7.     Love Web

Sarah Bonham has set up and is running the Love Ties web site.


  • A space for communities’ texts.
  • An alternative space for contributions and comments.
  • Details of project.
  • Proposal pictures.

Section E: Conclusion

‘Love Ties’ has had active status for approximately 8 weeks. A good deal has been achieved in that short time. A total of seven distinct sub-projects have been designed and launched. All seven sub-projects are currently well underway. Each in it’s own way is contributing to the material development of the park or to the development of social capital in and around the park, or both.

Looking ahead, I can confidently predict that the project will be completed within its deadline. I believe that the samples of the project’s output so far that have accompanied this document bear out it’s claims.

Emily Campbell, Lead Artist ‘Love Ties’


 Appendix One: Mapping the Strategic Objectives

SO1:     To improve educational attainment and raise skill levels of people to enhance their employment prospects

See Section D: 2, 4 , 5 ,7

SO2:    Encourage economic growth and wealth creation by improving the competitiveness of the local economy.

See Section B: 4

SO3:    To help local people improve their environment and develop local activities.

See Section A: 6

See Section D: 1,2,5,6

SO4:    To improve housing conditions for local people.

SO5:    To develop the capacity of the community for self help in the regeneration of their area.

See Section A : 3, 5, 6

See Section B: 3

See Section D: 2, 3, 4, 5

SO6:    To enhance the quality of life of local people through the reduction in crime and the fear of crime.

See Section A: 3, 4

SO7:    To raise awareness of residents to health issues and to address the specific needs of the ethnic minority community.

See Section D: 6, 2

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