YOUNG people have been putting their creative talents to use in discovering Swindon’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.

The history tree art workshops have been run by Swindon Mentoring and Self Help (Smash), which works with vulnerable young people.

A half-term project, part of a year-long scheme, concluded yesterday at the Scrapstore, a voluntary recycling initiative in Westmead.

Heritage project co-ordinator Caroline Peirce said: “The young people have taken part in the year-long history tree project by painting, drawing and making models of things they have seen on visits to the Gurkha Museum and the Sikh Temple.

“They have been interviewing people in the community to find out their stories and to look at the histories of the different groups of people in Swindon.”

The history tree project sees young people discovering, recording and presenting Swindon’s cultural and social history. They have been working with local artists Gina Dunford and Toby Robson on the tree and other works of art.

Smash manager Rob Chappell said: “The young people have really got hold of this project and made it their own. It’s fantastic.

“The interviews will end up on a website and will include people who came to Swindon from other countries and other towns.

“They all tell how they came here. What we have discovered with previous projects is a lot of our history is based around the railways, but lots of young people have no connection with that.

“Since that era families have come here from all over to find work and make a better life for themselves. That includes people from Africa, India, Norwich and wherever. They are all telling stories about what brought them here and what they brought with them.”

The event was attended by the Mayor of Swindon, Coun Ray Ballman, and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland.

Mr Buckland said: “Smash is a great organisation and I love coming to their events.

“What I see is self-confident young people who feel they have something to contribute. The whole thing is about helping them to realise their potential and see life from a different perspective.”

Luke Withington, 14, of Redhouse, was one of the young people taking part over the half-term.

“It’s been absolutely amazing, I would recommend it to anybody,” he said. “It’s a different type of atmosphere and you can relax and still learn something at the same time. I’m not usually one for art but this has been fun and the artists really help you and put you on the right path.”

The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will conclude with the tree being displayed at Central Library and there will eventually be a website.