Have you met the Moomin Lawyers?

I don’t have much to say this weekend as it has been a week of long ranty posting in defence of Kendal and the Comic Arts Festival. It is here now and it’s great because a diverse range of experiences and people hit this old grey town with a big splat of colour and joy. Get out and support the festival. And while you are there maybe drop by and see or do some of the things that support the vulnerable in our community as well as raise awareness of issues such as food poverty, homelessness, mental health and conditions.

Between 11 and 3 Saturday you could head along to the Peoples Volunteer Café in The Foyer next to the Bus Station where they are holding Moomin Café with pay what you can food (always fantastic) and activities and prizes of a Moomin nature for kids of all ages. Also don’t forget the Comic Art Windows Trail through businesses across Kendal. Space2Create are number 1 on the map in the Kendal Antiques Centre with our very mental health take on the Moomins.

I think my favourite point of the entire week was the discovery of Moomin Lawyers…….anybody want to draw one. These made a polite enquiry (apparently) having seen S2C twitter posts regarding our windows trail and the legality of it in terms of copyright. Also regarding the Moomin Café for the same reasons. This is why the Comic Art Festival Organisers are so good because they immediately pointed out a few realities about both and just how silly complaining looked. All good now, the Moomin Lawyers have headed back into Moomin Valley………….

This weeks artwork selection:


“Tell me about your Moomin Mama”

Tuesday 10th Of October is World Mental Health Day. I always feel in two minds about having days where some ‘celebrate’ a cause. For one thing, tolerance, understanding and stigma are things that should be highlighted and constantly delivered across the year, not just on a special day. Are we to celebrate the continuing apparent decline in Mental Health Services or maybe we should celebrate the increasing burden being shouldered by the Third Sector to provide services the State is not. Should we celebrate that when I visit my GP to talk about my Mental Health the first place they refer me to is a charity.

What can I say. Space2Create work with the local NHS Mental  Health Services providing sessions twice a week on the ward to support both the patients and the staff! They trust us to be able to bring people off the ward to spend a half day at Space2Create, they use our rooms to run courses for outpatients because it is a safe and welcoming environment celebrating creativity. If that speeds up the recovery of a person in crisis then that is worth celebrating.

And so to the Moomins. Because of World Mental Health Day we wanted our Lakes International Comic Art Fest trail window to have a Mental Health theme. It always struck me how many Moomin tales can be quite dark. There is always a journey and a return home which we felt lent itself well to having a Moomin Mental Health story. So we tell the tale of Moomin Troll and his illness, being rejected and passed around services in the real world before finding the support he needs to return home. In the Kendal Antiques Centre (number 1 on your trail map in the Comic Art Festival Brochure) we start the tale in the window and continue it around the bays with little diorama’s telling the story. Although it is dressed up in Moomins the tale comprises real life experiences by people coming to S2C.

Psychiatry sessions being limited, wrong medications being given out, spending the night in jail when in a crisis, having to find your own support, then attending Space2Create (or any of the great charities supporting mental health issues in Kendal such as Mind, Growing Well, Creative Arts Hub) to finally find their way to recovery and home. This is not fantasy, it is a reality experienced by myself and many other I have spoken to over the years.

So do celebrate World Mental Health Day but when you are being understanding be understanding all year round, when you fight stigma fight stigma all year round, when you take time to listen take time to listen all year round, when you are being tolerant be tolerant all year round and when you are showing understanding show understanding all year round.

Some of this weeks artwork

We need you to not do what we ask you………?

Managers Blog: We need you to not do what we ask you………?


Well indeed we do. As a mostly volunteer run organisation it all gets very tricky if you don’t have enough volunteers! I know I sometimes find it quite tricky to get new volunteers to fit in because it takes a little time to learn about the things that need doing and to start doing them as well as to work out how S2C works. In some organisations there are very rigid structures and roles but because at S2C we are in the business of building the confidence of our service users then we try and get them to help out and do the jobs as part of their recovery. So it might be you are a volunteer who wants to lead creative sessions but alongside this it may be rather than lead a session you support a service user with an idea for a session to run that session.

You might be a volunteer who is interested in framing and hanging, again it might be that you are doing this but then it might be you teach those skills to a service user and support them to do it. So I guess I am trying to get volunteers to not do the roles we ask them!

Clearly there are some limits to this, for example in dealing with confidential service user details or in working one to one with an individual who needs to talk then these roles need those volunteers with the skills to do this and confidentiality has to be maintained. So it seems odd but the role is almost stepping back and letting somebody else do it while supporting them. Of course the volunteer needs to be there because in dealing with vulnerable adults it may be that they are unable to finish a job or can do it one week but not the next, that is where the skills of the volunteer need to be, in understanding how much intervention is required but allowing a vulnerable person to grow.

This works, mostly, for S2C. There are times when a lot of service users happen to be unwell so if you are short of volunteers a heavy work load falls on fewer people. And of course the most popular role at S2C is to support service users in sessions so this is one area we are not short of volunteers for. SO what could we do need help with………

This list is a suggested one!

Admin- creating a system for S2C and running it,

Resourcing- ordering and managing resources,

Fundraising- both the smaller events and activities and also helping with the bigger bids through applications and letter writing.

Managing volunteers,

Social media- finding a way to develop our use of social media.

Exhibition- putting them up, curating, invigilating, framing, mounting etc

Shows and events- representing S2C at events and shows.

Session leaders…those with an artistic background to do regular sessions or artists just coming in for one or two sessions.

We want to do more at S2C to support the people we work with. We are not a massive charity but by providing the sessions we do and by facilitating other groups to use our space and resources we probably help around 100+ people a week in one way or another. Can you help us?

Some of this weeks artwork:


The Ravens fly around our heads and off into the distance…………

I think I have, on many occasions, described just why we go to the effort of putting on exhibitions.  It is worth reminding and of course sometimes an exhibition (or two) come along which are that bit different.

We basically have four types of exhibition:

  1. Service User artwork. These are the bread and butter of our practice in that they provide an outlet for the work created week in an out by our amazing service users and volunteers. The artwork is produced by people in or recovering from a very dark place and as such it ranges from the heart breaking and educating to the empowering and colourful. By having it on display it gives a massive boost in the self respect and confidence of the artist often being a catalyst to further recovery.
  2. Solo and group exhibitions. This is where one or two or three service users and volunteers who have produced enough work have a solo or joint exhibition. in a way this is a step on from the service user exhibitions where a person might have one or two artworks on show. This is a big step and often requires a lot of support but again is a massive boost to confidence and esteem as well as that further step on the path to recovery.
  3. Collaborations and projects. These are joint projects that help us in many ways. Some of it is awareness building, about the fact we exist or about a particular issues that effect our service users. These also make links with other organisations, artist and groups. It often brings in money as well with resources being funded for projects or room hire etc.
  4. Local artists. We have exhibitions, either solo or joint, by local artists. We give priority to people creating despite an illness or disability but this does not exclude any local artists. This again generates income through commission but also is of great value to our service users providing inspiration and ideas.

So the exhibitions we hold or a vital part of what we do. It is therefore imperative that we get people to see these exhibitions. A harder call. Exhibition require a lot of effort to promote and get visitors in to. Advertising costs money but you can only do so much advertising on social media. It is noticeable that when you have a volunteer or exhibitor with the time to promote an exhibition wildly then the visitor numbers are higher. This is not always possible and sometimes it shows with poor attendance. Maybe if people realised the impact their attending an exhibition has people would be more willing to make the effort. Considering the effort that goes into putting exhibitions on, turning up is a comparatively minor effort.

Putting the exhibitions on has enabled us to teach many volunteers and service users new skills. Mounting, framing, curating, hanging, promoting and running exhibitions. They may not go on to work in a gallery or become an artists but when they are recovered it’s a whole new set of skills that can by adapted to many new and different situations increasing employability or volunteering opportunities.

So please don’t just flick past our adverts for exhibitions. Come along to them and support the vulnerable people who helped create it. You might just make the difference to some bodies life that enables them to recover that bit quicker.

Warding off the downward spirals…….

It has been a generally slow week at S2C. Although we did not take part in Torchlight (all our service users are very much not in a place that means they are well enough to parade through the streets) some of our volunteers were involved in other organisations efforts. We know well the frenzy of preparatory activity required for these events! However we are entering a bit of frenzied activity now with Comic Art Festival Windows and Casterton School Archive Exhibition to get ready.

I thought I would put out a plea for some volunteer help in a very important and specific role at S2C. Twice a week now our volunteers head up to the Kentmere Ward at Westmorland General Hospital. This is to run a creative session on the ward with the inpatient. The ward is there for people who need monitoring who are in crisis, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, altering of medication and many other reasons why their mental health has put them in need of round the clock monitoring and support. As such it can be a bit daunting to walk in and start doing art but it is a very rewarding place to create with the people who are there to get help.

The ward staff are very supportive and it is a safe environment to work in although one can feel intimidated when there are loud personalities of those who are in distress showing their pain. This is why we always work in pairs with two volunteers or when there is the ward OT present to be with the group.

Why do we do these sessions? Some of you reading this may have been in a situation where you have needed to be on Kentmere Ward or a similar facility. I think those people will understand. It is the contact with the outside world. The distraction of having an activity which allows you to escape from your predicament and be free to express yourself without boundaries or requirement. It is seeing a friendly supportive face at regular times. It is about building the confidence to be with people and communicate again after a traumatic experience. It is about finding the small steps to self belief built through achieving something that, although it’s not a massively important achievement, begins to rebuild that self respect and belief that you can do something.

The ward staff rally value these sessions as with current budgets they have limited resources to provide this kind of interaction. The sessions benefits extend beyond the ward too. When an individual leaves the ward it is very rarely the end of them needing support. It means that we have been introduced to them and they know we are a safe place to come and continue to occupy their time as they continue to recover. They can attend sessions at S2C then with some recognisable faces where they can continue that journey of recovery and rebuilding of self confidence and respect.

It is a fairly simple arrangement but it needs volunteers who are willing to go on to the ward. We work in pairs so we like to have a least one “arty” person supported by another who does not need to be. You go onto the ward, set up, and people on the ward join in with no pressure to if they don’t feel up to it. You create, you talk, you listen and we hopefully bring in some laughter too. Then you help tidy up and head off. The “arty” volunteer is the one who thinks up the sessions which we keep fairly simple and being mindful of using items that could be used to self harm. Mondays 10-12 and Wednesdays 2-4.

If you think you could help in these sessions then drop us an email to info@space2create.co.uk or message us via Facebook or the comments or use the contact form on our website. You might just help somebody make a big small step to their recovery.

This week at S2C:


Festival frenzy……..

It is always good to be involved in festival in the local area. Not least because it gives us a chance to engage with a whole new audience who might otherwise never hear of us. This weekends Lakes Alive events have been no different. The first day (yesterday) Saturday was a very busy day with one of the highest numbers of people through our unit in one day we have ever had.

What makes doing these worthwhile are three things for me. Firstly that you do indeed get to meet a whole new set of people who will say things like “We never heard of you before”. What is really important in this though is the handful among those crowds who will come and say “My mum, friend, partner, son, daughter is really isolated and struggling, this could be just what they need”. Also on the other side of the “never heard of you before” coin are the volunteers. People with an interest in creative activity who see the work we do and want to help out. This is exactly what we need to help us run sessions and support people as well as we can. We had a few conversations yesterday that may result in new volunteers and service users.

Secondly it is the opportunity to catch up with people who have been to S2C or helped in the past. I had a few moments yesterday where a past service user was looking round and we were able to chat and hear how they were getting on. It is always rewarding to see people you have helped now getting on with their lives and flourishing in ways that you might never have expected. One of those “makes it all worth while” kind of things.

Finally it is raising awareness. A lot of people are interested in the arts and some of those know what they are looking at where some are less understanding of the work we do. Overwhelmingly in the people who came through yesterday there was very positive feedback. Positive about the work we do, positive about how effective a tool creative activity can be and also positive about the quality of the artwork being produced. I think over the last decade in the general population there has been an increasing awareness that art is not playing about and that we are very serious about what we do.

So this morning as I write this I am shattered but also very positive about the festival so far and looking forward to seeing what new opportunities, people and old friends the day will bring.

The last week in art:


Safety in numbers……….

This last week has seen a number of interesting collaborations develop around S2C.  It is often a daunting to be faced with a large task but when the task can be shared it makes it a lot easier and even more rewarding as you develop links and new connections either at an organisational level or a personal one.

Over the last week our groups have been involved in three group artworks. The benefits of working on something as a group are many not least because the service users we have are often, literally, afraid to create. A group work offers the chance to feed off others creativity and have the anonymity amongst a group so that you don’t feel exposed. It also means that large creations can be achieved giving an overall sense of achievement but each individual feels a very personal sense of achievement having created their smaller chunk.

This also translates up the scale. When we can collaborate in a larger project with other organisations it also allows S2C to achieve more than it might be capable of alone. This week we had Manna House pay us a visit for a session. It’s great that we can use the skills we have to help another organisation support it’s service users with an activity they might otherwise not get an opportunity to enjoy.

In these difficult times more and more charities and groups supporting vulnerable people are being forced to explore ways to collaborate. As cuts increase and funding reduces there is no room for being insular. Increasingly the third sector needs to come together where appropriate to achieve its goals. In collaborating effectively it offers the opportunity to achieve far more for the local community than you might ever do so acting alone.

At Space2Create we work with many organisations in supporting them and being supported by them. From statutory bodies, NHS, Councils, funders, charities, groups and individuals it is only right that there is a two way transfer of benefits from working together to achieve our aims. Space2Create has always looked to do more and help more people. Sometimes the future looks very bleak and you wonder how to keep things going but there are always people around who can help you see a way forward. Sometimes progress involves risk. Calculated risk where you look at an exciting possibility but are unsure it will work. There is no harm in exploring possibilities. An organisation like S2C that ignored possibilities and simply kept plugging away in the same fashion would be doing a disservice to those it supports. If we had taken that approach we would not exist and would have disappeared along with the charity we originated from nearly five years ago.

So the future is difficult. But there are opportunities to be better and do more in collaboration with other like minded organisations. We will always look to achieve more. Who knows what might happen next?

This weeks collaborations:

A matter of trust……

We do all sorts at S2C. Some of it is very much  obvious and out there and other things are far more subtle. Sometimes the subtle things that may go unnoticed are the ones that have the biggest impact.  I hope, and indeed observe, that the community spirit we have builds trust. Trust is important when you are dealing with the vulnerable because when you feel vulnerable then it is very hard to trust.

The reason I touch on the subject of trust is because over the last five or six months there have been a number of occasions when vulnerable individuals have trusted us (those of us at S2C who take on the role of being the “go to” people) to disclose issues. None of these have been minor issues but massive life changing and threatening issues.

Sometimes it is enough that you listen. You could well be the first person they have told about the issue and the fact that they trust you enough to disclose and you listen to them can be the catalyst for them to then go and seek help from an appropriate source. Sometimes this might be a call for help because they don’t know where else to turn and along with listening there is the opportunity to help the individual by putting them in touch with someone who can help them or referring them on to another service.

At this point I have to sing the praises of the Gateway e-hub. This is a collective of local charities and services that hold an online system of information about service with the ability to refer service users to each other. Age Concern have developed the system and it grows in the local area as more organisations and groups take it on.

I come to the main slant of this blog however. This is one area where on an individual disclosing to us we are left powerless other than to be there and be supportive. I am talking about suicide. On a number of occasions we have had disclosures of suicidal thoughts or a concern about an an individual close to somebody. The problem I personally have with this is one of willingness to engage with services. It is very humbling that a person trusts you enough to talk about this very difficult subject but the problem arises where that trust does not exist with other services.

So, for example, an individual discloses they are suicidal. This is not always an easy thing to spot. I know from personal experience. When, many years ago now, I was suicidal I didn’t tell anyone. I wasn’t using it as a threat or to get attention (popular misconseptions and assumptions unfortunately) and in fact was very secretative and almost plotting the moment when I would try and kill myself. So that somebody trusts you enough to tell you this is a major major important moment.

Why do I have difficulty with this. Certainly not with the act of disclosure. I am very willing and prepared to support somebody with those feelings. My difficulty lies with what to do next. If that person is hiding their intentions and does not want to get help from anyone. If they will not engage then it is very difficult to help them no matter how much trust is there. I survived one of my suicide attempts because a person I trusted came before I hit the coma I went into. Anybody else I may not have opened the door to. They got help and I was unconciouse in hospital for three days. Had I not let them in or they had come a little later………trust is important.

Faced with a situation where the individual does not want to engage you can call but often get told a referral from a GP is needed before any action can be taken. A crisis team may visit them but again the failure to engage or present any signs of suicidal intent might not be there. That person can then go on to deteriorate or attempt suicide and the only option you or the concerned person might have is to call the police.

I hear this kind of story, usually from relatives of individuals threatening suicide, where they have felt the only option is to call the police after trying to get help from anyone else. It is a tough one to deal with. Trust. The person trusts you. It is a big responsibility and you can only try and use that trust to get them help. However small a first step is then to use that trust to get the individual to do something positive. One small step can be the catalyst to getting the help they need. That trust comes from being there and listening to them.

At S2C we don’t set out to build trust just for this purpose. Trust is an essential part of any community but if everyone in the community knows everyone else will listen then there is hope that problems can be solved.


Making An Exhibition Of Ourselves

Yes, another exhibition, but this one is just that bit more special. S2C Summer Exhibition opens today (Saturday 19th August) 1pm till 4pm with refreshments. This is an exhibition that is focused on just the people who use S2C. The Service Users, the volunteers, the groups that use our space, everyone who is producing some kind of creative output is represented.

Putting this exhibition up has been a privilege for me. A privilege because I have an intimate involvement with each piece of artwork. In selecting an artwork it speaks to me massively not just because of any artistic merit or technique used but because each piece has a story to tell to those of us who know. You are framing a work that you know was done by a particular person and you are thinking “Oh yes, they did this when they were released from hospital, they were really upset at the start but they left laughing”. Another piece is selected and it fill you with sadness because the person who created it unfortunately passed away after a short illness. The next one you pick up is somebody who no longer attends S2C because they have recovered to the point where they have managed to go and find themselves a job so that picture reminds me of the journey they were on from first coming to S2C to the present.

Of course when you visit the exhibition you will not know any of this. There are clues in the snippets we have added around the exhibition from our serive users but the actual individual stories will not be there for you the viewer. However, as you look at the exhibition you can be aware that everything there is part of a journey for somebody. It will have started in crisis, it may have been created in turmoil or in recovery. It will have a story which you can only possibly imagine. But that is the same for artwork often in any gallery you go to. You stand in front and you can only imagine what the artists motivation was. There are clues with us as you know the circumstances.

So this exhibition is there to represent the community that is Space2Create. That encompasses the service users and volunteers, the visitors and those that use the space. All leave there mark there, in artwork, in cleaning, in creating the environment and the ethos.

The Space2Create community invites you to take a look and think about the multiple journeys represented in that exhibition.


Why are we here?

Not a philosophical question about human existence but a consideration of who S2C is for. I was filling in some funding applications recently (a hobby of mine) and of course they all want to know how many people the project will help and what group/section/illness etc your project will support. This is a really important thing to clarify because the majority of funders I have criteria by which they grant funds. There is no point applying for a grant from a funder who’s focus is under 18’s with low self esteem in Brighton when doing a project to boost self esteem in the over 50’s in Kendal.

So this started me thinking about who S2C is actually for. A difficult question. Difficult because the people who come to us have many common reasons but also very differing reasons at the same time. So then I started to think of the individuals who had been in the past or were coming to sessions now. Why did they need S2C and what did we give them?

We have mainly been associated with mental health but over our existence have shifted into wellbeing. The terms, I feel are very different, though both relate to the state of your mind. I always feel wellbeing is a more rounded and whole person thing where mental health relates more to specific conditions though good mental health is important to wellbeing, equally good physical health is too, friendship, feeling useful, having purpose, good housing, relationships……..it goes on.

So we have a lot of people with a variety of mental health issues ranging from bipolar, schizophrenic, depression, self harming and many others. We don’t deal directly with those conditions but rather support people through them. There are four points we may see somebody with a mental health issue. Firstly when they are, for want of a better expression, on the way down. Attending S2C might help them reduce the effects of their condition, making sure they are at least not alone and are distracted for some of the time. It’s possible that the severity of a condition might be lessened. Secondly when that person is being treated for a condition. This might be while being supported by a CPN or support worker or when they are on the psychiatric ward. Again it’s that safe place to go and be supported in a positive environment helping people get through difficult times. On the ward we again offer that distraction and positive input. Thirdly on the way back up into recovery. We are there to help people rebuild social skills, confidence esteem and a positive outlook.

Having focused on mental health a lot of physical conditions can have similar isolating, confidence lowering effects as a mental health condition. We have individuals who have come to us with a range of physical illness, disability or conditions that have left them in need to of the same safe place, friendship and community.

Then of course there are people who have been isolated by circumstances. divorce, redundancy, those things that happen in life that leave people a little lost and maybe reduced confidence. They might be caring for somebody.

There is of course no reason why any person can’t come along and join in from a purely art motivated point of view. Finding the time and inspiration to create can be difficult sometimes. It can be that attending sessions gives that motivation and inspiration needed to be creative.

Reading that back it barely scratches the surface. Yet there are common themes regardless of the cause of self esteem, self confidence, loneliness, isolation, low wellbeing,  social exclusion, insecurity, poor motivation, lack of opportunity………..

So that is where we sit. ready to welcome those people in and do our best to make sure that they leave a little better than when they walked in.

This weeks inspired:

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