Having access to creative activities can have a positive impact on our health. Taking part in art projects can help increase social connections, decrease stress, build trust and strengthen the feeling of community.
Junction Arts, a Chesterfield-based charity, works with their community to create a better future for everyone through the arts. Their Creswell Gets Creative project, funded by the Trust, offers a fortnightly programme of creative activities, building on 40-years of their community arts engagement in the area.
“Due to the Coronavirus, and following the Government’s advice, The Junction Arts team are all working from home now, checking in with each other regularly having Zoom meetings and planning for the future. Inevitably all our projects have been put on hold, in line with the Government advice and this includes our Creswell Gets Creative project.” Jane Wells, the project co-ordinator says.
However, Jane is busy working on a workshop idea that can be delivered remotely with the group and they continue to keep in touch via WhatsApp, supporting each other with health advice, latest news updates and ways to keep inspired. One example of this is Pam, who has made a video tutorial and created knitting kits which she posted to her young grandchildren. They will learn new skills and keep busy knitting a scarf whilst also giving their mum some peace!
When the project began, Jane explained that residents haven’t always had opportunities to get involved.
She said: “Creswell has a strong industrial heritage because it is a former mining village, but it is also rural so has faced a lot of challenges. The village can feel isolated and there hasn’t always been many opportunities for residents to get involved.”
The project provided art and craft activities but the most important outcome is helping to build meaningful social connections, which is vital to living a happy and healthy life.
Activities have included creating beeswax wraps, block printing and making bath bombs. Members are encouraged to be involved in the design and delivery of the project, helping to build strong connections, friendships and improved social networks.
As membership has grown, they have set up their own WhatsApp group to communicate, keeping in touch about the project but also about each other’s lives, sharing highlights and challenges, with has come in handy throughout this period of physical distancing.
For one member, Tina, the project has helped her strengthen her sense of belonging and given her a support network.
She explained: “Having retired early my whole world suddenly shrank. This wonderful group of people have made me feel like I belong somewhere again. The group gives me something to look forward to, everyone has even welcoming, helpful and inclusive.
“This has helped my mental health and I have made good friends and now have a wonderful support group.
“The activities I have done have been sometimes challenging but always exciting and fun. The group help each other and it’s amazing that there are so many talented people with some members of the group running activities and sharing their talents. Sharing our results at the end of the session gives me a sense of achievement and it’s always good to see how we have all done.”
Pam loves blackwork embroidery but was quite shy when she joined the group. With support, she built her confidence to be able to share her skills and ran her own session.
She said: “I was pleased to introduce a new technique to the group in a workshop myself and thrilled to see everyone’s results.
“Having these sessions to attend is a valuable escape from my stressful work where I can get to know a friendly group of people with the same interests. I like the way I can try projects which I would probably never do at home and having guidance from experts.”
Junction Arts has created a space in the community for connection and increasing well-being, and look forward to continuing their work when it is safe to do so.
The project has been funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through Health Lottery East Midlands.
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