A NEW book on creative activity for the under-fives has been launched based on the material from the weekly Saltburn Woodland Wonders workshops.

The sessions are for under-fives and their families and are run by Whippet Up. The book, “Yeah! Let’s Do That” looks back on two years of inventive and practical experiences and activities. The title reflects the enthusiastic refrain shouted back to the “Whippets” whenever they took up ideas from the children.

As the funding and sessions, both thanks to the Ragdoll Foundation, end in March, Whippet Up has presented a documented record of the momentum. The book includes drawings, photos, feedback from the children, and simple but effective activities. It is accessible and full of ideas.

Whippet Up is a group of professional artists and community workers, all highly interested in developing wellbeing and creativity within local communities. It is composed of founder members Paul Hyde, Jane Cuthbert, Vicky Lax, with new member Victoria Busuttil, and remembering former member Sarah Hill.

These professionals share a wealth of experience covering creative arts, large scale 3D art work, community arts, co-operative development, community music, creative catering, and community cohesion. Motivated by a determination to improve wellbeing and participation in the arts, Whippet Up was formed as a Community Interest Company in 2018, with the intention of using a wide range of art, creativity, and outdoor activities to boost wellbeing and to tackle social isolation.

The Whippets were collecting material for the book from their weekly sessions in Saltburn Woods, aiming for the book’s launch at September’s Festival of Thrift. But Covid and lockdown ended the woodland sessions, remembered “as times of great joy and fun with much mess, mud, and mayhem”. Instead, the group continued virtually with Zoom.

Sunny Days with the Wonders

Sunny Days with the Wonders

This presented challenges to the Whippets and the under-fives alike, moving from sociable and creative activities outside to online activities. Jane Cuthbert said: “This last year on Zoom challenged us not only with the technology but also how to keep the children enjoying the experience. We had to make Zoom fun and accessible. Our skills in puppetry have taken on new bounds of creativity, plus using more songs and movement have kept the sessions engaging.”

She feels that the under-fives adapted remarkably well but is saddened the children’s physical engagement with peers has been denied or, at best, restricted. Despite lockdown, the Whippets continued to work on the book, learning to use graphic pads and continuing to collect ideas, with valuable assistance from Abbyandowen.com, a design company based in Stockton.

Current Whippet Up projects include creative groups and courses for adults, a music group, and a virtual pub session with quizzes, games, and singalongs. It is also providing professional well-being opportunities for unwaged individuals and organisations, especially those impacted by Covid.

Asked about future work, Ms Cuthbert said: “To continue to find people who need a wellbeing boost through creativity and exploring ideas. To start new projects and looking to be back out in real world.”

“Yeah! Let’s do that” is published by Tees Valley Arts priced £4.99 and will be available from museums, and local shops and www.whippetup.org.uk. For information email info@whippetup.org.uk or call 07771 873057.