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A Focus on: Patrick, Volunteer Artist.

What is your connection with Creativity Works?

Volunteer Artist

 How did you first come across Creativity Works?

Through the group Tiny Monuments

Which projects have you been involved with?

Tiny Monuments, Fresh Art @ Hillview and Open Minds.

What have you enjoyed the most about working with Creativity Works?

Meeting people, hearing their stories and seeing their work.

What have you found surprising about Creativity Works?

What makes Creativity Works unusual is its inclusive approach to arts provision in mental health. I was there when CW won its Arts award from Arts & Health South West last year and all the other nominated projects either invited artists in to hospitals to work with patients/staff or invited patients/staff into a studio. The majority of CW projects are carried out in the community and away from a context of diagnosis and treatment.

In what way has Creativity Works been of value or support to you?

As a practising artist my work is centred on mental health. My on-going project involves the photographing of environments and recording of conversations which are then transcribed. Sitting in on CW groups, I have had the privilege of listening to participants talk about their own, very individual responses to the question of the relationship between their mental health difficulties and their creativity. My project is called Form & Pressure, and it originated from my experiences as a patient and a student. In 2013 I graduated with a degree in Photography from Plymouth University. This art school experience was, for me, an arduous experience because the line between madness and creativity is hard to define. If you want to read more about this, you can read my book online at www.patrick-graham.co.uk/the-ebook-has-landed/

Creativity Works has also supported me by linking me up with the peer-support group, Open Minds. This group meets weekly to undertake a variety of social activities and they were looking for a photographer to teach them. Within the last year I have taught ten afternoon sessions to the group and completed the Award in Education & Training, previously ‘Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector’, which is the post-16 equivalent of the PGCE.

What has been your biggest professional, personal or creative achievement to date?

When I undertook Form & Pressure it was from a position of alienation from my degree course and disconnect with my peers and tutors. However, at the end of my time in Plymouth I was awarded the Greg O’Shea Memorial Prize in recognition of my work and it was described by the course leader as “the most extraordinary piece of undergraduate work in years.” Bearing in mind that I had been recording my tutors throughout my studies – scrutinising their words – I think their recognition demonstrates the seriousness with which I view my work and the regard I pay to the dignity of my subjects.

Do you have any creative aspirations for the future (with or without Creativity Works)?

My creative aspiration is to continue work on Form & Pressure. The title comes from a passage in Hamlet in which he describes the purpose of theatre as being to reflect the form and pressure of the age. Therefore, while my finalised project was specifically about a university context, I feel it has a wider mission to articulate the struggles faced by those with mental health issues in a world that sometimes fails to accommodate them.

The next chapter in my project is currently under construction. I have been working with Fresh Art to visually record the changing of the art works at Hillview Lodge. The exact context for these images has yet to be determined, but it will continue to explore the themes of environment, social pressure and mental health established in the first chapter. I have started to interview former residents of Hillview who throw astonishing light onto the seemingly ordinary things I have recorded. I want this new chapter to give voice to the experience of residential treatment that my interviewees have had, while remaining respectful of the extraordinary work that staff undertake to support patients around the clock.

Fresh Art has been a partnership between multiple agencies, particularly Bath Museums, who provided the venue and resources for the community-based creative sessions. On Tuesday July 15th we met at the Building of Bath Collection to discuss the impact of the outreach program the museums have executed in the past years, of which Fresh Art was just one component. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about all the great new links that have been forged across BANES.

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