History and art combined in ambitious Doncaster project to bring people together virtually when impossible to connect in real life

A Doncaster artist is appealing for people to share their interesting memories with her for a project to help bring the world to those who have to self isolate due to Covid-19.

By Laura Andrew
Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 6:00 am

Mandy Keating started to think about how people were living during the early months of the pandemic.

Her mother was told to isolate and she found that hard as she was an outgoing person.

After watching her mother struggle Mandy wanted to create something that would provide entertainment and education to people who were stuck at home due to Covid-19.

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Richard Keating, pictured with his daughter Mandy at King George Square. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-29-09-20 Keating 4-NMSY

“I wanted to be able to bring the world to her because she couldn’t go out into it.”

Mandy decided that she was going to collect stories from Doncaster people in various forms such as videos, art, written word and photography.

Then she will put them all together on a website that can be accessed by anyone.

King George Square, Kirk Sandall. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-29-09-20 Keating 3-NMSY

But she is making this specifically for those like Mandy’s mother who craved outside influence when she had to stay inside.

Mandy’s parents lived in Kirk Sandall for the majority of their lives which is why she chose King George Square as the starting point of her project.

She is asking for anyone who has an interesting memory that is linked to the square or Kirk Sandall in general to contact her if they would like to be involved in the project.

The memories do not have to be specifically about King George Square but Mandy wants those who are involved to have some connection to the village even if their location has little to do with their stories.

Scrap Furnace Glass found on Glass Park. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-29-09-20 Keating 2-NMSY

“So far I have spoken to a street artist, a pub landlord and a fortune teller,” she said.

“I hope that the project will expand out into other areas of Doncaster and perhaps to other parts of the world.

“All being able to be traced back to the square in some way.”

Mandy is working closely with the Kirk Sandall community on her mixed media project and says that people have been excited to share their memories with her.

Scrap Furnace Glass found on Glass Park. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-29-09-20 Keating 1-NMSY

She said: “People love to talk about themselves and their history when you get them going.

“I’ve really enjoyed hearing stories from people that you would never expect to find here.

“I’m planning on speaking to a lot of the residents at King George Square.

“Hopefully there will be a good mix of new to the area and people who have lived here all their lives.”

She also wants to emphasise that the project is not just about the past she is also interested in finding out about modern Kirk Sandall and the current issues and concerns of residents.

When Mandy has collected the stories and memories she is seeking she will use her skills as an artist and graphic designer to put them all together in the form of a virtual map online.

Mandy Keating, pictured taking a closer look at some scrap Furnace Glass found on Glass Park. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-29-09-20 Keating 5-NMSY

Due to the location of King George Square Mandy is anticipating a lot of memories around the old Pilkington Glass factory which many of the village's residents worked in including her father and grandfather.

“The factory closed down in the nineties but it’s still very much an important part of the community,” she said.

“They created green spaces for children to play, opened shops and even had healthcare facilities.”

Mandy is looking forward to expanding her own and other people’s knowledge about this unique aspect of Doncaster’s history.

“Kirk Sandall is a historic place and I can’t wait to find out more about it,” she continued.

“I’ve already discovered some really interesting nuggets such as that there is old slag glass from the factory still on paths in Kirk Sandall.

“After all these years it can still be found around the Bowling Green.”

Mandy hopes that one day she will be able to share the knowledge she gathers with the Doncaster Museum to pass it on to future generations.

“I think it’s important that we share these memories and have pride in where we live,” she said.

“Kirk Sandall isn’t always talked about and I want to change that.”

Mandy is determined for the project to keep going even if the winter months of 2020 bring a second wave of Covid-19.

She will swap face to face meetings with Zoom calls and emails.

Like many artists she has had to adapt her working life over the last six months due to Covid-19.

“With all the pubs and parks closed many turned towards creative hobbies for an outlet or to help their mental health.

“I think the government needs to pull their socks up and help the creatives in the UK.

“The industry needs better funding to survive this crisis.”

If lockdown guidelines allow Mandy wishes to have an event at King George Square when the project is launched.

She anticipates that the website will be ready to launch some time next year.

If you want to get in touch with Mandy and tell her an interesting story to be included in the project you can get in touch with her by email: [email protected]

Mandy’s project is being funded by the Birdsong Project under Doncaster Creates.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.