As part of Creativity & Wellbeing Week 2020: Positive Futures (18-24 May) the BSG Creative Ageing SIG are posting some reflections on the role of the arts during Covid-19.

Our third blog comes from our Founder & Chair, Emily Bradfield who is Director at Arts & Minds.

Arts & Minds is a Cambridgeshire based charity which uses the arts to help people living with mental health challenges. Since 2007, we’ve run a range of creative programmes including our “Arts on Prescription” programme (where people experiencing anxiety and/or depression are referred by their GP or other mental health professional), Michaelhouse Singers (a weekly choir for people experiencing mental health challenges, and their friends and carers) and a weekly Pottery group for Younger People with Dementia (e.g. people diagnosed with dementia before the age of 65). Most recently, in January 2020 we launched a Creative Cafe at Cambridge Junction – a friendly drop-in inviting people to come along for coffee, chat and creativity.

Like most organisations, since COVID-19 began we have temporarily suspended all of our face-2-face activities and have been working hard with participants and freelance artists to develop new, innovative programmes online and by post.

Many of our members do not have internet access or smart phones, so postal/phone contact has been crucial. Perhaps one of the most exciting programmes we’ve developed is “Virtual Pottery 4 Dementia”! 

Last year we had to suspend our pottery group for younger people with dementia due to lack of funding. However, thanks to a pro-active intern who set up an online fundraising campaign, we were able to resume the weekly sessions after a short break. However, with the onset of lockdown, of course this group was one of the first we had to suspend again – much to the disappointment of members! For many of the members, the pottery sessions are their only opportunity to get out and meet other people.

As we began to explore new ways of working, we wondered if and how we could move our pottery group online – the need for social interaction and creativity was more crucial than ever!

So, we proposed the idea of a weekly Zoom pottery session to members. Well, the response was amazing! Put simply – oh yes please!

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After a practice run with Bob (the lead potter) using Zoom, we decided it could work! Clay was posted out to members and we set the date and time (Friday morning at 10.30, as the usual time the group meets) and sent out Zoom links. The first session was amazing! Everyone was so delighted to see one another again and get stuck in…the brief was to create a toby jug…

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We all interacted well and were led by Bob to produce something that resembled a toby jug… “it’s all about the process” I was reminded by the others (being only one of my first experiences of working with clay)! 

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After the success of the first session, we created a short clip to capture the pleasure and laughter, and have been running weekly zoom sessions each week since… More clay has been delivered to members – our volunteer (Emma) even had a go using pizza dough (as she didn’t have any clay)!

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“It was great fun to join Bob’s online pottery course as a trustee of Arts and Minds. It was my first attempt at making something out of clay, and I managed to produce a frog which gave several friends a really good laugh! Bob’s tuition was inspiring, and as a beginner, I feel inspired to continue my efforts. Thank you Arts and Minds for making it possible.” – Margaret, Arts & Minds Trustee

We have run five sessions so far, and plan to continue until we can meet again in person! We’re keeping all our creations ready to be fired when possible and are planning to hold an exhibition to share and celebrate everyone’s creativity once we return to some kind of normal…

Check out another clip from sessions 2 & 3!

For more information about Arts & Minds and the other activities we’re running during Covid 19, please visit our website or download our FREE invitations to create – delightful activities for all ages designed and created by local artists. You can also watch a short clip where I talk through what we’ve been up to during lockdown.

If you’d like to support our work over the coming months, you can donate here!

If you’d like to volunteer with Arts & Minds, please email us: admin@artsandminds.org.uk 

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Stay safe, stay well, stay creative!

Emily Bradfield

Director (Arts & Minds) & Founder / Chair (BSG Creative Ageing SIG)

@erbradfield

#CreativeConnections #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #CreateWell2020 #CreativeCare