The Curiosity Club
The Curiosity Club is a two year project which started in October 2019. Commissioned by Dudley Public Health through its Innovation Fund, the overall aim is to engage local people living in and around the town of Brierley Hill to participate in forming a social art club. Focusing on those who are experiencing isolation and loneliness the project was conceived, realised and facilitated by social art practitioners Helen Garbett and Bill Laybourne who run Workshop 24.
The Curiosity Club takes as its starting point the belief that being curious, paying attention and taking notice of what is around us enhances our everyday lives and through the club seeks to support the development of inclusion, community connectedness and belonging.
In a series of co-created events and performances, Helen Garbett, Bill Laybourne and club members invite others to join them in an exchange of curiousness.
Originally established as a settlement in Pensnett Chase, a wooded area to the south and west of Dudley, West Midlands, Brierley Hill began expanding rapidly following the chases enclosure in 1748 and was first recorded on a map in 1785 after the charting of the Stourbridge Canal.
Brierley Hill had become heavily industrialised by the beginning on the 19th century with a number of quarries, collieries, glass works and iron works in operation.
By the start of the 20th century the raw material deposits had become depleted, leading to the closure of many of the industries in the area. The decline in manufacturing resulted in an unemployment rate of 25% in Brierley Hill in the early 1980’s with the closure of the enormous Round Oak steel works in December 1982 compounding this.
The steelworks site along with the adjacent Merry Hill Farm were redeveloped into the Merry Hill shopping centre between 1985 and 1990.
Brierley Hill is currently ranked as one of the most deprived areas in England, with residents facing high levels of social isolation and loneliness.
The Loneliness Library contains background research to the project and is also a resource for anyone wishing to learn more about loneliness and social isolation. The Loneliness Library can be found here
The Curiosity Club manifesto, created by members in February 2020