At the start of the pandemic, the What Next? Dorset network became a place for conversation about changing the way we work, and in the face of adversity, to develop new solutions to old problems. We asked how can we commission differently and improve ways of working for organisations and artists. We shared ideas, challenges and thoughts for the future with meeting attendees, and through the Dorset Creatives network.

These ideas developed into a pilot project over several months, initiated by us, to try out and evaluate a different way of commissioning, using the Five Guiding Principles framework, established by the South West Freelance Task Force.

We commissioned three emerging Dorset Artists to create works of art that reflected on living through COVID-19. The artists worked with producers Gemma Alldred and Megan Dunford to realise their works, which were created with communities in Dorset, or influenced by their experiences.

 You can find a summary of the Commissioning Differently project, written by Gemma and Megan, here.

Inside, Outside Rah Rah Rah

Jen Vincent has a passion for working with vulnerable communities and helping them to tell their stories. Jen described her project in her own words:

I am a Dorset based printmaker specialising in Lino print and Wood engraving. My work is largely inspired by the movements, patterns and colours of the natural world. I enjoy leading creative community projects and workshops with vulnerable people, this enables me to connect with my community and bring creative outlets to those who struggle to access traditional classes.

In December 2020, sandwiched between two national Lockdowns, I embarked on a journey of discovery, meeting with local families to listen to their stories of Lockdown. I had the honour of meeting with twenty children, it became clear to me that amidst the boredom, homeschooling and missing social connection, they had also really enjoyed spending quality time with their families.

The book, Inside Outside Rah Rah Rah -A Tale of Lockdown, is a glimpse into lockdown through children’s eyes and perfectly encapsulates the lockdown experience of missing friends, endless walks, BBC bitesize and virtual activities such as scout camps. It is available for purchase on Jen’s etsy page. For every book purchased, Jen will donate one copy to the local Foodbank.


Boscombe Bound

Corrianna Clarke told the stories of those living in Boscombe in a beautiful hand-drawn 2d animation. She described the plans for her project in her own words:

I’m a 2D animator and my working process is a meeting of traditional and digital methods. Human behaviour, social commentary and relatable stories with a touch of humour are key inspirations for my work. I especially enjoy using spontaneous dialogue within my pieces and the nuance that this brings. I have previously collaborated with writers, musicians, filmmakers and radio – including BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Listening Project’

My aim is to tell stories with sensitivity and intrigue, encouraging thought and discussion – particularly in relation to mental health, sexuality, and our relationship with the natural world. Boscombe has a colourful and close-knit community, in an area often underrepresented and regarded negatively. My concept was to produce a short animation inspired by (and against the soundtrack of) the voices and stories of those living in the area, working with the community here to learn about the experiences that they have had through lockdown.

I was hoping to capture diverse yet optimistic perspectives that can offer a feeling of support, reassurance and inspiration to others through this time and to reflect upon in future. I enjoyed using this time to meet others in the area, discovering more about the Boscombe that I live and work within – and how this will inform the commission and my work for the long term.

Boscombe Bound was launched in March 2021, leading up to an online Q&A Session with Corianna in April. The animation is still available to watch for free via

The Light House

Sophie Fretwell is a talented Scenographer. This is what she had to say about this project:

I’m a Scenographer, based on Portland, in Dorset and I enjoy making work which engages with my local community. In May 2020, I gained an Activate micro-commission, to design and run a Portland-wide competition, in response to Lockdown. This competition, “Flag it up Portland”, encouraged residents to nominate the things that had helped them through Lockdown, by crafting a flag, dedicated to them.

I am now developing this project, by designing an outdoor installation, made up of “stained-glass” panels, depicting these everyday saints; The Light House. This will be an immersive piece that audiences will be able to go inside of, to hear a soundscape of local’s testimonies, describing their experiences of Lockdown.

The Light House will feature as part of this year’s b-side festival from 9-12 September at Chiswell Community Garden, DT5 1AW.