"Taking part in creative projects is incredibly beneficial"

Create is a charity that uses creative arts to empower lives.

Since 2003, they have supported around 40,000 participants, many whose lives have been affected by homelessness, mental ill-health, loneliness, severe poverty or various forms of disadvantage, through creative arts workshops.

In September, the organisation received £9,845 to deliver 13 writing and music workshops over a three-month period to 15-20 vulnerable and marginalised adults receiving support from Deptford Reach, a homelessness charity. The project was called “Speak With My Voice”. Funding came via the Deptford Challenge Trust, a grant-making charitable trust that aims to improve the quality of life for people who live and work in a defined area of Lewisham, including Deptford and parts of New Cross. The London Community Foundation manages their grant-making programmes.

Hear from Mike, Director of Communications at Create, who explained the importance of this project, their long-term partnership with Deptford Reach and how they managed to ensure this project could take place during the pandemic.  

Our 12-week Speak With My Voice project in London is being celebrated with a captivating exhibition of work produced by participants. The exhibition, which shows photography and writing created by vulnerable adults in Lewisham, is on display at Deptford Lounge from 16 December until the New Year – and the public can see the work for free.

All the artwork has been produced by members of Deptford Reach, a day centre serving local people who are vulnerable through homelessness, mental ill-health, loneliness, social exclusion and severe poverty.

Despite COVID-19, this project was still able to go ahead with precautions taken by Create. We held regular planning discussions with the staff and volunteers at Deptford Reach to ensure that the project was delivered within the coronavirus guidelines. While a large number of Create’s projects have been delivered online in 2020, we agreed to run Speak With My Voice in person, taking all necessary precautions – including social distancing and mask wearing. 

It helps me with my mind

During the project, which was funded by Deptford Challenge Trust, the participants were guided by two of our professional artists – photographer Alicia Clarke and writer James Baldwin. Together they explored a variety of photographic techniques (including reportage and still-life) and writing styles (including monologues and short stories), enabling them to express themselves and find their voice.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of the workshops,” said one of the participants. “I like to do different things with my mind, like using the camera, writing and all that. I enjoy coming here to do it because it gives me something to do instead of sitting down indoors all day doing nothing. It helps me with my mind doing different things.”

Taking part in creative projects is incredibly beneficial

We have run our Speak With My Voice project in partnership with Deptford Reach since Create was founded in 2003.

“This important project gives vulnerable adults the opportunity to work creatively with our professional artists and one another,” explained our Founding Chief Executive, Nicky Goulder. “They use photography and creative writing to break down barriers, build relationships and trust, reduce isolation, enhance self-confidence and self-esteem, and have fun. Never has this work been more important, at a time when everyone has experienced increased isolation, and it has been a privilege to enable these participants to express themselves and enhance their wellbeing over the past few months. I hope everyone enjoys the exhibition, which demonstrates their talent so powerfully.”

Jordan McTigue, Lead Manager at Deptford Reach, said: “This year has seen our work at Deptford Reach look quite different. While we usually operate as a day centre, we are now providing a floating support service to ensure vulnerable people in the community are not further isolated by the pandemic. Taking part in creative projects is something we know is incredibly beneficial, and well received, towards mental wellbeing, and we’re really pleased that this exhibition with Create is taking place at the heart of the community.”

We had so much fun!

Create photographer Alicia Clarke said: “It has been my pleasure to facilitate photography workshops with attendees of Deptford Reach. Taking inspiration from some famous photographers’ work, and discussing the meaning behind images, were key parts of our workshops, and it was so inspiring to see the world interpreted through the eyes of the participants. There were lots of diverse interests within the group and I feel that everyone found ways to express themselves, and to enjoy the work of their peers. We had so much fun!”

Find out more about Create here: https://createarts.org.uk/