Bristol’s windows will light up during the dreary February evenings, and at other dates throughout the year, as artist Lucy Reeves Khan brings her unique Window Wanderland project back for another year.
Residents of Bishopston, Bedminster, Redland, Windmill Hill and Arnos Vale will be participating in this project, that began as Lucy’s personal distraction from her chronic pain.
“While doing short therapeutic walks around the block, in the winter darkness, I noticed that if the curtains were open in neighbours’ houses, I didn’t feel the pain so much,” Lucy says. “For years I assumed I was just a nosy parker, but I realised that the light and openness made me happier.”
Since the first Window Wanderland in 2015, the project has expanded across the UK, from Glasgow to Bromley, entirely by word-of-mouth.
The first area of Bristol participating in 2017 will be Bishopston on February 4-5. Over 200 residents will decorate their windows, open their curtains and share the neighbourly spirit. Touring the area to see everyone else’s creations is highly recommended, and sparking up conversation along the way to boost the community feel is a big part of the event.
“Window Wanderland is all about connecting people,” Lucy says. “It’s about opening the curtains and showing that you’re there. It’s a brave thing to do, and I’m in awe of brave people.” In the current political climate, she says it’s more important than ever to form strong relationships within communities: “we need more bridges and fewer walls”.
This year, Window Wanderland will also take in parts of Glasgow and London, as well as Ashton Keynes, a small village in Wiltshire. “There are such a mix of places taking part: it really proves how wide the range of this project is,” Lucy says. Community organisers are responsible for putting the events on in their own areas. These volunteers make the events truly local and community-focused.
When the project comes to Ashton, Bedminster and Southville during the final weekend of February, residents living in tower blocks Gaywood House and Northfield House will be participating in a special way. Lucy, alongside fellow artist Amy Creech, is working with Bristol Ageing Better, a project by Age UK that is trying to tackle the isolation of older people and make Bristol a great place to grow old. They chose Window Wanderland as a project they wanted to get involved with, as a way to galvanise the community of Gaywood House.
“I’ve always dreamed about running it in a tower block – it’s going to be fantastic!” Lucy enthuses. She’s been working with residents for the past few months, and in the run-up to the event, will be facilitating workshops to make things for their windows.
Lucy was recently voted one of Bristol’s 25 Happiness Champions for her work, and it’s no wonder: she’s had over 700 pieces of positive feedback on the project in the two years it has been running, with many people saying that it has made their area a better place to live. However, the accolade has come at a difficult time for Lucy personally, as she suffered two bereavements at the end of 2016. She will be using her window display to acknowledge her grief and honour those she has lost.
“What you put in your window tells a story about yourself, and often people put up things that are really personal,” she says. “One time I got feedback from a 76-year-old lady who had lost her husband. She made her window display in remembrance of him, and she told me that it got her through Christmas.”
So open your curtains and say hello to your neighbours next time you see them – you never know how much it could help.
If you’d like to get involved in Window Wanderland when it comes to your area, have a look at the coming events page and contact the local co-ordinator. Or, if you’d like to start your own Window Wanderland in your neighbourhood, register your interest to get the ball rolling.
The trails are open to everyone. Catch them on the following dates:
- Bishopston, 4-5 February, 5.30-9pm
- Ashton, Bedminster & Southville, 24-26 February, 5.30-9pm
- Chandos Road, Redland, 25-26 February, 6-9pm
- Windmill Hill & Victoria Park, 4-5 March, 6-9pm
- Bemmie BS3, 11-12 March, 6-9pm
- Arnos Vale, 10-12 November, 5.30-9pm