Well-being through creative activity

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:

The needs of the many and the needs of the individual………

Running group sessions for people who have a long term illness or mental health conditions is always going to be a tricky balancing act. The balance between an individuals need to express their issues and talk about what they are going through as opposed to the needs of the group who might be affected by what that person says. Sometimes it can be particularly tricky where one person is very vulnerable and sensitive and another is expressive and vocal. To allow the former to continue risks real harm to the first in that their mood or condition can be disrupted.

That is why we need volunteers in the group, not just the odd one but plenty so there is a good ratio. People can often feel that just being a volunteer to sit in the group and take part is not really volunteering but it is in fact a vital part of the sessions. We need those people in the group to help both ends of the spectrum, the vocal and the withdrawn.

The easiest part of the role is modelling. Showing how to be positive and have a go, interact with the group socially, how to behave around people and what is appropriate or not. It is surprising how many people struggle in this kind of situation either through their own isolation or through their medical condition. Then there is the part of the role where you might be sat alongside a very quiet or nervous person and the role becomes one of encouraging and supporting, using your judgement to decide if that person needs encouragement to engage or if just being with them and letting them know you are there if they need you. I have sat through an entire session next to a person and barely spoken with them other that the odd word and they have left thanking us for our support and how much better they feel. It takes weeks sometimes for people to interact more.

It might be that you are working alongside a more vocal individual. In this case it may be that rather than pronouncing their problems to the whole group, these individuals need channeling and engaging one to one at a lower volume that is for conversation between people sat next to each other. Using your judgement to decide if that person should be withdrawn from the group for a time to talk privately. S2C always tries to have a more senior volunteer on hand if it is felt the individual needs more support they can go to another area to talk privately and try and resolve issues or just talk about them confidentially.

What we want to avoid is the situation where one individual, who clearly needs support, very loudly and innocently is dominating a group by exploring their issues with the whole group. At times this is inappropriate and it also impacts on other members of the group. It is all part of the group management to best achieve what is needed for everyone. Some will be there so they can quietly be part of the group and some will be there because they need to talk to somebody about their situation. Our role is to ensure both have what they need to improve their wellbeing.

If you would like to volunteer with S2C then get in touch. We are looking at developing new sessions and improving our existing ones as well as developing better structure for the charity, This means we need all sorts of volunteers from artists, group supporters, admin, a treasurer, fundraisers, event helpers, exhibition helpers and more.

Kentmere Ward, a special relationship.

The Kentmere Ward at Westmorland General Hospital provides an essential service to our community in supporting the most vulnerable patients in mental health crisis. The town has had to campaign hard to make sure it continues and it is with good reason for the fantastic job the staff there do to help people back to a point they can begin to recover.

Space2Create has been very proud to work closely with the Kentmere Ward for as long as we have existed (last five years) and before when a group of us who are now with S2C went to the ward from the Charity Workbase before it closed. So in effect we have been running creative sessions on the ward now for getting on eight or nine years.

These sessions are not in themselves demanding or clinical. They are what they are but are highly valued by the people in the ward, the staff and the patients. They add in the value of a positive experience helping to boost confidence and mood for the patients. They help with passing time, as many will know, which is one of the difficulties of being on the ward, keeping occupied. They help build relationships, both within the ward between participating patients and staff, but also with the outside world and the volunteers who regularly give their time to the project. It provides a stepping stone for the patients on the ward to then have confidence to come to sessions at S2C or indeed to engage with other charities for support when they leave the ward. We also provide resources and ideas for creative activity the ward might not normally have access to.

And then there are those special moments when someone who has previously been a patient on the ward in crisis, has left, come to S2C as a service user, then as a volunteer and when ready gone on to volunteer for the ward sessions giving back to those on the ward the support and care they received.

I have two big big thankyou’s in this. First to the staff at the ward who very generously,ients, donated over £200 pound raised from a table sale they held of items made on the ward. The second is to Sue G who has been doing the ward since the very first sessions with Workbase and with S2C and who has very much kept the sessions going when we have been very short of volunteers to help us. If you would like to hy becoming a volunteer and giving your time to go and be creative on the ward, listen and chat to the patients then please get in touch with us via email info@space2create.co.uk or call 01539 482540.


Why its good to come anyway…………

I know it is really hard to turn up to something new when you feel like crap or your entire being is dragging you into some kind of void that wants to keep you locked up inside. Been there. What got me going was my CPN dragging me to this place where there were other people. I was doing art with other people instead of hiding away and being alone.

It was a big step on a very long journey in my recovery. From the small start, regaining the skill in socialising, gaining confidence through painting and becoming steadily more involved. Building resilience by being supported through protected mishaps within the group that had no immediate impact beyond the table that gave the skills to then use that resilience when faced with the real world problems we all encounter.

So coming along to S2C and walking through the door is a big thing. As it is with many of the charities supporting people in the local area. We use art as our medium of activity. You do not need to be an artist. You do not need to become and artist. Just being there is enough, building those relationships, skills, confidence and resilience that will help you move on and tackle life.

You can come along and sit with everyone and have a coffee, matter, or stay silent. Have a go or not. We value everyone who attends and support them to be creative or just to be. I have reached a point where what helps me is having some responsibility and using my experience to help others. Some of our volunteers are in the same position having regained enough confidence to start giving back to others.

It does not matter what the problem or issue or health condition is the fact that you need support and you need to be with other understanding, sympathetic and supportive people is enough for us. Getting through the door is the toughest part but once there it becomes much easier and as you build confidence and resilience it becomes even easier until it’s not a problem.

That’s why if your thinking about it, you should come!

This weeks pictures by the brave:

Supported compassion…….

One of the biggest strengths of S2C, I always feel, is that there is a real community within those that attend. Well maybe community is not strong enough, some have called it the S2C “Family”. That comes from the knowledge that everyone is the same at S2C regardless of what role they play or the problems they have. It also comes from the knowledge that when you do have a problem there are those around you who will support you and try to help you.

The thing you need to be aware of is to avoid it becoming a closed community. New people should always feel welcome into it and not feel excluded because of the simple fact of unfamiliarity. A big part of this too is trust. It takes time to trust when you are fragile, as many of those are who attend S2C. Clearly there are roles and there are those who need to make decisions and take responsibility but even though they have that role that does not mean they need to be in any way less supportive or part of the family.

Working together as equals is important to the aim of rebuilding the confidence of those who attend. Not just the vulnerable service users recovering from issues, but also the volunteers who deal with all sorts of problems and issues in supporting those service users. In order for an organisation to create the feeling that everyone is valued and supported everyone is treated equally and everyone should know that when they need it the team is behind them.

When you know you have that support and community with you then as a service user you can begin to build your recovery and as a volunteer you can build your confidence and skills. The result is that everyone grows together, at different speeds, at different rate and in different directions but the net gains are everyone’s.

We face things together and move things forward together.

It’s a shame that more of the world we live in does not work this way, it could only be a better place for it.


Some of the artwork from our community this week:

Treasured Volunteers….Wanted Treasurer!

Not a normal post today. S2C is short of volunteers in certain key areas so over the coming weeks we will be advertising those roles. S2C started off very small and has been steadily growing over the last five years in what it does and the number of people it helps. We are now at that stage where growing more may well include some volunteer roles in the near future becoming paid roles as we source funding and develop our practice. So here we go with a really important position, that of Treasurer.

We are looking for a suitably experienced individual to join our Trustees as Treasurer. This role comes with some challenges as we look to develop. We would like the new Treasurer to help develop our accounting. Our banking and financial procedures need to be developed to take account of online access, credit card use, online shopping and sales, generation of accounts through appropriate software, invoicing, use of electronic payment such as Paypal.

The Treasurer will also take a hand in helping budget to ensure appropriate use of funds and look to help raise funds through grants, events and sponsorship with various funders and business partners.

In terms of the individual themselves we feel that it is very important they understand the ethos and ways S2C runs a Service User led organisation. We would like them to be part of the community at S2C and be willing to engage with our Service Users and groups from time to time. They should be suitably qualified and experienced to undertake the Treasurer role and be able to demonstrate some experience or appreciation of mental health. Experience of working with third sector organisations also useful.

As this is such an important role for us we are going to treat it more formally  and ask those interested to apply by sending a CV with contact details for two references by email to mat@space2create.co.uk or by post to Mat Butler, Space2Create, Unit 31, The Factory, Aynam Road, Kendal, LA9 7DE by end of Friday 20th February.

I will be putting out details of a number of roles for volunteers in the coming weeks and updating the volunteer section on our web page to reflect this. S2C is looking to greatly expand its activity to support as many vulnerable people in our unique way as we can. We know it helps from our own experience and from those with us. The last year has shown an increasing and varied need in our local community and many opportunities to make their lives better through collaboration and creative partnerships. In a world where our government and is withdrawing from it’s social responsibilities and passing them on to those seeking profit from misfortune we need to do more for our communities in our communities.

This weeks art highlights

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