Well-being through creative activity

The Sweet sound of silent creativity and the healing sound of laughter………

Sound has been in the forefront of my mind this week for some reason. The odd thing is it is very powerful as an indicator within the groups we run at Space2Create as to what the state of play is within the group. The first sounds we get are those of greeting and the chatter of people reconnecting after not seeing each other for a week. That is a good sound, it is a welcoming sound. It is the sound that says those people who were isolated are not so isolated anymore as they have or are building relationships. It is of course difficult to come new into that but in that initial chatter there is the welcoming of the new people, the invitations to show them round and enquire, tho offers to make drinks and show the ropes. All these sounds are the sounds of a healthy group.

Sometimes the group is so healthy and chatty you have to tell them to shut up to get started and get on with the session! In sessions there is a gentle buzz of conversation and you can scan round to see everyone is included. Even those people who maybe want to just sit back from it and be quiet, you can see they are in the group, part of the group even if they are not in the chatter. It is very satisfying to observe because this is the healing, the support and the comfort that the vulnerable people, those low in confidence and lonely, it is the atmosphere that they heal in. We are making the space for them to be and to help rebuild.

Then every now and then there is a ripple of laughter. Sometimes a minor ripple and sometimes a tidal wave as everyone in the room falls about in laughter. At those moments you know you have a healthy and supportive group that can share those moments and laugh together in good spirits. It means that people who have so much to be sad about in their lives have, for a time, cast that aside and opened up to a little bit of joy in their lives.

Then on other occasions the opposite happens, the room falls silent. You look around and you see everyone working away at the creative task at hand. They are lost in those moments of creativity that remove you from here and now and release you from the burdens of daily life and you are somewhere else creating something new and original. And what is good is that everyone respects and shares that. Being in that creative moment doesn’t have to be an isolating thing but a shared moment across a room full of people who respect and trust each other enough to be able to be part of that shared creative healing.

When I say that the art is the least important thing and the most important people often are puzzled. It is the mos because it is the vehicle to achieve social interactions and it is the least important because the people in the room heal each other by those interactions. You can do art sessions but if you don’t achieve that healing then its just another art lesson.

This weeks healing outcomes:

Giving is easy…….

I am always amazed by how generous people are. We are lucky at S2C that we are supported by so many generous people who give. When we talk about giving to a charity people always seem to assume it is about giving money, always nice and helpful, but not everybody has money to spare. To be honest giving in this form is probably the smallest way people associated with S2C give. Giving, is, I feel a very important element of being part of the community. It is to be noted that the five ways to well-being, those five things recommended you do to keep your mental health good, has giving as one of its strands. And by giving we mean all sorts of things.

At S2C that giving takes so many forms beyond dropping some change in the donation box or writing out a cheque. One of the biggest gives is time. Those people who volunteer their time to take on the jobs that keep s2C going. That might be a big commitment over several days or just an hour here or there. It all counts. From those that run sessions to those that clean, those that support service users to those that go off to shows and events, those that run sessions on the hospital ward to those that look after accounts. All giving time to help people.

Some people give to S2C donating materials. Many artists give us resources and equipment, things they don’t need anymore or have too much of, things they have bought for us or are left over from a project. Some people donate advice, taking opportunity to support us by giving advice and information we might otherwise have to pay for. Some people give us opportunities. Making space for us at events or including us in meetings, that kind of thing. Some people give by promoting S2C, from a simple share on Facebook to telling people they meet about what we are doing.

Space2Create always needs people’s help.  Now more so than ever as we look to exciting new projects ahead and ever-expanding what we do. We can only do that with the support of our volunteers and the people who give things so generously.

The results of this weeks generosity:



What to say……….

So, don’t get me wrong here. I am not having a go at praise, ok. What I do want to talk about is how we praise in the context of a mental health or wellbeing creative session. I have been thinking about this over the course of the last week and taking care to listen in to conversations about work that’s been created. Remember that some of the people we work with at S2C have very low self esteem and confidence, are feeling very vulnerable and sensitive. Also I am coming at this as a trained educator and assessor so I feel qualified to speak on the subject and have a lot of experience behind it too of helping people develop, grow and improve.

The reason this is going to be controversial is that we all do what I’m moaning about, even me. That moment when somebody shows you something they have created and the response is “Awesome, that’s amazing”, “Stunning”, “Beautiful”. And that’s it just those kinds of words. This is fine and to be encouraged, especially among friends sharing on facebook etc. No problem. I begin to have questions in the context S2C are working in. So what do I feel are the problems with this.

Firstly, with the people we are working with, if I always tell them that every piece of work they do is “Amazing” then this leaves nowhere to go. There is no opportunity for growth or progression. I can repeatedly tell somebody that their work is amazing for ten consecutive weeks. Apart from a short term buzz in week 1 or 2 there is nothing to show improvement or that they have gained anything through attending. Yes, I hear you, for some people that they have walked through the door and attended is amazing talking about what they do when they get to the session.

Secondly, if they repeatedly hear that their work is amazing then one of two things starts to happen. Vulnerable people remember. They can either believe this and gain unrealistic expectations of their ability or they can begin to lose confidence, observe what every one else produces and compare it or they begin to doubt what you are telling them because it is all you are saying. Dangerous. Remember S2C is about building confidence, esteem, skill, opportunity, wellbeing.

Thirdly, the work they create uls a pile of amazing artwork. Vulnerable people. It’s all amazing, there is nothing special about anyone piece. Where is the motivation.

So, how do we praise the creative work. We are looking to build for each individual. So of course there must be an element of each bit of praise being tailored to suit the individual. Taking account of that then, general approach to praise should be that your praise has a number of component parts to it.

Part 1: the intitial reaction, not too over the top but clearly indicating you are impressed. “Oh so and so, that is looking really good……………”

Part 2: Identify one or two key elements that have impressed you. “………the way you have blended those colours / how you have used thirds to compose / the brush strokes in this part / the way you have built up the layers / the great texture……”. you get the idea.

Part 3: How this particular piece of work could (if it can be) be improved. “Maybe add a touch of colour that’s different here / perhaps you need to have a focal point / this area is a bit dark can you lighten it up/ is there a way you can add some texture………….”

Part 4: Next time. “Next time maybe you could think about starting with a darker base colour / maybe you could try to keep the same tone…….”

Part 5: Tell or ask them. Don’t always tell them what to do. Ask them what they think they could do.

I very much believe that this will help them improve their skills and their confidence, motivation, self esteem and confidence.

So have a think next time you are about to tell somebody something is amazing. Is that what they need to hear. Some yes. But not always.

Some “Amazing” artwork from this weeks sessions.


It isn’t no popularity contest…….

Just a short pause for thought. I realised the other day that what I was actually doing was flogging S2C like some cheap kind of media porn. What I mean by that is the pressure to publicise what you are doing and get people’s attention. It always feels like you have to make a song and dance about how great you are and how fantastic what you are doing is.

Is that what being a charity is all about. I think that if at any point I am doing more selling S2C than I am helping people then the whole point of doing it is gone. And yet that is the world we live in. To get funding you have to be savvy and sell yourself, to get people coming you need to make a big noise, to get exhibitions noticed you have to get more attention than the other stuff out there.

I just look at the people we work with who leave happier than when they arrived for a session, the comments we get about how we have helped people, the stunning artwork that gets produced and the amazing artwork that people bring to show on our walls. That’s what is important to me, not how many people have heard of us or how we compare to somebody else.

There has to be a balance. Yes its great to be recognised and celebrated for what you do. Maybe get the award. So here I am publicising hat we do and selling S2C. But I hope we can do that without sounding boastful or removed from the people we help. Yes we do need money to keep going and yes we always need the people. We need them for then for the right reasons, not for a popularity competition.

Awards, Ice and Events

Lots of “stuff” going on this week and looking ahead to the next few weeks. The first good news this week was the announcement by Voluntary Arts of the shortlist for this years Epic Awards. Voluntary Arts encourage creative participation across the UK running events such as the Get Creative initiative. Space2Create is up for two awards, the Epic Award for England and also the Peoples Choice. I think that being shortlisted for such an award is very much recognition for everyone at S2C. The hard work put in by the whole S2C community, volunteers, Service Users, Trustees, exhibitors, room users, collaborators, partners, funders, supporters and the people in the local community. All help shape and develop S2C as it evolves to meet the needs of the those vulnerable people it supports and expand to include more people all the time. We have truly become a Creative Community Centre for Wellbeing reducing the isolation of many facing a whole range of mental, physical and social situations. Mutual support is a cornerstone of S2C and anyone there can reach out for help and their is usually someone to help or advise.

Please support S2C for the people’s vote and head to https://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards-peoples-choice-voting to vote for us and represent the great community spirit that exists in South Lakeland to help each other.

Ice and snow have been an issue this week too. The conditions are very isolating and cut some vulnerable people off from the support they need. We regretted greatly that we had to call off sessions on Thursday and Friday and also close the gallery Saturday but the conditions approaching our unit were very icy and dangerous especially for those not sure of their footing anyway. We hope we didn’t inconvenience anyone but will be back to normal next week.

We also heard the great news this week that the Green Door Artists will be sharing the proceeds of their annual art auction with us at S2C. We really appreciate the support of Green Door who have a wide range of amazing artists in their ranks from the local area. Do come along to the auction and you may well bag a superb artwork by a fab artist. The auction is March 28th from 7pm at our unit at the Factory. Everyone welcome to help raise funds for our efforts.

I guess my final thought this week is with all those who have struggled with the cold weather. Manna House have done excellent work in extending the Winter Night Shelter Scheme to add extra days over this period of extreme weather. The Peoples Volunteer Café will be on at the Forum on Saturday 11-2 serving hot food too. Keep in touch with those you know are isolated and lonely. A kind word or a “Hello” can make all the difference.

Some what reduced amount of art work from this week!