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Celebrating Excellence: Creative Arts

Credo, now known as The Ambient Creative Arts Project, won the Creative Arts Award in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards 2019. Here’s more about how the project changes lives.

The Ambient Creative Arts Project (formerly known as Credo) was formed over 15 years ago in the London Borough of Bromley.

It started as a small independent charity, eventually merging to become part of Heritage Care and, following the rebrand of Heritage in April 2020, it now forms part of Ambient’s Community Engagement & Inclusion Services (CEIS).

The project uses the creative medium of ceramics to help people with lived experience of mental ill-health explore their creativity in a friendly and supportive environment.

Our participants come from all walks of life and have often had a period of unwellness that has left them feeling socially isolated and underconfident. Joining the project for a series of ceramic sessions enables people to develop new skills, helps to improve confidence, and encourages them to build new, supportive social networks.

How we help

The Ambient Creative Arts Project runs courses from Monday through to Friday from its base in Kent.

Our two-hour workshops are run on a sessional course basis, usually in blocks of up to 12 weeks, and participants pay a contributory fee to take part – this can be privately funded or can come out of a personal budget or individual service fund.

The learning takes place in small groups at the Ambient Creative Arts studio, with plenty of individual support provided.

Often, when people join the project they are very underconfident and unsure about taking part in a creative activity that they may not have tried before. We find that with gentle encouragement and the support of the other students, people’s creativity soon begins to flow and in turn, so does their confidence. The studio is often full of chatter and laughter which is wonderful.

As many of our participants have experiences of mental ill-health, we support them to also manage their mental wellbeing by adopting a recovery approach with the creative activity of ceramics at the centre of it. We find that this helps people identify their strengths, whilst gaining insight into their needs, as they can focus on achievable goals and exploring their progress.

Myself and others at Ambient have strong community connections which means we are able to signpost people to other groups, charities or organisations that can support and aid recovery. We will often invite these other providers to come along and speak to course participants.

Providing a safe environment

It is so important that we provide a safe and inclusive learning environment to support people with their mental health recovery, regardless of their background.

Over the years, in addition to our regular ceramic sessions, we have delivered outreach courses that respond to local need and have developed bespoke ceramic workshops tailored to the needs of learners with specific challenges. We have reached out to adults who are at high risk of mental ill-health due to social isolation, poverty and stigma. This sometimes also includes the unemployed, lone parents, older adults, carers, Black and Minority Ethnic groups and people with substance misuse issues.

People who take part in the project can, if they like, become volunteers and take on crucial roles to support others by mentoring new participants, keeping the workshop clean and tidy, stock keeping and arranging events to sell the handmade ceramics.

Many of the people that take part in our courses go on to take up new challenges, with people returning to employment, education and other volunteering opportunities. We want people to move beyond the diagnosis of their mental illness, move on from the stigma associated with mental health and go on to lead happy and meaningful lives in the community.

Measuring impact

Every year, our project surveys the people that take part to discover how it has impacted them. The latest survey results show that the project has a real benefit and that it is really helping people, with 97% of respondents saying that taking part had a positive impact on their wellbeing and contributed to their recovery.

Katie, who has been attending the Creative Arts Project regularly for the past two years, says, ‘Taking part in this project has really been a lifeline. My confidence has grown and I have formed some really strong bonds with others. It’s something that I look forward to every week and means I have a real sense of purpose.

‘Before signing up to a course I had not touched clay since I was at secondary school, but Jehan is an incredible tutor and has allowed me to express myself in my own way and at my own pace. My family are always amazed with the things I have made – my wellbeing has definitely improved because of the opportunity to explore my creativity.’

Jo Turberville, Manager of Ambient CEIS, said, ‘I have been involved with this creative arts project for the past five years, and winning the Markel 3rd Sector Award was a fantastic acknowledgement of the impact that it has on the lives of others.

‘After a period of ill-health, people often need something that can add colour, flavour and meaning to their lives. For many, this project is just that. It allows possibilities and hope to flourish as people move forward on their individual recovery journey.’

Jehan Haddad is a Ceramicist and Ambient Creative Arts Manager. Email: hello@ambient.org.uk Twitter: @ambientsupport

The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards is run specifically for the voluntary care and support sector. Nominations are closing soon. Enter today at www.3rdsectorcareawards.co.uk. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

With thanks to our supporters: National Care Forum, Learning Disability England, The Care Provider Alliance, Association of Mental Health Providers and VODG.

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