Learning from experience

an abstract digital artwork with a dark background featuring bright prin, blues and fine points of yellow light in the centre
‘Untitled’ By Casey Francis (Mad Truth)
...through creativity we can transform adversity to beauty and in the process transform ourselves. We can create our own lives as if we are creating a work of art. Instilled within all of our experience are layers of meaning, understanding and connection. Art is empathy, it is communication. Art allows us to step outside of ourselves, and see something inside that we could not recognise because of our external circumstances, our pain, our fear, our doubt.
Venn diagram showing the intersections of 'queer, 'creativity' and 'health'
Illustrations by MJ Barker
What would it mean to ‘queer’ creative health? Why might we need to, and, if so, how? I was given the opportunity to first delve into these questions through a PhD scholarship I completed in 2019. My literature review explored longer histories of the field of Arts in Health as part of exploring its relationship to people and place.  
Tina Blaber with guitar against a wall
Tina Blaber
Our existence is embedded in culture – it’s all around us – and I think the need for this, as social creatures, is an inherent part of our make-up, as human beings.
At a recent WhatNext? meeting the cultural thinker Suzanne Alleyne asked this question of Arts Minister Lord Parkinson: "As we know, there is a very small subset of society that holds power in the publicly funded arts sector. Research shows that human beings fundamentally don’t like change, and that often those in power do not want to share it with those who don’t have access to it. What do you think the steps are that we need to take together to change this?"
George J Harding, Kedinjack, St Just, 2021. Photo by Jo Hounsome.jpg
George J Harding, Kedinjack, St Just, 2021. Photo by Jo Hounsome.jpg
" I found myself in a meditative state and at ease. As the trip progressed, I became more decisive in the way I painted and through continual application, found a consistent visual language coming to the fore where decisions would be more intuitive and certain."
Photograph of Dominique De-Light
I have written for as long as I can remember. Short stories created aged ten, fictionalising life or fantasy worlds to escape to. A weekly journal scrawled in an exercise book, started aged thirteen, kept up throughout my life. A regular outpouring of emotion, record keeping and analysis.
Oriana White artwork with quote, "through creativity we begin to heal."
Oriana White
" Part of life is to nurture our creative needs.  This has also become a coping mechanism and a self-soothing technique which has been extremely helpful during times of difficulty and now perhaps even more so with the Coronavirus lockdown."
Solidarity  The strength of togetherness.   The figures in the middle hold the circle of hope, the power of mutual respect, inclusion and unity. The swirl of Blue shows clarity for the need for connections and Green shows balance and harmony.   ‘Above all, see me as a person first, a fellow co-human’.
Solidarity, Shanali Perera
With the influx of new champions and ideas in 2021 , The Lived Experience Network (LENs) pressed pause on formally constituting as a CIC.
Sonia Boué performing with hand mirrors
Sonia Boué, Neurophotography
Sonia Boué's guest blog introducing her Neurophototherapy project which is exploring art use to recover from a lifetime of identification with the wrong neurological type.
Losing memory by Natalia Millman
Losing memory, Natalia Millman
Maybe someone who sees my work will relate to it because of their own personal experience and notice what I am trying to do in reflecting the sense of humanity in context of this devastating illness. To tell the world that old people matter, and they are reminders that one day we will be them too. We owe them our love, dignity and respect.
two young carers standing and smilling in front of a colourful artwork in the background
Carers' Week runs from 7-13 June 2021, and we are highlighting a very small selection of member organisations who support carers with their work.
Photos and short description of Multiple Shenanigans podcast and hosts
Lytisha and Jeanette discuss making their podcast "about the funny side of life with MS"... How has this podcast affected your wellbeing? Lytisha:
a drawing of the lower half of someone's legs on the sand, surrounded by lines in the sand
Viv Gordon Co
We’re planning the launch event and catching up on the related social media campaign #MyLineInTheSand that invites people to post words of hope, rage and solidarity to stand with survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). We’re busy contacting anyone and everyone who can help to promote the work - arts colleagues, survivor charities and survivor artists, activists and academics.
“Snow Leopard” from my illustrated mind, by Kathryn Watson
“Snow Leopard”, from my illustrated mind, by Kathryn Watson
I’ve never studied art; I come from a medical background and did a PhD in microbiology. My world was about numbers, statistics, looking for tried and tested patterns, and grouping things into distinct categories. Absolutely these approaches have a place, and are especially essential when needing to rapidly process large amounts of information in high risk environments. But it didn’t give me a good way to process my inner world of chaotic and conflicting thoughts and feelings. Thankfully illustration did.
Amarno Inai
Amarno Inai
" I never put labels on it...whenever I felt bad, or good, I would draw."
pillcases filled with feathers
Nature Cures, by Sue Flowers
I truly believe that when we normalise difference we enter a much more just and equal world. We all have mental health, that’s a fact - so shouldn’t we all acknowledge this hidden truth, accept that we might have mental ill health at some point and stop being afraid of the unknown?
Kelly and a colleague sit at a table, Kelly is laughing
I first found creativity at the age of 25 – I had moved to a new town to be with my boyfriend but knew no one and nothing. I had experienced high anxiety in the past but understood now that if I didn’t keep my time and my mind occupied I wouldn’t survive and the move would be pointless. So that’s what I did.
Sunita Thind
Sunita Thind
"You can take all that negative energy and channel it into something exquisite that is expressive like a poem, story, song or piece of art."
Dancing in Driveways- Charlotte Armitage
Dancing in Driveways, Charlotte Armitage
A participant of Dancing in Driveways in Sheffield describes how a dance artist's gesture to help her street has transformed community spirit and health.
Close up of Mum's hand- embroidering
Mah Rana
' I enjoy creating a well-making space in my mother’s home where both my mother and I can breathe, de-stress, and attend to self-care through acts of creativity.' A reflective blog from artist/researcher and carer Mah Rana exploring the power of creating well-making spaces in unsettling times.
Scroll containing a perpetual calendar with illuminated sections. Ruzname-i dairevi - astronomical tables for both the Arebi (Islamic) and Rumi (Julian) calendars providing chronological accounts of seasonal change, entry of the sun into signs of the zodiac, times of summer and sunset.
MS Ottoman Turkish 3. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
…if you’ve self-isolated over years as I’ve done, you do slow down to a very, very different pace.The following is an interview with Gilly Angell, a founding member of the LENS group, from 31 March 2020
Nigel Downing at the Spaces Between, Barnsley, June 2017
Charlotte Armitage, Creative Recovery
" Art allows us freedom". Nigel, a poet from Barnsley, shares his experience of using creativity and culture to navigate, soothe and understand his illness and recovery.
Despair by Anthony Fisher Photography
Antony Fisher Photography
Tony Fisher is known as a determined, creative individual, (which we can second), who works across many art-forms; art, photography, poetry, film and socially engaged practice.
Lynne Rawlings at Arts, etc
Lynne Rawlings
A poem by Lynne Rawlings with an introduction from Corina Harrison (WEA and Arts, etc.)
A woman holds a small figure she has made in response to the Beaney's collections
Janet inspired by the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge collections to make figures. Photo: Wendy Daws
Sensing Culture This story shares how The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge are working together with partners and their local visually impaired community to enable more meaningful access to creative and cultural experiences to boost wellbeing, raise awareness and create a more inclusive space.
A brightly-coloured abstract paiting called Celebrating Psychosis, by Kate Smith
'Celebrating Psychosis' by Kate Smith
Kate Smith is an award-winning children’s illustrator/designer and a workshop leader, who has a diagnosis of  ‘Acute and transient Psychotic Disorder’ which was triggered by stress and anxiety in 2005.  Kate was encouraged to make Christmas cards by an Occupational Therapist from the Early Intervention Service in Derbyshire as a coping strategy.
Care To Dance participants
Photo by Michelle
A story by Michelle, sharing the reflections of her family on the role of dance in Rita, her mother’s life, both before and after her diagnosis with dementia.
Creative Directions - Doncaster Community Arts
Doncaster Community Arts
Creative Directions darts (Doncaster Community Arts) submission of a story that represents personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing.
Painting by Naomi, called The Great Escape
This story begins with an introduction from Naomi, who shares with us her experiences of being a full-time carer, Mum, nurse and painter and why now is the right time to share her story and her artwork.
Richard celebrating after completing the Great North Run for James Cook Neuro- Rehabilitation Ward 26, Middlesborough ( South Tees Hospital NHS Trust)
South Tees Hospital NHS Trust
“The arts made me look forward, think, engage and stimulate and that had a wealth of benefits. I realised it was something to hold on to.”
A digital drawing of a crouching figure by Shanali Perera
Shanali Perera
Excerpts from Beyond The Illness, Art n’ the Human experience by Shanali Perera, MBBS MRCP “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance” ~ Aristotle
An abstract painting by Lorna Collins
Lorna Collins
A story by Lorna Collins I have suffered from a number of psychiatric illnesses over the past eighteen years, following a serious Traumatic Brain Injury. I am now very much in recovery.
Shrigley bird singing
David Shrigley, Sing Your Song
A story by Carole Fotheringham This is a story about how cultural activities are contributing to healing and enriching my life after a life threatening illness.  How it seems culture, friendship and laughter have the ability to cure all.
A collection of drift wood ships by Dave Logan
Dave Logan
A story by Dave Logan, Chair of Parkinson’s UK – Swindon & District Branch, who has lived with Parkinson’s for sixteen years. I have had Parkinson’s for over 15 years and celebrated my 70th birthday this July.  I have been lucky in that the progressive nature of my Parkinson’s has been slow.  
This has been inspired by the work of the medical staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital – in particular, the ICU staff.
I spun a web and wrapped it round my life; fine spider silk: the type we’re taught to make. A sticky weave of working mum and wife; bespoke design – its cords would never break. High praise I netted in for such rich yarn; a gossamer of love cocooned my home, a strategist at work, a queen of charm;
Power of the Object group meeting
The Beaney’s Power of the Object programme – a dementia & social isolation story   It’s been important to both me and my mum because it’s given Mum the opportunity to come out and do something constructive and it seems to me that she gets some kind of stimulation that lasts for 2 or 3 days afterwards. 
A green bra - a work of art called Unconventionally Beautiful by Jenni Burrows, photo by Mi Mi Media
Unconventionally Beautiful by Jenni Burrows, photo by Mi Mi Media
My practice and initial investigation was a coping strategy to enhance my quality of life throughout the long wait for diagnosis and therefore manage anxiety, uncertainty and the medical side effects of treatment, including my experience of itch.