Phase 2 is about to begin!

Building of the hugely successful projects in 2014/15, we are delighted to be about to start the last phase of the community work using Manet’s Portrait of Fanny Claus‘.

brook & black are working with the Ashmolean, Young Dementia UK and MIND (mental health charity) to inspire, create and facilitate people’s responses to the painting. This final phase is called ‘Beyond the Balcony’.


You can follow all the amazing work on a separate project blog

About the Project


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I’ll always think of Manet as ‘Le Homme’

Picture7   Picture6    Picture2

20 June 2015 was a special day for the young people who received support at The Highfield and members of Young Dementia UK that joined our project.

Picture3In the buzzing crowd we had the creative people from the project, grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, artists, Directors, photographers, Ashmolean staff, group organisers, governors, trustees and members of the public that happened to wander through.

The Director gave a fantastic opening speech, welcoming, Picture1celebrating and highlighting the contributions people had made to the Ashmolean exhibition and project as a whole.

As you come into the space, you will hear the Highfield Unit’s documentary; an amazing piece of work that covers their 11 weeks.

A HUGE thank you to everyone involved ….. watch this space for part 2!

The Highfield documentary:

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I had never truly appreciated what I was looking at …..


Jacqui (left) has written this amazing post about her experience of working on Me, Myself and Manet. Thank you Jacqui!

What an experience right from Day one. A bit of an adventure, taking a step into real history. I had been before on my own, but had never truly appreciated what I had been looking at. Nicola really helped to put things more in perspective as we had our first tour and first glimpse of the painting. It was exciting to think that there was so much more to learn about this lady on the canvas. We created a collage collectively, so many ideas at work all at once, individual expressions in two sessions that went so quick because is was so much fun.

Then on week four, I was expecting to be bored, as we were introduced to two fab musicians that were very experienced in what they do, so inclusive and intuitive, engaging all of us to remember parts of us that perhaps were long forgotten, rhymes from childhood, holidays in the rain and camping. Poems were also created, simply from individual words and comments, so emotive. Then there was signing so simple, so effective and very enjoyable, something I thought I would never do or enjoy. So very grateful for helping me to remember to be open always.

The final day was a total culmination of all that we had learnt, felt, and sung, with music, and rhymes each playing and array of wonderful instruments everyone smiling and having fun. I did not know all the people in the group, but the final day seemed as if everyone had become one, a happy family, a wonderful memory, feeling thankful, excited to see our finished collage and all the lovely people I met once again.

It was all very interactive, between Nicola and the group, everyone was included, everyone was equal, everyone I am sure had fun, and last but not least of lunch was fab. Thank you to the Ashmolean too.

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Laughed lots, rekindled skills, relived memories …..

mandyOver the last 5 weeks YoungDementia UK have been lucky enough to work alongside Nicola and her amazing team of artists and musicians. We have enjoyed working together on a collage of Mademoiselle Claus, learnt about Manet, sung songs and recited poetry. We have laughed lots, rekindled skills, relived memories, discovered treasures in the Ashmolean and shared a delicious lunch. We have all enjoyed being part of the group and many new memories and friendships have been formed:

“I’ve loved doing different things each time and being together is always a good thing. I loved doing the art and loved doing things with other people. It’s been a lot of fun”.
“I feel like me again when I come to these sessions”
I know we will miss our Tuesday mornings at the Ashmolean as it has been such good fun but we look forward to the opening of the exhibition in June.

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‘I feel like the old me’

Mlle Cmusic 1laus, the sitter of Manet’s portrait was a professional musician. So, naturally, we invited our musicians back to support our sessions with YoungDementia UK.

Isabel and Arne came over 2 sessions, bringing their energy, experience, talents and wonderful instruments to the group. They took us on a journey. We were transported to 19th Century Paris so music 2we could feel the summer sun on our faces through to evoking personal memories from our past: childhood holidays in Ireland, camping holidays in Norfolk, memories of monsoon rain in Borneo and Singapore. Members of the group shared these wonderful memories and Isabel and Arne enhanced these with music.

The power of music and poetry really came home when we all recited a pmusic 3oem together: The Owl and The Pussy Cat. As the session facilitator, I sat their speechless at the powerful energy in the room as every member recited the poem perfectly. As the group recited,  delight and enjoyment spread on the faces in the room as words, learnt long ago, were recalled and enjoyed. It was amazing.

Isabel and Arne then helped the group create a musical collage, putting the sounds music 4of instruments from around the world to the poem. Such fun as we all collaborated to create a second collage together.

The music, words and instruments unlocked us all in the group. It was a very special end to a very special group.


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Textures, bold colours and patterns

YoungDementia UK worked together on this amazing collage of Mlle Claus. Over 2 sessions we worked together as a group to produce a response to Manet’s portrait. Emma Reynard, our artist supported the group to think of what Mlle Claus was wearing, the textures, where she had been on holiday, how she was feeling, what she was thinking. we then used collage 4these responses to choose materials, textures and colours to create a segment of the painting which, when put together creates this fantastic collage.

The final piece comes together to create a rich, textured collage 6interpretation of the portrait, personification how everyone in the group came together to create this piece of art. The collage will be on exhibition during the Manet Community Exhibition (9 June 2015 to end of July)


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YoungDementia UK

Members of YoungDementia UK have joined us!

We are absolutely delighted to welcome members of YoungDementia UK and their families, friends and support staff into the Ashmolean. Over 5 weeks we are discovering, learning and sharing our creative responses, memories, thoughts and feelings, using the Manet portrait as a spring board. It will also give everyone the opportunity to learn more about art, be artistic themselves, use their artistic and musical talents, meet new people, join in with a social activity and feel confident in visiting a museum.

YoungDementia UK is a charity set up to offer support to people affected by young onset dementia. Over the last year, in my outreach role covering all the Oxford University museums and collections, I have been working with YoungDementia UK, attending their ‘Like Minds’ groups. These are social groups that meet in cafes, garden centres, pubs and are an opportunity for people to meet up, have a chat, be sociable, offer and get peer support from people who are living with, or have family members with, young onset dementia.

Now, interested members are visiting the Ashmolean for this project: 12 members and their families / support staff (approx 24 in total) are joining us.

visiting museum

Our first week started with a walk around (part of) the Ashmolean, up to the Western Art Gallery in which Manet’s portrait hangs. Each member had a digital camera or ipad which they used to capture images of objects or paintings they liked. These were printed out immediately so they could take the photos of the visit home to share with their family.

It was great just to ‘be’ in the museum. There was nothing to rush about for, the sole aim was to enjoy strolling through, seeing an array of artistic styles and objects and to enjoy chatting to others as we went. We then shared a lunch together in the Ashmolean cafe which everyone felt was jsut what we needed: yummy food and an opportunity for people to eat together and relax.


The next activities we had organise were artistic and musical. These both encouraged responses to the painting ands also people to share memories, stories, thoughts and ideas. These will be covered in the next blog posts……..

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Reflections on a job well done ….

Tina, the Highfield teacher leading on our project has written this reflection. Thank you Tina, always a pleasure working with you!

2015 Team (1)As I look back over the last amazing 10 weeks with the Ashmolean I marvel at what we have achieved! Staff and pupils have all learnt new skills. There has been a real sense of teamwork and sharing as pupils have taught staff new techniques for their arts award. Most pupils have managed to submit a portfolio for an Arts Award which is a fantastic result.
We have had amazing people in to support us, all brilliantly organised by Nicola. Special thanks to Kerry, Catriona, Isobel, Arne, Angus and Kate who planned sessions meticulously so that we were all able to participate and enjoy.
Stuart and the young people have enjoyed creating a rap song on Mademoiselle Claus and the Highfield staff have supported, cajoled, taken part, had fun! We have all looked forward to Thursday afternoons

Above all I feel that we have had a lot of laughter. We’ve learnt an astonishing amount about Manet and discovered skills and techniques along the way that we will use again. I have surprised myself by learning new stuff in animation and jewellery making and am personally proud of the bracelet that I made. (Thanks to one of the pupils who taught it me for her skills share- I was a bit slow but I was able to follow her instructions!)
Some of our student’s personal highlights:

web elephant“ I most enjoyed making the canvas of a modern day figure and drawing and animating an elephant”,

“ The most interesting session had to be “ Meet the sitter” when I learnt how taking picturesto play the violin “


arne and isabel playing“ I think the musicians did a terrific job. It sounded incredible for an impromptu session! It was inspiring!”

“ I really enjoyed learning about the way paint was made using just three canvas geoingredients and reflecting on how much this simple compound has evolved into an array of endless shades and colours.”

“It was great fun creating the rap! “

Thank you to everyone who worked on this project. It’s been truly inspiring. I am already looking forward to the exhibition in June.


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It was lovely to see how proud they all were of their work.

Carol has kindly written some reflections on her (fantastically helpful) involvement in the project. Carol supported the young people and was invaluable in her contribution and how she encouraged the young people to participate, have a go and enjoy themselves. Thank you Carol.

Grace ipad highfields paintspigments meetthesitter newhair

I feel truly privileged to have been involved in this project. Right from the beginning Nicola, Catriona and all of the other guest facilitators injected an irresistible enthusiasm into each of the sessions and really engaged everyone. Their organisation was meticulous throughout and they were amazing with the young people, navigating some tricky and difficult moments with such sensitivity and understanding.
The activities were such that all of the young people felt comfortable and confident to get involved, have a go and try new skills in an extremely supportive environment. Their resilience and honesty still amazes me and makes me look at things in ways I’ve never even thought of! It was lovely to see how proud they all were of their work.
A special mention goes to my fantastic colleague Tina whose organisation, enthusiasm and nagging is indefatigable and, now, legendary. She has the enviable ability to quietly motivate even the most reluctant participant.
I am really looking forward to visiting the exhibition.
manet digital jewellery portraits final cropped Mmle Claus


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It’s a rap!

A huge thank you to Angus Dick who put the animation and rap together for us. Thank you Angus!

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