Well-being through creative activity

Creating social engagement……….

Why do we do this? A load of volunteers turn up every week. Some of them are themselves in extreme pain or harbouring really desperate life situations. Some of them are lonely, some of them have been through the most horrific experiences and come through and want to help others. Why would you give up your time and cause yourself pain or anxiety or stress to help and support people even more vulnerable. Well……..

There is the person that is so lonely and isolated they barely talk and only answer direct questions with a yes or no and have an air of despair or no hope. Then after attending sessions one day they suddenly start chatting and laughing and joining in and talk about their hopes for the future.

There is the person who wouldn’t get involved, watched or did the clean thing but wouldn’t get involved in creative activities, couldn’t cope with mess and getting covered in paint. Then one day they are in there with the paint on and saying how much fun it is to ” slap the paint on” and smiling.

There is the person who was so painfully afraid to get things wrong, slightest splodge or mistake and anger or giving in was the only escape. Many pieces in the bin. Then one day they drop paint on a clean piece of work and everyone holds their breath. “Ah well”, they say, “I can turn that into a bird” and they carry on.

There is the person who is so convinced that everything they do is rubbish and worthless that it goes straight in the bin despite the praise and support from the group and the encouragement. Then one day their work is framed and on the wall and they are inviting friends and family to come and see it.

There is the person who is so sad. They sit by themselves, they are with the group but not in it and paint quietly, head down. Then one day they are up, laughing, chatting offering to make everyone a drink.

Those are the reasons the S2C volunteers, often at cost to themselves, turn up. Because a community accepts everyone and everyone helps each other through the tough times and give each other hope.

This weeks achievements (some!)

The Kindness of strangers…….

Well just when you are feeling a bit low and alone in getting on with running a charity and the stuff with it, you get a bit of a boost unexpectedly. We held an Eden Communities Event at the Space2Create Unit on Saturday. Eden Communities are an offshoot of the Eden Project in Cornwell (The one with the bio domes and gardens not to be confused with the local Eden). This brought together community project leaders and workers from across the North of England to meet up and chat, network, support each other and make connections.

The first thing that struck me was the passion they all had for what they were doing. The belief that they could make a difference to their communities. It made me a little sad, with lots going on I realised I had maybe lost that a little. It has been a bit swamped by personal illness, family illness and just the day to day grind of keeping things going.

The second thing that struck me was how very similar it all was. The focus of the projects was all different but the real need to help communities was shared. The problems were all common ones. Finding and retaining volunteers in the face of so many attractive opportunities. Funding and maintaining funding for projects. Space and suitable accommodation. Public awareness of the project and getting support in the community.

It is a very tough climate for charities and community projects. There is so much need developing and there are so many voices asking for help.

What made my day and kind of stopped me being miserable, maybe even pushed the start button again was a conversation with a young lady (well young from the point of view of my approaching lofty age!) who told me what an inspiration S2C was to them and how it had developed, how it was inspiring them to do something in their community. Wow, I thought. If we achieve nothing else this year, being able to inspire somebody to do something for their own community was pretty cool. Sometimes actions have far bigger legacy beyond the immediate pond you are tossing stones into.

This weeks stones…….

The Final Countdown…………………….

Well it’s getting close to the closing date for voting in the Epic Awards. It has been great to be nominated for the various awards this year and we have certainly gained a lot more contacts around the UK from similar likeminded organisations who use volunteering to give back to their communities in creative ways. Voting closes at 5pm on Tuesday April 11th.

Space2Create is rapidly coming to some tricky decisions about it’s future. One look at this weeks timetable show the creative community centre we have become, and all the different organisations we work alongside to benefit the local community in many different ways. Increasingly when people say to me “So, what do Space2Create do?” it is getting to be harder and harder question to answer. There are so many different aspects to it from the drop in sessions to room hire to supporting groups to exhibitions to outreach and more.

We start looking at the space we are in, brilliant as it is, and start thinking if it meets our needs anymore. But then what do you do, pay more rent for a bigger space, get a second home, Do we do more, less? Ahhhhhhhhh! Answers on a postcard. One thing for sure is that it is a group decision. We have and always will be more of a collective where everyone who uses S2C as some ownership of it and helps run it. Anyway, answers on a postcard.

Meanwhile, please do, if you have not already, vote for us in the Epic Awards. The link below takes you there. Some people have had trouble as the full list of nominees doesn’t always appear so look down list, if we are not there then click on the link below the list to find the full list.

Thankyou for those who have supported us, it is much appreciated.

Vote here: http://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards-peoples-choice-voting

Some of this weeks creativity:

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!


Sometimes I am moved very much by the spirit and generosity of individuals at a time of great sadness for themselves. I have to say a big thank you to Sheila Stephenson who sadly lost her son John. This week she brought in a large donation collected by John’s work colleagues at Clark’s Warehouse at Watercrook who held a shoe sale to raise money in his memory. As always this money goes to help support those vulnerable adults we support through our creative activities.

We have had a number of donations this year already that demonstrate how generous people can be. Claire Griffel donated proceeds from her “Imagine Senegal” exhibition, the staff and patients on Kentmere Ward gave us a big donation from sales on a table sale they held and more recently Liz one of our volunteers led an event at White Stuff in Kendal selling Valentine cakes raising lots of money from the generous Kendal public.

This generosity is relied on more and more by many charities in Kendal as services are cut, budgets are squeezed, opportunities are lost to support the vulnerable. At a time when all these cuts are happening there are increasing numbers of people needing support. I think that the generosity of people, especially when faced with difficult circumstances themselves, is amazing.

I don’t just count money in that. Time is as much a donation as cash. All those who volunteer their time show a generosity of spirit that bucks the trend of the prevailing attitudes among those in power that everything should be paid for and nobody should take responsibility. Here in Kendal we certainly are moving towards building a supportive community that breaks that mould of everyone for themselves”. Volunteers are our life blood and they make S2C work, make it the supportive place it is and in return I hope we give them something they need whether that be companionship, self belief or just mere satisfaction.

Generosity exists with many out there and we have also been lucky to receive many very kind donations of resources and art materials. Generosity takes many forms and it turns out to be quite easy and very rewarding no matter with whom that is. Money, time, resources, food, a kind word, a helping hand, a positive comment, spreading the word about a charity, liking posts and sharing them on Facebook…….it all adds up.

“You don’t have to be……..”

“You don’t have to be mad to work here”, but frankly, the current state of provision towards mental health and the attitudes of some in this country is unhelpful, to say the least. It feels like Space2Create is getting somewhere, we are offering more sessions, some new faces, our local paper has written some nice articles about us, and in the last few last weeks we’ve been kindly invited to events that raised some cash, some big cheques have been handed over thanks to some dynamic individual efforts and some great teamwork, last year we sat in a prestigious awards ceremony (we didn’t win, but still nice to be part of it) and all this is due to several factors. 

The constant drive of management and core team, pushing the project forward, opening the gallery in the rain on a day when there might be no visitors, or putting personal problems aside to come in and do a shift in a workshop. The kindness of our friends, contacts and other groups who donate equipment, car space, money and especially their time, to help us put on a show, share theirs skills and techniques, run a stall, sell something and donate to the cause. Our volunteers are a wide range of individually talented and dedicated people with their knowledge and skills, and especially their time, together we can do anything. Working with other groups and organisations in collaboration, sharing resources and linking up with other like-minded individuals and teams who might help us to push the project forward and raise our game. Collaborations will be important in us moving forward, and together we can help more people.

Kendal is a small town, with some very dedicated individuals and teams working hard to bridge the gaps where people need help, this is achieved on little or no money and is driven by love and a need to help and share. As always, we need volunteers to achieve this, people with some time, skills and kindness. If you would like to volunteer, drop us a line and we can arrange a visit. Come and see what we do. We also desperately need an accountant, to help us move on to our next challenge, if you are, or know of anyone who might fit the bill, please contact us via email, Facebook or phone us. Thanks for the support.


Art from this week at S2C:

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