Being part of something good.

Over the last few months Yorkshire Artspace and darts (Doncaster Community Arts), have been working with South Yorkshire Housing Association (SHYA) on a Moments of Joy project which has seen art and craft, dance and music sessions taking place with SYHA customers. These customers are people who have been referred via social prescribing in Doncaster or in the case of Yorkshire Artspace from some of the supported LiveWell projects in Sheffield run by SHYA.

LiveWell aims to help people/customers to settle at home, live well and realise potential. SYHA believe wellbeing isn’t just about the absence of illness, it’s about being happy and flourishing. Some of the LiveWell projects support people with complex mental health problems and/or addiction. It is from these projects that the people who joined our art and craft sessions were recruited.

Some of the reasons for that Yorkshire Artspace wanted to be involved in this work are; to enable participants to access and attend a city centre cultural venue,

  • to create professional development opportunities for early stage artists to gain experience, skills and knowledge in participatory practice within a supported environment
  • to help develop the creative community at Yorkshire Artspace
  • to test ideas and explore approaches within arts and wellbeing via a pilot project that would inform further work in the longer term
  • to work on a project that would have a tangible and beneficial impact on those involved.

In short would we be able to provide moments of joy?

Over 9 weeks we ran art and craft sessions every Wednesday at our Exchange Place Studios in Castlegate. We appointed experienced lead artist Anna-Mercedes Wear to be a continuous presence over the whole project along with other sessions delivered by artists: Miriam Griffiths, Andy Heath & Carrie Twist.

A total of 15 people came along with a core of about 8 or so who attended all or most weeks. Some already had an interest in art or creativity for others this was their first time. Some people were referred by key workers but all came out of choice.

They made large-scale ceramic vessels, small pieces of metalwork, mosaic panels, paintings and drawings. They were encouraged to capture ideas and moments of inspiration, to think big and be ambitious whilst paying attention to detail, to become immersed in the making and doing. We have all been really pleased with the level of engagement and even more by the enthusiasm and group spirit that the workshops developed. The food may also have helped! We were trying to create a space where people felt safe and enjoyed themselves. Sessions which might bring about a moment of joy or enable people to focus or reflect on moments of joy within their own lives. For many these sessions gave them a reason to get out of the house, to be social. For one person this was the first time they had been involved in anything outside of the house (barring essential excursions) for nearly 6 years.

So what was my moment of joy? Well I had a few…I did enjoy adopting a pot and helping to bring it to completion. It was recognising the will and strength of character it can take sometimes to just turn up and be present in a room. I found it in hearing that 4 people from the group had visited our Open Studios event one weekend and really enjoyed it. It was also in remembering never to underestimate the creativity and potential people have within them - I think it even surprised some of those in the group. There were many more. They were enjoyable sessions and food was great.

This is my take on it. Below is what some of the other people in the room said…

Rachael Dodd, Programme Manager Yorkshire Artspace

'Thank you. Really friendly and welcoming. Great stuff and a bit different.'

'A way of expressing yourself. In my element, my comfort zone. Cool staff and friendly. Fun to do different things.'

'Finding the course enjoyable and learning lots. I realise how being with people and socialising is so important to one’s mental health and love mixing with people from all walks of life. It helps with mental health as it is peaceful relaxing and therapeutic. A place where I feel I can be myself and unwind. Joyous calming and uplifting.'

'From the 1st minute to the last it’s been an honour to be part of summat reyt good.'