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“Tunnelling our own way out”

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
environment

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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