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Stone carving, DJ-ing and storytelling – residents in South Yorkshire’s Approved Premises get creative

Our artists are continuing to inspire residents and staff in South Yorkshire’s Approved Premises with a wide variety of creative activity

In a setting where encouraging voluntary participation can be challenging, sculptor Dan captured residents’ of Sheffield’s Approved Premises recently by bringing in his chainsaw to sculpt a two-metre high tree stump in the garden. Intrigued by what he was up to, the residents then took over when it was ready for hand carving, learning how to use specialist tools including gouges and chisels.

In a similar way, residents in Rotherham’s Approved Premises took on an ambitious project to transform their outdoor space into a sculpture park. Dan brought in two tonne blocks of limestone as a blank canvas to be transformed by residents’ ideas.  Before they could even begin the creative design process however, residents and staff first had to work as a team to offload the stone using an engine hoist, palette truck and various timbers, slings and shackles. As none of them had done anything like this before, staff and residents were able to learn and progress together. Jill Handy, AP Manager in Rotherham said:

It has been great to do some construction activities. It builds relationships between the staff and residents [and] shows the residents that staff can be vulnerable too.

The final pieces were beautifully detailed and featured natural motifs such as leaves. For those residents who came regularly to sessions the impact was clear:

Despite having reduced physical ability, Bob was keen to take part in the carving project from the very beginning. Over the course of the project, Bob became more confident in his own creativity and ability. He enjoyed spending time with other residents and staff and felt like he had gained a new skill.

As well as practical techniques relating to specific art forms, staff also told us that regular creative activity over a period has helped the residents develop their social and emotional skills:

I have seen Shaun deal with a challenging situation well; maturely removing himself from a pressurised situation, returning to the group when things had calmed down, resolving the problem with the other person and going onto work well with them for the rest of the session.

Despite the obvious benefits of taking part in creative activity with our artists, we continue to find ensuring regular attendance a challenge in our work with Approved Premises. Many residents are under evening curfews, so prefer to be outside during the day. One manager explained:

Quite often, the residents have opportunities to visit family through the day and choose to do that rather than wait for the activities.

Finding the right time to deliver can be problematic and we are continuing to experiment with this. In one setting, we now deliver a lunchtime session with food provided by the hostel, which appears to be working well. Sometimes however, non-attendance can be down to reasons beyond residents’ control including appointments, meetings and court attendance. This makes planning activity challenging, however we continue to design workshops that address people’s additional needs. Sessions are continuing with residents across south Yorkshire currently trying their hand at DJ skills, creative writing and ceramics.


We are currently able to deliver this work thanks to a grant from The Bromley Trust. If you are interested in helping us continue this valuable work, or would like to find out more about our approach, please email

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