Cath’s Creative Directions Story
The impact that coming to Creative Directions has had on Cath's life
Creative Directions is for Doncaster adults with experience of mental health issues. The project supports the development and maintenance of good mental health, enables people to make connections and to build confidence long term. Regular positive activity, support and signposting responds to individual need. Professional artists, supported by experienced Participation Co-ordinators and volunteers deliver weekly creative sessions. Activity is rich and varied, from stone-carving to poetry, singing to music technology, film-making to textiles.
Cath (not her real name) first heard about darts from one of our Creative Directions volunteers who she had met at church. She saw her wearing her darts T-shirt and Cath asked her all about it.
“I’ve suffered mental health problems since being a child, and suffered with social anxiety too. But Sally kept encouraging me to give it a go, promising she would stay close by, and I could leave if it was all too much.”
Cath started to go to Creative Directions sessions at The Point on Wednesday mornings. She felt that everyone was so friendly and that Jamie, the Participation Co-ordinator put her at ease straightaway. Cath has a motorised wheelchair and Jamie found her a space where no one could get behind her. Cath says:
These people understood my fears. They had been where I was and were so welcoming. I quickly made friends with several of the ladies, it felt so good to be with people who understood.
Cath came back the following week and this time felt confident enough to have a sandwich in the café and stay for the afternoon art session where they were making birds out of cane. However, “It wasn’t plain sailing, sometimes my fears got the better of me, but Sally or Jamie took me to a quiet place and chatted till I felt better.”
After a while Cath started going to Creative Directions at Edlington on Tuesday mornings instead. Jamie was there so Cath felt safe.
Lockdown and New Projects
“Then came Covid…And isolation and fear. Then Zoom! The church had been using Zoom for a few weeks, so I wasn’t fazed when Jamie said Creative Direction was going to be Zoom. I was thrilled, it was so good to see some of my friends again.”
Jamie delivered bright and colourful creative packs to peoples’ doorsteps every month and one week he took a bag of musical instruments as well, so that people could play along with the musicians on Zoom.
“The musicians were brilliant, so very patient and interested in each one of us. They helped us make videos and other stuff! So were the other artists and singers who met with us on Zoom.”
Although it’s not the same as being in a room, Cath appreciated the ability to access Zoom sessions without having to make the effort to go anywhere: “It’s important for people who can’t get out.”
Creative Directions has been such a huge part of my life recent years, and in lockdown it was the only reason to get up some mornings. Through the lockdown sessions I met Nicola who works at Cast - she mentioned a Public Acts play they were planning to put on and asked if anyone was interested in joining. I don’t know what made me offer - I was so shy and nervous - but I did, along with several others
That opened up a whole new group of wonderful people and the group continued meeting in person following the initial Zoom sessions. One of the first ones to welcome Cath was Paul who she had met on Zoom. He was also a wheelchair user and an excellent advocate for disabled people having the same rights as others to do what they want to do. Cath says that she was so doubtful whether she could play a part, but Paul soon rubbished that idea!
“We gelled so quickly and became a family. My husband said I looked twenty years younger when I came home from these rehearsals! The last day of the play was so emotional, we are all so open and supportive of each other, and there were so many tears and hugs. We are meeting again this week and we are all really looking forward to it.”
In May 2021, participants were invited back to the first face to face session at The Point since the beginning of the pandemic. Many people felt anxious about returning to sessions and social distancing meant that groups were small. Cath was delighted to be able to meet artists she had worked with on Zoom for the first time in real life! Cath says:
It lifts me up to take part with different people. Sometimes I really don’t want to go, but once you enter it really cheers you up, so it’s always best to go. Like with the Cast workshops - I think ‘I can’t face it’, but once you get there, it’s fantastic and everyone buoys you up. That’s what it’s done to me, Creative Directions. It buoys me up and gets me back in touch with people again.
Cath told us that now that her children have left home and she lost her mother a few years ago, it’s just her and her husband at home. She has found it very hard without the role of mother/daughter/carer and can find herself thinking ‘well what’s here for me?’
“I’ve come alive again in a way I suppose. So Creative Directions gives me that ‘what’s for me’ and hope for the future. It’s something I enjoy doing and I reach out to other people. It’s made a big difference to me, it really has. It gives me a focus. Creative Directions has given me so much confidence in speaking. When I’m very nervous my speech is very hard to understand, but no one seems to have trouble with my speech in the group.”
Cath says that she would tell anyone to just come along and give Creative Directions a go – even if it feels like an effort, you always feel better for going.
Creative Directions has turned my life round and I am so grateful to the funders who make our sessions possible.