Launching in October 2000, Fast Forward was the only project of its kind at the time: delivering the arts to homeless people across Oxford. Its mission was to promote the power of the arts and its positive social, cultural and educational impact by breaking down barriers to vulnerable groups.
Fast Forward set out to provide a city-wide arts education project for homeless young people aged 16-30 years, using the arts as a tool to support and enable individuals to gain a wide range of creative, social and learning skills, boosting self-development and providing a mode of self-expression. The project offered a structured programme of arts activities and access to learning opportunities through an accredited Open College Network Certificate Learning through the Visual Arts and Crafts.
The participants’ work was exhibited at a number of venues around Oxford, including the X-change Gallery, the Ark –T Centre, East Oxford Community Centre and the Zodiac. They also featured in an exhibition called ‘No Fixed Abode’ in Bray town centre, the Republic of Ireland. Artists Jane Stokes, Julie Bradshaw, and Ann Rapstoff worked alongside participants to share their passion for the arts, exchange ideas and provide support and encouragement within an experiential learning environment.
Fast Forward was instrumental to the creation of alternative pathways for training and opportunities to those attending the project. Several participants went on to vocational, education, and employment tracks. Their routes included desktop publishing, office computing, business management, British Sign Language, Ceramics, catering, art foundation and photography. Four participants were able to access employment following their participation in the project.
‘I am much more confident about showing my art work and feel I have improved especially with the silk paintings. I really enjoyed the variety of the course.’
‘It opened up…existing needs to play with materials. Packed and kept together… we had many discussions’
Providing a platform for homeless people to profile their talents and raise awareness of homelessness issues, Fast Forward gave individuals the opportunity to produce high quality artwork to be exhibited across the city. The project promoted the value of arts to partner organisations and service providers across the city, and helped to ensure that the arts play a central role in future service.
Fast Forward was involved in research carried out by Helen Jermyn on behalf of the Arts Council England exploring the arts and its impact on social exclusion. The project was also one of twenty-one arts organisations participating in research concerning the establishment of national guidelines to inform evaluation practices.
Partner organisations involved The Gap, Windmill House, Life Housing, Florence Park Day Centre, Simon House, and Steppin’ Stones, and English Church Housing. The project was funded by Arts Council England, South East (Lottery); East Oxford Action (SRB), The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and Tudor Trust.