On 19th February 2022, Liberty UK Festival popped up in Corby with a series of fun, free and unique artworks and activities celebrating freedom and democracy.

As part of its programme, artist duo YARA + DAVINA created Slow Down, a live intervention in form of lollipop signs exploring the concept of crossing metaphorically. Working alongside Charlotte and Simran, young people from the Liberty Changemakers programme in Leicester, they specifically considered the crossing out of isolation back into social society – and of slowing down, pausing to reflect on social issues, alongside the literal freedom of one’s movement.

We asked the artists YARA + DAVINA for some insights into their inspiring project:

What is the inspiration behind Slow Down?

We are passionate about looking to the everyday for inspiration and in particular the meaning of everyday interactions. We have always wanted to find a way to work with lollipop people and this project just jumped out to us as the ideal one to make this a reality.

For us, lollipop people symbolise care for the community, keeping micro local communities safe through skilfully negotiating crossings. As artists, we like this idea of crossing metaphorically to consider the crossing from isolation and back into social society, asking what it means to stop and pay attention.

Tell us more about the young people you’re working with? 

Over the course of last summer, we worked in depth with two Liberty Changemakers, Simran Kaur and Charlotte Walton, and we also worked more lightly with the Values group in Leicester – a group of people with learning disabilities – to develop 4 playful Lollipop signs.

Charlotte and Simran’s previous experience working on the Changemakers programme gave them opportunities to start thinking about making art in the public realm. When we met them, they were very ready for the challenge to start considering how to engage with the public as part of their artistic process, so this project was perfect for them.

It has been an unusual way to work for us – having only two core participants – but really interesting. It’s been more like an apprenticeship programme, where we have been training Simran and Charlotte to be social practice artists. And with spending so much time with them, we got to know them really well and created a strong relationship, built on trust and mutual respect. We definitely feel we have learnt as much from them as they might have from us – they both have such reflective and critical minds (in a very good way!).

Why is the involvement of young people important to this project?

For all our projects we believe in making work that doesn’t just shout out our ideas and thoughts as artists but instead creates a framework to invite others to reflect and have a dialogue about things that matter to them and their community. For us, working with Charlotte and Simran has allowed us to relate to a whole other way of thinking about the themes of the project and made the project stronger because of it.

How do you hope the local communities will engage with the work?

We hope that people will at first just notice us (the lollipop people) and then have the ‘aha’ moment of realising that there is something different. Hopefully at this point, their curiosity might lead them to approaching us and if not, we will be there to gently invite people to engage and take home an edible version of our lollipops in exchange.

How will Slow Down provide a platform for conversations? 

The signs, similar in form to protest placards, invite the public to stop and reflect as well as provoking the public to consider what they would want people to stop and think about. We always invite the public to directly help us think about how we can ‘stop’ whatever the sign says and then invite them to share what else they would like to think about stopping.

Has this project inspired you to develop new ideas as an artist?

Every project we do will organically lead to ideas for new projects, absolutely. It’s still too early to say how this one will influence future work but we know we are keen to grow it and expand its reach. Our dream would be to work with a community to change the signs of real street crossing patrol people across a whole city as a powerful yet subtle intervention.

What are you working on next? 

Currently we are busy working on four other projects – one involving football, one tea, another naming streets and the last exploring life and death. Follow us on instagram to find out more.

Produced and commissioned by ArtReach for LIBERTY EU at Liberty UK Festival, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. Image Credits: Summer Dean Photography and Pete Martin Photography.