This autumn, all of our work is themed around the idea of Comfort. We’re paying homage to the tiny acts of kindness that light up the dark. These range from celebrating small actions of self care through to the national treasure that is the NHS.
The conversation started after our Creativity Matters projects began to come to an end. We knew after a year what we knew at the start – Creativity Matters. During the year, we were drawn more to the impact access to creativity has on hearts and minds than anything else.
Due to the nature of the work we were making we had multiple conversations with children, young people and sometimes parents about mental health. Things that cropped up included coping with emotions after years of witnessing violence, the pressures of being a young carer, the impact of benefits, bereavement or generally feeling unsure if they could cope with G.C.S.E’s.
Increasingly for us, our role in making work is about understanding the broader benefits of creativity. It means making work with people that isn’t about theatre. Theatre has and will always be at our roots but each year we move further away from focusing on inviting people to come and make performance with us. Even more so this year, where we have programmed a strand of work solely about the benefits of feeling well through creativity.
As the world changes, technology evolves and politics divides us it’s impact can be felt in the non traditional spaces we work in. It seems even more crucial to make time for creativity. To not invite people to create with us to make theatre but to share their ideas – for themselves and for their communities. Excitingly, this approach has led to our first project created with a former participant.
Mum Plus+ has emerged from working with Natalie, who was part of our work with Anstee Bridge. Together we have created a brand new project for young mums. It combines storytelling for children and parents with wellness coaching, in a partnership with Silver Linings Coaching and Consulting.It’s aim is to give young mums a chance to meet in a space where they don’t feel intimidated. Also, an opportunity to consider the possibilities in balancing motherhood with ambitions to work, or study or travel still in the future.
Alongside this we have Happy to Chat, creating a network of people in a community that come together to craft. We deliver our biggest ever creative learning project looking at 70 years of the NHS. We’ll make new theatre tackling loneliness from a young persons perspective and stories of comfort that get us through the hard times.
It’s broad and its varied as each strand is personal to the people we are making stuff with. Yet they all celebrate the principals of comfort. It’s the comfort of meeting someone new, striking up a friendship, celebrating the people who have been there for you and being able to share feelings, ideas or opinions. Or its simply the comfort of good cake and conversation.
In September 2017, we set out a year of work that would allow us to discover why creativity matters to the people we work with. Our programme highlights included
One new piece of original theatre – Emoji
Mounted an exhibition around Loneliness in urban living at the Saatchi Gallery
Put an installation inspired by mental health and Hans Christian Anderson into a local library
Regenerated a run down military welfare community room into a pop up cafe for creative arts
Hosted numerous sharings of work and joined community events across Hounslow.
We worked with 1674 people. A happy mix of children, young people and families. We created 73,000 opportunities for them to participate in sessions, projects and workshops. Over 30,000 people would have seen their work.
100% of participants asked said they felt more creative through the projects. 94.6 from one project alone identified had learnt something new from joining in.
Consistently, there was a theme that the benefits of creativity included interacting with others. The interactions ranged from the benefits of getting out of the house to the building of new friendships. An increased sense of well-being and happiness ran across many of our projects, in particular the Big Holiday project. Notably, in young people there was an increased sense of confidence. This was born out of trying something new or being in a different environment.
Creativity Matters to them because
they learnt how to work in a group
make closer friends
how more than older people experience loneliness
to be more open
being around people isn’t something I should be afraid of
that my ideas have actually been heard
putting ideas into perspective
Over the year we have
given 128 children and young people an Arts Award
offered one young person volunteering work next year
helped realise the library as a space for culture and exhibition
put 7 young people into first time employment
Supported 8 parents to return to work or take up a new hobby
worked with a former participant to design a new project for Autumn
Launched an Arts and Wellness strand to our programme because of what we’ve learnt from our participants
There are so many reasons why creativity matters in the politically and economically fragile times we live in.
A child on our holiday project added to our evaluation ‘I like doing creative things. It feels like it fills my heart when I’m creative.” Wise words, as on that note, the question is not that it matters, more ‘What would we do without it?”. Creativity is joy, hope, change, conversation, imagination, ideas, potential and more. It is intrinsically linked to our wellness and sense of self.
In wellness, there is comfort- taking us neatly into our next programme of work.