A GRANT from a new community fund will help an arts group continue running courses to tackle mental health issues among people still struggling with the effects of the pandemic.
CoCreate Dorset in Boscombe has been awarded almost £5,000 from Dorset Community Foundation’s Living Legacy Fund. The fund, which is supported by BCP Council and the Talbot Village Trust, was set up to improve health and wellbeing in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area by funding services and activities that help people support each another, provide healthy social activities, support personal aspirations and skills and promote volunteering opportunities.
The Paul Cornes Fund, which was set up with the community foundation in memory of businessman Paul Cornes, is also supporting the fund.
Co-director Anna Shiels said the grant will fund two sets of free Create: Connect courses designed to use art as a means of helping participants using mental health services as part of their recovery.
She has been running Create:Connect, an eight-week course over Zoom or face to face for up to 15 people at a time that teaches them art techniques and encourages them to paint or draw something to fit a weekly theme.
Participants are referred by GP social prescribers, Dorset Mind or other partners. Said Ms Shiels: “Courses are attended by people from all sorts of backgrounds, with the impact of the pandemic still affecting many people, CoCreate are seeing a real demand for what we offer.”
She said over the course of eight weeks she sees a change in the people who join in. “In all our courses we take people through a creative process using prompts and teaching different creative techniques, in our art journaling course, people work quietly on their own during sessions, coming together at the end to share their work.
“When people hold up their artwork to camera and share what they’ve done, and get positive feedback from the group, it’s a very special moment.”
When people hold up their artwork to camera and share what they’ve done, and get positive feedback from the group, it’s a very special moment.
The group is also working with Lighthouse Poole to run an Introduction to Theatre course, also for people with mental health issues and run over eight weeks. The Living Legacy grant will fund its experienced facilitator.
Participants benefit from seeing shows together and having special backstage tours.
She said both courses help people to express themselves and boost their confidence. “There’s loads of evidence about the benefit of creative activity for improving our wellbeing,” she said.
“Sometimes you can’t put your feelings into words and to be able to splash some paint across a piece of paper or perform with a group of people where you can come out of yourself a bit can be really helpful.”
Despite taking referrals from mental health professionals CoCreate Dorset has to raise all the money for its courses itself. “We have to constantly fundraise to be able to do what we want to do,” said Ms Shiels.
“This Living Legacy funding will give us enough funding to enable us to run for another six months so we are very grateful.”
Dorset Community Foundation director Grant Robson said: “We are very thankful for the support we’ve had for this fund from BCP Council and the Talbot Village Trust and we are delighted that CoCreate Dorset can use the grant to continue its fantastic support for people who have had such a tough 20 months.
“These arts groups are a fantastic way of helping people navigate their way through a testing situation and Dorset is very fortunate to have such a dedicated and innovative group.”
Pictured above: CoCreate co-directors Anna Shiels, left, Deborah Aita and Gemma Alldred and a theatre group in action