Inspired by the blocked entrance to the Channel Tunnel, Waterloo, London, 2009

Project summary

The project’s aim is to engage the public with art, isolation, mental health difficulties, and self-expression on a small island, as a starting point in overcoming the challenges of “quadruple-insularity.”

The creative space will start empty slowly to fill over the course of the project with artworks and other expressive pieces created by the artist and visitors. The first stage will be the artist setting up the space as a studio for art workshops, before setting about creating the first piece documenting some facets of living with multiple mental health issues.

Visitors are welcomed at all and every stage of the project. They are encouraged to join in the workshops, watch and ask questions about art, the processes, and means of expression, mental wellbeing, and recovery, whilst sharing whatever they feel comfortable within a supportive

Works, once produced, will be on display in the workspace to inspire others to join in the journey of expressive self-discovery and to help people take ownership of their stories and reduce the isolation felt.

Participants will be able to share their techniques and experiences, whilst learning from others. The project will be self-documenting in part, by the fact of the works produced; filming and recording will also take place to document the experiences and processes. A dedicated website will be the central repository for all this creativity.

Works may be available for sale throughout the life of the project; a grand auction at the end would help ensure they spread further afield.

Type of Project

Art, expression and creativity.
Public engagement and participation.
Helping reduce isolation.
Opening discussions about mental health, psychological and emotional challenges.
Building positive peers support networks.

Action plan

Week Action Purpose Requirements
1 IT infrastructure To promote, record, archive Web space, domain name, social media accounts
2 Buy materials & equipment For first few sessions Canvasses, paints, brushes, easels, paste tables, PVA, dust sheets etc.
  Start promoting To attract visitors, participants, find sponsors and strategic partners Social media campaign Email, telephone, Face-to-face contacts
3 Get equipment in place To be prepared All materials above. 
4 Grand overview To get the first few people in Nibbles, drinks, schmoozing
5 1st session Start the ball rolling Materials plus display facilities
  Promotion To maintain momentum Contacts, pestering, social media
  Documenting To maintain a record / archive Website, recording equipment
  Exhibiting Catalogue & guided tours Information & visitors
End Grand auction Thank & disseminate People, refreshments, assistants

CV / bio / profile

My background is – amongst others – as a Peer Mental Health Trainer: I used my own experiences of psychiatric, psychological, and traumatic challenges to help people similarly affected.  I worked for three years at the first Recovery College in the United Kingdom and helped develop courses for the Recovery College at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust – the largest mental health training institution in the UK – training service users, their carers, and staff.  In addition, I have delivered training to health service and associated staff as part of the KUF (National Health Service Personality Disorder Knowledge and Understanding Framework.)

As an artist, I have used my experiences to create works and situations to open up authentic and positive discussions about mental health problems.  I worked with five relevant NGOs:

  • Imagine Mental Health as an Art Teacher, delivering art courses to service users; leading to selling exhibitions
  • MACS, where I co-facilitated an art group for people with Dual Diagnosis.
  • Expressive Salon, as Director of an NGO promoting artistic expression and support, especially for underrepresented service users from the BME community, in southwest London.
  • National charity Rethink Mental Illness, as lead moderator on their online forum – RethinkTalk – for which I was awarded the accolade of UK Member of the Year (2011) at their national AGM.  The site being “Highly Commended” by Nominet (the UK Domain Name Registry) for “Opening the world of knowledge – in association with the British Library” in the Nominet Internet Awards that same year.
  • PHAROS: Promoting Hope, Assisting Recovery, and Opportunities & Support – a brave attempt to replicate some of the above successes here.

Budget forecast

I have run several similar series of workshops in the UK, where costs were kept to an absolute minimum, mostly through buying through discounted outlets plus relying on personal ingenuity and that of my students.  As I do also have a “proper” job as a teacher, I should be able to fund most of the materials.  This has forever been the situation for teachers.  Approaches to local suppliers will need to help meet demand.

I can equally handle the IT infrastructure and continuing publicity and promotion through existing channels, so no cost there either.

This leaves the opening and closing events, which I aim to find sponsorship for from local businesses, so the expenses are still around zero.

Sale of works during the project and at the final auction may help defray costs.

Case for support

Spazju Kreattiv seems the most suitable partner for this venture given its aims and forward thinking.  This project is an expressive, creative, dynamic living experience that hopes to draw everybody, without screaming and kicking, into the bright new dawn.  Mutual benefits are the promotion of the Pharos NGO, which will promote hope, assist recovery, opportunity, and support for those isolated by challenging life experiences.  Spazju Kreattiv has the unique chance of being publicly associated with such a groundbreaking project, as well as bringing a greater appreciation of and interaction with their services by some of the most marginalised in society.  One of my students in London had his work exhibited in the Royal Academy – that is the level of skill that we may be overlooking by discounting the excluded.  The ongoing workshops, exhibition, sales, and later archive will ensure the works and partnerships will last beyond the project itself.

Inspired by the blocked entrance to the Channel Tunnel, Waterloo, London, 2009
Inspired by the blocked entrance to the Channel Tunnel, Waterloo, London, 2009
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What do we want? A Self-help and Support Group!

The aim of Pharos as an NGO is the empowerment of people who are overcoming life challenges and who have experienced difficulties with moods, thoughts or feelings. The intended result is a Recovery College where people can learn from their experiences.  In addition, they can inspire and draw support from others, to help recover meaning and purpose in life. the formation of a positive peer support group is one of the most effective ways of doing this is. A peer support group is a network of people with broadly mutual interests and knowledge who help one another.

A support group enables many to find and give help on a day-to-day basis.  People start positively drawing on experiences, as part of lifelong learning.  Social interaction, mentoring, coaching, resilience and self-awareness skills have a chance to develop in these settings.  As a result, people gain increased opportunities to make informed choices about their life and care.

How can we do it? Start taking control!

Before I came to Malta, I contacted Mount Carmel hospital to enquire about peer training opportunities. They told me that such a venture was some way off. The country was apparently not ready for such revolutionary practices.  I continued to work in London as a peer trainer while finalising my plans for emigration to Gozo.  I began my campaign on arrival in Gozo.  The main results so far have been this NGO and a lot of unrequited emails to government ministers and departments. Living here has had its ups and downs, but I have managed through skills, friends and family, plus appropriate medical professionals, to keep it together.  When things became too difficult, I sought help …

When do we want it?  Very soon!

I checked around and realised I had the options of (1) doing nothing, (2) getting myself hospitalised, (3) finding peer support, or (4) taking medication.  The first two options were not viable and the only Support Groups were connected to established organisations in Malta – the sister island – which was not an enviable prospect.  In the end, I saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed Bipolar Disorder. As an accidental byproduct, I completed my I-Spy Book of Clinical Labels.  The doctor prescribed me Lithium Carbonate and Quetiapine – a heady mix.  The nearest thing to peer support available was the Saturday morning group at the psychiatric hospital. That was not a good choice!  So I soldiered on, supported as ever by my wife. She really could do with a break from all this …

Fast forward to summer 2017.  I have met someone who has similar experiences of services – or the lack thereof – and who wants to do something about it.  We are planning to start a Support Group called “ACE Club” in Ghajnsielem, Gozo. If you are interested, please get in touch through the contact PHAROS page or join our mailing list below.

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Pharos is a recovery-focussed project, based in Gozo, to provide help and hope – in an educational setting – to people suffering from mental health or emotional challenges, also reaching out to their friends, families, carers, and professionals involved in their care.

The aim is to set up a Recovery College. This would help people affected by mental health issues, emotional difficulties, and trauma, to learn from their experiences. This will assist in regaining a sense of self, empower people to find ways of living with and beyond the limitations that they might feel, and to engage more fully with life.

Area of operation:

Education: life challenges and self-management skills


To attract people with experience of life difficulties to a supportive setting where they can learn in a co-productive environment about themselves and their challenges, share and learn techniques and skills for self-management in a less- stressed environment so that they may recover meaning and purpose in their lives from theirs and others’ experiences, enabling them to engage more fully in life and society. These training sessions would also be available for personal and professional care providers.


Educational focus. Recovery-focused (non-judgmental and non-stigmatizing) language. Bringing and giving hope and support. Taking back control. Making and taking opportunities. Recognition of expertise by experience as well as by practice. Peer support networks. Co-production and co-delivery of courses.


These are in five broad categories:

  • Understanding specific challenges and ways forward.
  • Rebuilding your life – the road to recovery
  • Developing knowledge & life skills.
  • Continuing your recovery journey: personal and professional development.
  • Courses specifically for Carers, families & friends.


Helping people find a new way of looking at the world and interacting on a more equitable basis. Connecting with others to foster understanding and engagement. Learning from the experience of self and others. Actively engaging in new ways of interacting. Noticing and reflecting on the impact of experiences. Giving support and sharing knowledge.

Potential problems:

Means of referral (personal/professional). Funding, including finding suitable, accessible premises, recruiting, training and retaining staff, is probably the greatest challenge. As this is a proven yet innovative approach, some resistance to change may be expected. NGO registration.

Our aims:

To establish a stable centre to help people to take greater charge of their lives. To help people reduce their reliance on the State, statutory services, and – ultimately – on public finances. To establish peer support networks, services and trainers. To provide a third way of care and self-care for those in difficulties, supplementing the Medical Model and Care in the Community. To spread use of the Recovery Model across the Republic of Malta so that more people might benefit once proven in a pilot project in Gozo. For the organization to become self-sufficient through the provision of private and professional training whilst offering a free service to residents of Malta. To make Malta a beacon of hope, shining out across the whole Mediterranean region.


Ian Springham is a mental health peer trainer from London, now resident in Gozo, who brings his  professional, experiential, and personal skills as a teacher, trainer, tutor,and guide to help people find meaning and purpose from their experiences.  There is more information on the About Pharos page.

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