“The fun comes from having to be inventive”: Come Together Collective

The idea for Come Together Collective came last August when a friend and I were sitting in my house in, talking about how there seemed to be an endless stream of creative and talented people among our friends and in our little community. We started thinking of how we could amalgamate this network into something fun that could also be a platform for these creatives. We especially felt like we wanted to make a space where people could interact and create connections through the shared experience.

The immediate space we had at our disposal was this house and so we started walking around imagining how we could turn the rooms around us into an event space; counting out walls for an exhibition and corners for stages. With the image forming we sent a call out to our friends to see who would be interested and next thing we had a set of artists and musicians gathered. We set a deadline and the theme of ‘Come Together’ – a simple statement on our community-centred intention as well as on the coalescent work.

The realisation of the event came from weeks of collaborative effort as different people offered their particular skills. Designing the posters, kitting out the gig space and making food to feed everyone on the day were just some of the hands that were offered to help. As this was taking place in our home, clearing out the space and turning it into a temporary art gallery had to be an all hands on deck, last minute job the night before the event.

On the day itself the art exhibition hung in the living rooms and the live music took place in an upstairs bedroom. It was a gorgeous day and night and the feedback we got from everyone who came along was so lovely and positive with people saying they wanted more opportunities like this to meet their neighbours. We even picked up a few folks wanting to get involved with what we were doing.

As we’ve carried on the collective has continued to grow as more and more people offer their input. The events are shaped by this involvement, evolving through the collective ideas and skills building on each other. The final events themselves are just one part in the process around them, which has us meeting with all these new people and exploring different possibilities as the network expands.

Since the first eponymous ‘Come Together’ last October we have put on several other events. In December we had ‘Come Together for Iris Mai’, a charity fundraiser held in our local pub as well as the festive, ‘Come Together Christmas Carolling’. In February we had ‘The Picture House’, a two date moving image themed night held again in our home. We had a pop-up cinema, screening short films from local film makers as well as an interactive exhibition. In the evening we were back upstairs for another bedroom gig. We had four acts playing across the two nights as well as two visual artists who created incredible live backdrops. Having such amazing performances in what is normally one of our bedrooms was a wonderful and surreal experience that definitely demonstrates the charms of DIY.

As a completely DIY and non-funded collective coming from outside the mainstream arts and events channels, the resources we have to put on these events come from within our community network. While of course this could be limiting in terms of having access to high end sources, the fun comes from having to be inventive with realising the vision through shoe-string means, creative solutions and a lot of help from different pals. Thankfully we have found so far that people are really happy to get involved with us at such a grassroots level.

There were moments when I have had feelings of doubt as it often it feels like you have to be involved in the more established world of arts and events to pull these things off. Yet when it does take off and we have these really unique and special events it is all the more empowering to be reminded that you have the ability to create your own spaces and put things together through the effort of your community. Doing it this way also means that we are free to run events as a cooperative effort. We can make sure contributors feel like they can have a say in how the event goes and how their work can be shown and create the space in tandem with everyone involved.

We are a female-led collective with an open-door, open-idea policy and are always keen to hear from new people wanting to get involved. In early March, following on from our first string of events, we established an official set of roles for the people we’d collected along the way who now formed our Come Together team. We were very excited to be in talks about a few different collaborations and were getting ready to start organising what was to be our biggest event yet, a summer street party. Then, as we all of course know, what happened next put any such plans on an indefinite hold.

In what was such an uncertain and, for many, isolating time we knew we wanted to find a way to stay in contact with each other and maintain the community support as much as possible. We created ‘Home to Home’, an online community collaboration asking people to send in what they were getting up to while at home and to contribute to a rolling online gallery, performance space and creative sharing platform. The response was really lovely and we had some fab stuff come our way. It was great to see what people were up to and to be able to share projects and stories through this channel.

As the weeks of lockdown have gone on however it has been not always been easy to maintain motivation in a purely online capacity. After initially leaning heavily on the online social scene to feel connected with people during such a sudden and strange turn of events I started to get a virtual fatigue and found I needed sometimes to take my head out of it. In this extraordinary time which continues to shape our lives in ever changing ways we are continually adapting through new phases. For Come Together, while the virtual sharing platforms have been an important way for us to continue through lockdown it has also highlighted how much we miss sharing real life spaces with other people.

We are determined and excited however at how we can move forward from here and think of new ways to do things while keeping the community safe. DIY is about thinking creatively to make things happen with what you’ve got and the capacity of people’s adaptability is huge. We are looking forward to seeing how we can navigate these new times and we’ve started thinking up ways and means to get some new events coming up. We’re excited about what is to come and what positivity can come out of all this in a time when we’ve seen just how important it is to come together as a community in any way we can.

Follow what we’ve been doing and what’s coming up on Instagram @cometogethercollective, Facebook, and watch this space for our upcoming website.