When Zinc Arts arrived in Southend-on-Sea to perform a Kindness Flashmob, unsuspecting shoppers were in for a rather pleasant surprise on a cold, soggy Saturday morning.
Instead of being asked for something when they were stopped in the High Street, they received something for free - unique artwork created by young people who had attended 'Kindness and Happiness' themed art workshops.
Callum, a member of the workshop and Flashmob crew said: "We went round asking people if they wanted a gift to celebrate World Kindness Day. Some rejected, some accepted and some were curious about what we were doing. It depended on the person."
Ahead of the Kindness Flashmob on Saturday 9th November, young people aged 11 - 18, had been busy working with professional artists to create urban art, from painting mini canvasses to making felt flowers and keyrings.
Paul Heard, artist at Zinc Arts said: "It's been really nice to see the project all the way through - the enthusiasm from the young people making the artwork, getting involved and then seeing them out in the street, spreading a little kindness as well.
"We've had a good response from the general public and put a lot of smiles on faces. Also the young people have gained confidence from doing it, enjoying themselves as well."
Although some shoppers were initially apprehensive and slightly confused by the concept, they soon realised the squad of eight young people were there to spread a little sunshine and good cheer.
PCSO Paula Bickers, who received an artwork gift, said: "It's brightened up my day on a freezing cold Saturday morning. I think there should be a lot more niceness on a Saturday in Southend - there's not enough of it."
Positive reactions from the public soon translated into a general feel-good factor for those taking part in the Kindness Flashmob too.
Lydia said: "It was hard talking with some people but it was really great when someone came back to you and said 'have a nice day'. One person said they were going to be smiling all day, which is really nice."
Organised by Zinc Arts in celebration of World Kindness Day on November 13th, this unusual yet unique Kindness Flashmob was the culmination of a week-long Kindness and Happiness project. Workshops delivered by Zinc Arts' team of artists took place during October Half Term at the YMCA's Ecohub in Westcliffe-on-Sea.
The aim of this project was to demonstrate to those taking part as well as the recipients of thoughtful acts, that being kind to others has a positive impact on well-being and health. Organisers hope the young people will not only have had fun being creative and spreading a little happiness to others but also that they feel good themselves because they enjoy doing kind deeds.
Sonia Cakebread, Project Manager, Zinc Arts said: "A phrase that came out during the project was ‘kindness costs nothing’. Young people were able to see that being kind is something that they can have control of. The impact of their actions is part of a bigger picture. If they feel great though their acts of kindness, this also affects others around them. It only takes one positive person in a group to ripple the waves."
Funded by Comic Relief, Lankelly Chase Foundation and Steel Trust as well as Essex County Council, these activities were held as part of ArtZone. This is a three-year programme aimed at promoting positive mental health, delivered by the arts and education charity Zinc Arts, champions of disability arts, working in partnership with secure and non-secure mental health services.
Zinc Arts has more than 22 years' experience of delivering workshops and specialises in working with disabled and socially excluded groups. This extensive knowledge means our team of trained artists and tutors deliver high quality workshops, helping students to reach their full potential.
For more information about Zinc Arts visit our website www.zincarts.org.uk, call us on 01277 365626 or pop into the Zinc Arts Centre, at Great Stony in Chipping Ongar High Street, CM5 0AD.