the WEA Creative News blog...


Master Mix Textiles course at The Anchor Coffee House, Manchester

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014


Whitworth Pub Crawl

The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is delighted to deliver three creative courses as part of Whitworth Art Gallery’s fabulous Pub Crawl events:

Master Mix: textile printing course

This four weeks course is about hand printmaking and additional textile crafts like graffiti spraying, mostly on fabrics.

Starting with the old tradition of Indian and Mancunian wooden blocks printing on calico you can give new life to your old T-shirts with a taste of painterly screen printing.

Moving on to explore lino cut a traditional form of relief block printing, we will design motifs and create surface pattern repeats which ultimately we will print on to paper and fabrics such as a bandana or neckerchief.

 Venue: The Anchor Coffee House, 508 Moss Lane East, Manchester, M14 4PA

 Dates: Feb 6 – Feb 27 (4 weeks)

 Times: 14:00 – 17:00

 Cost: £20.15 or free if on work-related benefits


Everyone welcome! Please forward to anyone you think would like to join the course. Just come along on Thursday or to reserve a place contact:

Elaine Hutchings at WEA: or 07795 976 392

Ed Watts at the Whitworth: or 07824 538 019


Snap Judgement magazine is now online

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Oh you simply must have a look at what some of our photography students have produced – this fabulous online magazine of self-portraits on the theme of identity. It’s true, isn’t it? We often make snap judgements about people, based on first impressions: clothes, mobile phone, accent etc. Well these talented students wanted to show the world what they thought of themselves and what best represented them as a person.


Huge thanks to Ed Watts at Whitworth Art Gallery for his wonderful teaching and the designing and editing of the magazine. We couldn’t have done it without you Ed!


Your chance to own some cool graphic design and fabulous fonts

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Kapitza Organic

Kapitza! Who are they? Well, they’re two very creative German sisters, Nicole and Petra Kapitza, who live in London and make the coolest graphic design books and fonts. I’m lucky enough to own their last book, Organic, and one of their flower fonts. They are now seeking funding to print their latest Geometric Pattern Book.

This is what they say on their KickStarter page:

This is our third book on the theme of creating patterns with pattern fonts. Our previous books are the highly acclaimed ‘Geometric’ and ‘Organic’, which has just been nominated for the Designs of the Year 2013 Awards by the Design Museum in London.

You can help Nicole and Petra by pledging amounts to help fund the production of their next book. Click here to go to their KickStarter page. You can pledge a small amount or your month’s salary! In return you can choose to receive a tote bag, e-card, fonts, printing test sheet, books, limited edition posters or even meet them for lunch and a chat!

You’ll have to be quick though – only four days left!


 Here’s a link to their Facebook page.


Art Lovers! Radicals! Leftie Leaning Liberals! Here’s a course you’ll love…

Friday, October 25th, 2013



Radical Art: 1789 to the Present Day is a new WEA course starting on Friday 15th Nov until 13th December from 10.30 – 12.30 at Tate Liverpool.

This course will examine the new Art Turning Left exhibition at Tate Liverpool, which opens on 8th November.

Through a combination of gallery workshops, illustrated presentations and discussions, learners will explore the history and theory of radical art from the late 18th century to the present day. The first half of the session will be held in the Office of Useful Art at the Tate where students will be introduced to some of the radical themes explored by artists during the period. The second half will be a gallery workshop giving students the opportunity to engage directly with the artworks from the exhibition.

Places are limited so if you are interested don’t delay – enrol today! The Tate will be advertising this on their website too.

If you are interested you can enrol online or by contacting the Liverpool Office on 0151 243 5340



Sylvia Hikins at the Grosvener Museum

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Wirral artist Sylvia Hikins is not only a poet and painter, but also a music-maker too! How talented is she? Why not see for yourself:

A new exhibition at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum celebrates the paintings and poetry of Wirral artist Sylvia Hikins. ‘Distant Voices: from Iceland to Viking Wirral’ has just opened and runs until November 3rd.

You can read more about Sylvia and the exhibition here.


Article on WEA in the Guardian: A broad, cultural education is vital to the health of a democratic society

Friday, September 6th, 2013

How uplifting to read an article about the Workers’ Educational Association that articulates our efforts to challenge and inspire adult students of every persuasion. The extract below is taken from the Eastern Region’s WEA centenary lecture:

At its best, the WEA is a counter-cultural force; in an increasingly homogeneous culture, we should be always asking the awkward questions; confronting established, assumed ideological truths with other views, other explanatory frameworks; and enabling adult learners to find their own way to their own conclusions, by ensuring that they have full exposure to and understanding of competing frameworks of analysis. The WEA must play its part in ensuring that education is seen as a good in itself, that it widens and deepens our understanding and appreciation of the world.

If you’d like to find out what triggered ‘Atavism’s’ response below, then click here to read the full article about the WEA in the Guardian.

Certainly something needs to be done to stop the relentless kowtowing to the “lowest common denominator” that is producing a popular cultural footprint composed entirely of Karaoke and Cookery contests, with the occasional RnB soft-porn video thrown in for variety.

How many people these days of any background – never mind working class – can play a musical instrument, hold a cogent debate rather than a shouting match, sketch, write or relate a linear narrative, or simply muster the attention span to listen to a lecture?

We’re producing a zeitgeist for generation Z consisting of the cultural equivalent of an all baby-food diet.

‘Atavism’ (Guardian Website)

Do you agree?




Project in a Box

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Project description:

The VIEW project enabled various disadvantaged adults from the Greater Manchester area to access professional photography, filmmaking and creative writing courses. Fifty-one adults successfully took part in the project, and it also afforded the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in the North West the opportunity to provide documentary film making tuition to 16 members of staff, tutors and volunteers. A key component of the project was encouraging tutors to prepare and deliver online lectures for wider dissemination. Three WEA tutors produced online video lectures in history, archeology and creative writing. Local entrepreneurs were filmed giving their advice on starting a business or becoming self-employed. A dedicated creative writing website offered students the opportunity to post their work online and receive feedback.

Project objectives and planned outcome for learners:

The project objectives were:

1. Increase digital skills for WEA staff, tutors, volunteers, members.

2. Increase digital skills for two groups of disadvantaged learners.

3. Record 10 talks/lectures for web dissemination. These will be similar to TED talks – approx 15 minutes’ duration on interesting, topical subjects.

4. Design an online course.

5. Commission VIEW microsite for online talks/lectures

6. End of project VIEW Point conference.

The planned outcome for learners were:

1. To learn the basic techniques necessary to make a short documentary film:

How to question an interview subject on film.

How to frame shots, using close up, mid shots and wide shots.

How to edit a film.

How to add sound to a film.

To work together in a team of three or four students.

2. To learn how to write, and post, engaging prose on the Internet:

How to upload the work to a site.

How to add comments to a forum.

The etiquette of online contributions.

3. To learn the basic techniques of digital photography:

How to use digital camera settings to best effect.

How to frame shots using the Rule of Thirds.

How to recognise the work of some famous photographers.

How to give constructive feedback to peers.

The difference the project made in practice to learners, communities and other stakeholders:

Course participants were, without exception, very positive about the courses and their learning experiences. Most of the participants voiced delight at meeting new people and making valued friendships. In fact, two of the courses were so sociable that the participants spent evenings together and passed the time in each other’s homes. They genuinely cared about their peers’ welfare and became concerned if anyone was missing due to ill health. Overall, the attendance patterns were very good, especially from those who came from the Booth Centre. After completing the Snap Judgement photography course, one unemployed project participant had the confidence to apply for a part-time job at Whitworth Art Gallery. Although there were over 300 applicants, she got the job! She attributed her time spent at the Whitworth, studying the art and the building, as giving her an advantage over the other candidates. Another project participant applied for a coveted free place on a masterclass workshop with the renowned photographer, Red Saunders, at the People’s History Museum. He wrote his application via email and attached some of his photographs taken during the course. He was thrilled when, after a few days’ wait, a reply email said: “I’m delighted to say you are the successful applicant.” He had a very inspiring day in the company of Red, learning about his way of photographing epic tableaux vivants. The student summed up his day thus: “Red Saunders is a top bloke and knowledgeable. The time went so quickly.”

Twelve members of WEA staff, two tutors and two volunteers attended the two film making courses as part of the project. The courses were held in Manchester and repeated in Liverpool to give participants the opportunity to attend on the days, and in the location, most suitable for them at the time. The first session was designed to be accessed online prior to the first session. This was very successful as it enabled people to study at their own pace either at work or at home. This also meant that everyone had the same base knowledge ready for the first session. One member of staff wrote the following about her prior learning experiences: “I have never, ever liked the thought of learning since being a kid, I hate the thought of having to attend courses/ classes/meetings etc, I hate being in big groups and the thought of having to read or talk in front of people, (and that’s what I think of when I think of learning). Since leaving school I’ve done some courses but again hated the thought of doing them and thought it was such a relief to finish them, and I do try and put off attending if I can.” However, her feedback after the film making course tells a different story: “The outcomes were really good, I loved the course and am trying to find another course which will help develop the skills I learned from doing this course.” She has since contacted Manchester College to see if she can enrol on a Level 2, or 3, short course in graphic design and film making. This is fully supported by the Regional Director who would like her to reach her full potential within the organisation.

Project timetable:

August 2013: Notification from NIACE that the bid was successful. Woo hoo!

September 2012: Started getting things organised: contacted community and cultural partners; designed concept for Snap Judgement photography course at Whitworth Art Gallery; contacted front end developer re VIEW microsite; designed the Survey Monkey questionnaire based on NIACE’s questions for the data collection submissions; contacted four prospective film makers; produced colour publicity poster; printed out numerous copies of the Student Diary; used Survey Monkey to produce an end of project questionnaire.

October 2012: Snap Judgement course begins at Whitworth Art Gallery.

November 2012: The film making course for WEA staff, tutors and volunteers begins. My nomination for David Dennehy as WEA’s volunteer of the year was successful! David was a volunteer and participant on the project. You can read a bit about him here.

December 2012: Jamie Moloney recorded the first video lectures on Engels for the website (Jamie has now moved to Amsterdam to live and work). Held WEA promotional event at the Cornerhouse in Manchester – VIEW was on the agenda.

January 2013: Collated the written feedback from the Snap Judgement participants. Recruited learners for the Docu course and second creative writing course. Do tutor contracts. Organise room bookings.

February 2013: Docu film making course starts at WEA. Submitted the Learner Postcode list and interim data online to NIACE.

March 2013: Went to Copenhagen for some Danish culture: the Design Museum, Damien Hirst and Carl-Henning Pedersen at Arken, Sarah Lund and the Killing Tour!


April 2013: Encouraged Carmen Walton, the creative writing tutor to write her own blog. You can read it here.

May 2013: Set up a second creative writing course. Organised filming of entrepreneurs. Carmen filmed six lectures for the creative writing course.

June 2013: Commissioned film makers to interview a local entrepreneur Dipak Patel, who founded Popup Bikes. They also filmed eight of WEA’s former students on the Community Interpreting course at Manchester Chinese Centre, who are now self-employed interpreters for the Chinese Community. Ed Watts at Whitworth Art Gallery organised a book to be published of students’ photographs. Mike Nevell films his four archeology lectures in Salford.

July 2013: Chased up the film makers and the films. Rang students and ask for more feedback. Actioned all the invoices and generated the PO numbers for Finance. Collated all the project information into one BIG file (thank you Michelle). Submitted the Learner Postcode list and final project data online to NIACE.

August 2013: Took the project file home. Hid it under the bed over the weekend. Dragged it out on Monday morning. Chose a colour theme (sort of dull red, a bit like brick), chose the fonts, chose the photos. Looked at the project report guidance and added the headings as a prompt. Began writing. Kept writing. Finished writing. Sent it to Line Manger for approval. Submitted report to NIACE along with the completed Wider Outcomes Tool. Put the required info for Project in a Box online. Went to see Sigur Ros at Jodrell Bank and had a bit of fun!

Financial resources:

Below is a break down of some of the costs associated with running a project similar to VIEW:

Staff costs: Project Manager, Project Admin, Finance Manager, volunteer expenses. Never underestimate the amount of your time the project will take and cost accordingly.

Publicity: Colour posters. We used our colour photocopier for all of the project publicity.

Website: This cost will depend on what you want your site to do. We paid a developer £1,500 for the custom-built VIEW site and £160 for the adapted Wordpress Words site. If it’s a simple blog you’re after then I would recommend using a WordPress template as they’re really easy to use and update yourself. Here’s a link to all of the free themes. I used Wu Wei for the Words site.

Think about what your project participants may need in order to fully participate in your project: child care provision; transport costs; refreshments; books; files; paper; pens; art materials; specialist equipment; protective clothing etc. Make a list, then cost it on the Internet and add everything to your bid.

The project funding will also enable you to buy capital equipment such as iPads, laptops, digital cameras etc up to 10% of the bid amount awarded. So, if you receive funding of, say, £50,000 you could spend £5,000 on 12 iPads. How fab is that? If your organisation is eligible, you may be able to get an educational discount at the Apple store.

Promotional materials:

Here’s a promotional poster we designed at the start of the project.

Here’s a poster to advertise the Snap Judgement photography course.

Lesson Plans and learning resources:

Here’s a lesson plan for the Snap Judgement photography course.

Matt Kowalczuk designed the first session for the film making course online. You can view it here. You can view part 2 here.

Here’s a simple Student Diary.

Evaluation Tools:

Firstly, the questions set by NIACE will provide valuable demographic data for your end of project report. The best way to gather this evidence is to make a questionnaire on Survey Monkey then print off copies and ensure each student fills one in at the beginning of a learning activity. In addition to this, we filmed three project participants giving feedback on their learning experiences; requested evaluations from community and cultural partners via email, chatted to people on the phone and distributed Student Diaries.

Top tips:

1. Mix up the groups and include people from all walks of life. This is a much better way to encourage integration and equality than keeping disparate groups separate from each other. For example, women learning ESOL rarely have the opportunity to mix with other people from different cultures in a learning or social environment. Our most successful, harmonious groups of adult students are often the ones in which, for example, a retired lawyer sits next to an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, who sits next to a homeless person recovering from alcoholism, who sits next to a young, unemployed mother who has lost her confidence to get a new job, who sits next to…

2. Use professional artists/film makers/writers as tutors. Students love having access to practising artists and, in turn, the artists appreciate sharing their skills with other people, especially those who are non-traditional learners. Having the project funding enabled us to pay the artists their going rate and added gravitas to the course content. It also means that the region now has valuable contacts for the future.

3. Include your organisation’s own staff in the project. They will benefit from having access to exciting, challenging CPD opportunities. When I wrote the bid, I wondered if it would be acceptable to include WEA’s staff as project participants. Well, it was acceptable, and 12 staff members, two volunteers and two tutors benefitted from Matt and Mat’s expertise in film making. Those who took part now have the rudimentary skills to make short films on anything and everything.

4. Students appreciate seeing their work online and in magazines and books. Oh they do, they really do! Then once you’ve (or they’ve) published their work, you can put it up on your issuu pages: (you just need to convert everything to a PDF first) Here’s a link to our page where you’ll find the VIEW project report, past project reports, a magazine of students’ work, last year’s annual report and the fabulous magazine of photographs by the students on the Snap Judgement course at Whitworth Art Gallery.

Contact Details:

If you’d like to know more about the project, please get in touch with me:

Elaine Hutchings

0161 277 5409



The Avalanche is Coming!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


Yes, I know it’s cold and there’s been a bit of unseasonal snow, but brace yourselves because an avalanche is coming. We’re all going to be swept off our feet in a disorienting swirl of educational meltdown resulting in a maelstrom of challenges for higher education. So, grab your intellectual thermals and a hot toddy and read all about it here, in the Institute for Public Policy Research’s latest publication: An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead.


Alternative Manchester: photography competition

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


We all love Manchester, right? It’s funky, groovy, edgy and full of great people, music, food and culture. Well, now’s your chance to show the world how fabulous this super city is. Get out your Lomo/Canon/Nikon/pinhole camera and shoot up, down and around. Then enter this top hole photography competition and you could win £200 and publication in a book alongside the photos of Kevin Cummins. Click here for more details.


Free WEA Literature Study Seminars in Warrington

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Join WEA Warrington literature class members for three free literature study seminars:

10.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m., Thursdays, Bold Street Methodist Mission, Palmyra Square North, Warrington WA1 1JQ

Gillian Clarke is the National Poet of Wales and one of the most highly regarded contemporary poets. Seminar 1 will focus on her landmark poem “Letter from a Far Country” while Seminar 2 will discuss a range of her other poetry and an extract from her prose work At the Source.

21 March 2013 – Topic: Gillian Clarke – “Letter from a Far Country” (poem)*

18 April 2013 – Topic: Gillian Clarke – Selected other poetry and extract from At the Source (prose)*

(*Copies of texts to be discussed can be requested in advance of each seminar from Andy Jurgis,, 01606 784 458 but you can just turn up without any prior reading.)

Chekhov is one of the world’s most revered writers and this seminar will introduce some of the possible reasons why and look ahead to the literature course programme in Warrington in 2013/14. No prior reading necessary.

16 May 2013 – Introducing Anton Chekhov

PLANNED WEA CHEKHOV COURSES IN WARRINGTON, 2013/14 (subject to minimum enrolment, cost t.b.c.)

Tutor: Andy Jurgis, WEA Learning Manager – Cheshire and Warrington

10.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m., Thursdays, Bold Street Methodist Mission, Palmyra Square North, Warrington WA1 1JQ

10 weeks from 3 October 2013 – Anton Chekhov 1: The Short Stories and Uncle Vanya

10 weeks from 7 January 2014 – Anton Chekhov 2: Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard

Recommended Texts:

Anton Chekhov, About Love and Other Stories, Oxford World’s Classics (ISBN 978-0199536689)

Anton Chekhov, Plays, Penguin Classics (ISBN 978-0140447330)

Further information on these seminar and course programmes from Andy Jurgis, and 01606 784 458.

on literature class members for three free literature study seminars: