maggie’s creative directions story
Find out more about what Creative Directions means to Maggie
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.
Maggie (names have been changed) started coming to music sessions in Edlington. She struggled at first because of her existing health conditions. She says:
Like anything it’s overwhelming, if you don’t know people, don’t know the building. I was a bit fragile when I started and it was difficult. I was ill at the time, I found it hard to keep a structure, do certain things at certain times.
Getting used to the group
As time went on, Maggie got to know people in the group, and the staff delivering the project. She felt that she was getting to know people and finding real connections with others in the room, as well as making new friends.
The group breaks down barriers, my barriers. Letting people in, cos where I live it’s rough…People acknowledge you and you know they mean it, and that can go a long way when you’ve got bad mental health… Val texted me the other day and it cheered me right up, encouraged me. And that’s how it works, I encourage other people too.
Maggie told us that she didn’t have much of a parental structure when she was growing up. She felt that she wasn’t praised and couldn’t trust people which had a detrimental effect on her. The more she spoke to other people in the group about her past, the more she found similarities in their backgrounds. The people in the group support her when she’s struggling.
The more I’ve been around people and I talk about certain things…It’s like today, I want to be here for the music. People have time for me, trying to help my confidence, because I’ve been in some right states when I’ve been in there.
Why creative activity and this group works
Maggie told us that the way that the musicians lead the Creative Directions sessions makes her feel welcomed, valued and accepted. Participants begin to feel more sure of themselves over time and find the confidence to work with others and join in.
People’s kindness and acceptance, cos I haven’t had that in life. It means a lot. [I started with] Gary and Mooney’s sessions, they were music orientated and group work and I needed to work on being in a group. The more that you do group stuff and you interact with people it helps you open your wings. You need to want to do it, want to change. I’ve seen people being quiet, not want to talk. Then they start to come out of themselves and get more confident, believe in themselves more.
One of the important aspects of the group’s structure is the inclusion of time for social activities. Artists make sure that sessions are fun and enjoyable and leave plenty of room for laughter.
“Thinking about Edlo, we have a laugh and a joke. It’s more laid back. Structured to a point but you don’t feel like it’s a lesson at school.”
darts staff kept in touch with Creative Directions participants over lockdown – through regular phonecalls and postal packs or doorstep drop offs of activity packs. The participants were encouraged to create their own songs in response to prompts and share them with others. There were also regular Zoom sessions for the group to stay connected.
I surprised myself, I as just sat at home and I thought I’ve got music tomorrow and I’m just going write some songs and I wrote 3 in 48 minutes. It brings me out of my comfort zone but it’s a good thing. To work on the group aspect. I got those books and CDs and the drawing stuff and that, and we had the Zooms. It took me a bit to get used to but it was better than nothing, I don’t know how I got through it. It strengthened me. I thought the recording of my song was nice. But it would be nice to do more of an upbeat disco type version.
As a result of the improved confidence Maggie gained through attending the group regularly, she felt able to begin volunteering at a charity shop and then for a mental health support group. She has also increased her creative output, writing more songs:
I hadn’t written songs before and I haven’t got a clue what inspired me that day. I’d picked up skills to think about how things sound together so I felt more confident to write it. I was saying to a lady that she could write a song because she’d written a poem. It’s given me a kick up the arse sometimes to think that I can do all these things…I think people need that sometimes.
[If Creative Directions stopped] it would have a detrimental effect on my mental health. I know it’s there. It’s nice to know that it’s there. Especially if you haven’t got family and close-knit friends. It’s nice to know that you can get ready and you’ve got somewhere to go among people. It’s helped my confidence and being able to interlink with other types of people and having the opportunities. Some people haven’t got that or are unaware of that and it’s not good.