Alana House stages ‘Chaos and Calm’ photography exhibition

WOMEN from the award-winning Alana House community project in Reading staged an exhibition of photos as part of an innovative photography project.

The exhibition, called Chaos and Calm, was the culmination of a two-month therapeutic project exploring photography and the way photos can make you feel.

The Alana House women’s centre, which is run by Parents And Children Together (PACT), uses a holistic approach to support vulnerable women by empowering them to take control of their lives, make informed decisions and improve their life chances. In 2016, 190 women accessed Alana House in Reading and its satellite service in West Berkshire, for groups, courses, drop-ins and one-to-one support.

Eight women took part in the Photovoice project, taking photographs to convey their experiences.

The project was supported and funded by a High Sherriff grant, in conjunction with the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. It was also supported by The University of Leicester and The Howard League for Penal Reform.

Victoria Fishburn, High Sherriff of Berkshire, attended the exhibition and presented certificates to all those women who had taken part.

PACT staff and supporters also attended, and were asked to make comments on the photos on display. This feedback will be used by the University of Leicester as part of further research into how people respond and react to photography.

One of the women who took part Shona Tabone said:  “I am looking to get into photography for work. This has been the best thing I’ve done for years.” Shona is now embarking on a photography project evidencing the change in community gardens by The Hexagon.

Another participant said: “Alana House brought us together, the camera helped us talk and as we opened the shutter we opened our creativity, imagination and communication to find calm within the chaos.”

Jan Fishwick, Chief Executive of PACT, said: “The exhibition was a fantastic conclusion to an inspiring project. Alana House is continuously striving to empower vulnerable women into making positive life changes by helping them to develop new skills and boosting their self-esteem. The Photovoice project is a great example of this in action. Congratulations to all who took part, and my thanks to those who supported it.”

In 2014 Alana House was awarded The Howard League for Penal Reform Award in the Community Programme for Women category, acknowledging the positive impact it has on the women it supports and their wider communities.

Next month Alana House will be celebrating its seventh birthday with a party for its users, staff, volunteers and supporters.

PACT, which supports families across the South East through adoption and award-winning therapeutic support, also runs a second community project, Bounce Back 4 Kids which supports families affected by domestic abuse.

To find out more about Alana House and its programme of activities, which include weekly drop-in sessions, see www.alanahouse.org or call 0118 9217640.