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Service users get creative

Posted: 09/08/21

Service users at a mental health unit have been discovering the importance of creativity.

Occupational therapists and teachers at Bamburgh Clinic, based at St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth, have been running creativity sessions for service users inspired by Koestler Arts.

Koestler Arts is a UK criminal justice arts charity, awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by prisoners and people in secure institutions. Over 100 experts from various fields have judged their arts competitions over the years, including Angel of the North sculptor Anthony Gormley, Louis Theroux, Grayson Perry and Carol Ann Duffy.

Cath Brady, Senior Technical Instructor and Louise Charlton, Adult Education Tutor, have held sessions for 22 service users, and supported 18 submissions for this year’s Koestler Arts Awards.

The weekly sessions are open to all service users at Bamburgh Clinic and participants are able to choose what they want to create, using Koestler’s theme of ‘Togetherness’ as a guide.

Service users have chosen a range of activities from painting, model making and mosaic making, to designing comic books and writing. The writing spans topics including Covid and living with a mental health condition. One ward has even spent time making an igloo inspired by snowfall earlier this year.

Cath said: “Although creativity is something we support throughout the year; we felt this year’s Koestler theme of ‘Togetherness’ was especially relevant as we know how important it is for service users to feel valued and connected to something.

“We know that those in secure care hospitals often use the focus of the annual Koestler Arts Awards to help navigate their way through long periods in institutions by using their classes to connect more which helps towards their overall recovery and treatment goals.”

The creative sessions have proven very popular among service users, with some citing them as a place where they can be themselves. It is also an opportunity for them to feel part of the creative community as they have worked with artists, writers and musicians from outside the organisation.

Louise added: “We see these creative sessions as a way of challenging the stereotypes related to mental health, by providing a springboard for positive change and helping service users gain confidence and learn new skills.

“We feel that everyone needs an outlet to express themselves and that outlet can help people when they are at their most vulnerable. It can also help them begin to recover a sense of being themselves; not a patient or prisoner but a person in their own right.”

Service user artwork has been exhibited in museums, galleries and libraries.

Bamburgh Clinic is an award-winning facility for men who have a mental health disorder who have come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. It is part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, a leading provider of mental health and disability services.