Patrick’s Creative Directions Story
What coming to the group means to one participant
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.
Patrick (not his real name) heard about Creative Directions through the Doncaster Social Prescribing Service. One of the Social Prescriber came with him the first couple of times and after that, Patrick began to attend on his own. He says:
“Oh it were just magic! I couldn’t believe the size of the group to start off with but instead of feeling like the outsider…there were a few familiar faces and I felt 100% better for just coming in and having my first two hours.”
The first session leader that Patrick met was Gary Hammond – an experienced percussionist and facilitator. Patrick thought ‘you and me are gonna get on’ as they both love percussion. When Patrick was in the Boy’s Brigade as a teenager, he played the bass drum and they had a suitcase of percussion to rival Gary’s (no mean feat!).
“Gary said to me, ‘Use what you think would sound best.’ Then it was Karen the next week with visual arts and I thought, oh heck! But we got on alright. Karen connected with me over my music and what I like and we got on alright.”
Patrick continued to attend Creative Directions regularly. His love of percussion and music means he is able to connect with the artists leading the sessions – particularly musicians like Moony.
Me and Moony were introduced and got talking. Then when we’ve got Moony, it’s 12 weeks of bliss. The music is the important stuff for me. I was upset the other day and I came here even though I was not feeling great and Moony just put an instrument in my hand and that was it. I know that he understands the percussion like I do, so I focussed on making that work with the sound of other people. Try it, see how you feel, if you don’t like it pick something else. SO that was it, I was back in the group enjoying myself. He just knows when to press the right button to get you interested and motivated again. They’re giving encouragement out without pushing it.
Patrick explained what Creative Directions gives him and how the staff are able to support and respond to the individuals in the room. He says that it means that he sees his friends and Jamie (Participation Co-ordinator), that coming to The Point gets him away from the house and that he loves getting stuck into the creative activities. One week, group member ‘had a meltdown’, and the following week they apologised. Patrick says:
“You’re in the best place to have a meltdown, the artists are aware that we might have a meltdown or not be all happy and smiley. They know and they don’t push it if you’re not as interactive as usual.”
The difference Creative Directions makes
Patrick told us that within the group there is a real appreciation and support for disabled people, which really helps him with his own disabilities. The approach is very inclusive and staff make adjustments as they go to ensure that everyone is able to access the activity:
I was working with Terry and though he can’t talk, he put his thumbs up when we moved the mic near him. It made my day that did. With me not being able to see as well as I used to, I appreciate it. Because when you lose your ability to do something, we find a way to bear with it, don’t get stroppy and go with the flow. I’ve learnt that here.
The group also enables him not only to meet other people, but to make lasting friendships with people he can socialise with between sessions. He says that there’s a culture of helping each other in Creative Directions, and by helping other people in the group, it makes him feel better about himself.
Lockdown and the impact of Covid-19
Patrick was distraught when Covid hit. We kept in touch with all of the Creative Directions participants by phone throughout lockdown, and when Patrick received his phonecalls, he would think ‘When am I gonna see my friends, my real friends?’ and would be in a state of depression all week without the break of seeing of his friends in the group.
When face to face sessions returned, they were shorter in order to make them Covid-safe. Participants had to book their place so that numbers could be managed as we could only accommodate smaller groups. This is very different to the usual Creative Directions approach that doesn’t put pressure on people to say in advance whether or not they will be there. Patrick says:
“Covid put a dampener on everything. Because I’ve got bad legs, when sessions were an hour long, I couldn’t come when they were that short because I’d be limping home. The restrictions made me worried that I would be turned away if I was late. I was coming up with excuses all the time, but then I came back and you can’t get rid of me!”
What would happen if Creative Directions ended?
I would miss all the camaraderie, with artists who you find things in common with me; like you or Amy [staff] - you’ll just help us if we’ve got a problem. Everyone here is so approachable. Reception staff and everyone is so nice. And that makes such a difference to people who are crying out for help...I just have to be here for an hour and I’ve got a big smile on my face. Last week I never laughed so much in my life. Everybody was laughing together...I would crawl over broken glass to get here and spend all day here, because I get so much out of it.