Verd de Gris Arts: Igniting Change and Empowering Voices.

The drive for positive social change and impact is a burning desire for many of us and for one community group, this has led to a longstanding passion to harness creativity through projects that give a voice to the voiceless.

Founded in 1997 by Sharon Marsden and Jeff Turner, Verd de Gris Arts ventured on a path of storytelling the most unique and delicate, yet incredibly powerful tales of human experience through varying forms of art and workshops.

Their mission is to inspire, uplift, and offer fresh perspectives. Collaborating closely with communities, Sharon and Jeff tackle various topics, from community cohesion to health and well-being, and intergenerational practice.

Each piece of work is co-designed by the individuals involved, with Verd de Gris often working closely over some time with them to build the trust and confidence needed to open up and speak freely about sensitive subjects.

This year for International Women’s Day – annually celebrated on March 8th to remember the women’s rights movement, celebrate the strong female role models in our lives, and strive for world peace and equality, Verd de Gris invited individuals from across Calderdale to their very first event held on the day at Calderdale Music.

‘THREAD’ weaved together tales of resilience, creativity, and the potent influence of women’s voices and set the stage for a year-long array of events and initiatives, spotlighting the impactful endeavours of local women driving for change.

Through the mediums of movement, spoken word, and poetry paired with live music by Gill Pearson, THREAD articulated the thoughts and emotions of each woman from One Voice – the central creative force within Verd de Gris Arts. Comprising diverse individuals reflecting the multifaceted cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic landscape of women in Calderdale, their narratives resonate with power and authenticity.

An audience member from the event commented:

We need events like this because we live in a disconnected society, in a culture that encourages us to disconnect from each other and ourselves.

Verd de Gris Arts events bring us to life, they connect us, they help us to feel less isolated, more powerful, more valid and valuable.”

Verd de Gris will be introducing Women24 – a series of online talks led by and tailored to local women and girls throughout the upcoming spring and summer months.

The first talk is scheduled for Thursday 16th May at 5:30 pm and will discuss the topics of aspiration, opportunity and work.

Each talk will focus on pressing issues affecting women across Calderdale such as the Cost of Living Crisis, access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities.

It doesn’t stop there either – Verd de Gris will also be releasing a series of podcasts where the significance and power of the lived experience by local women and girls will be paramount.

Supported by The National Lottery Community Fund and the West Yorkshire Mayor’s Safer Communities Fund, Verd de Gris is not only giving those in our community a platform to share their voice – but also offering a platform for consultation and opportunity for improvement.

These conversations are open to all, and Sharon and Jeff are eager to invite members of the community to shape these discussions. To share your thoughts and to be kept informed of upcoming events please contact Sharon at sharon@verddegris.org or 07907 822323.

Another notable project is ‘5000 miles’ which recounts the harrowing journey of Adaam and Murat, who fled their native home of Afghanistan as young teens, leaving behind their rural village to escape the Taliban’s oppression. Overcoming immense challenges, the pair walked over 5,000 miles in their quest for safety, eventually finding refuge in Calderdale.

Sharon engaged with the boys weekly at their high school in Sowerby Bridge, utilizing art, storytelling, poetry and music to try to capture fragments of their past lives and aspirations for their future.

Verd de Gris worked with Adaam and Murat to create a distinctive soundscape which was broadcast across Bradford Community Radio and BBC Radio Leeds.

The boys also took their soundscape to the Love Arts Festival in Leeds where they spoke with audience members about their journey and were interviewed by young reporters from Chapel Arts Radio.

Listen to the soundscape here:

Local storyteller Peter Findlay also met with Adaam and Murat to create a unique interpretation of their journey. This came to form the basis of a series of workshops Verd de Gris ran in two local primary schools – Beech Hill and Hebden Royd.

To complement this work, Sharon also led several creative sessions with Art & Design students at Calderdale College. Verd de Gris designed a competition to illustrate a limited-edition book of the boys’ treacherous journey, with the winning design by Beth Hall being made available in bookstores and libraries throughout Calderdale.

To view the full artistic scope of Verd de Gris Arts, you can visit their website at: https://www.verddegris.org/


Do you or your organisation have inspiring stories that need to be heard? If so, the Community Journalist is eager to listen and share your stories!

Contact Jordan at jordan.baker@cvac.org.uk