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Tara Reddy getting ready for a Zoom art class

Tara Reddy was one of the founding members of Hastings Online Times and is a long-time community activist. She is also the driving force behind Arts On Prescription (AOP) – a scheme where people who are feeling depressed, lonely or anxious are ‘prescribed’ art and creative courses through their GP surgery. Tara will be the guest on Thrive at 5 this Saturday on Hastings Isolation Station. Here she tells us more about Arts on Prescription.

I set up Arts on Prescription CIC to follow a passion to deliver a meaningful service linking up artists in the local community with GPs and Health and Social Services. Its aim is to promote the benefits that participation in the arts has on mental health and loneliness and act as a stepping stone to opportunities in the wider community.

Over the past ten months we have provided 888 placements to people referred to our service (by GPs, Connect Well, DWP, Adult Social Care and other support agencies/services), these people are experiencing issues around mental health and have various challenges accessing art for wellbeing. Participating in AOP has proved to be an effective way of improving mental health and promoting social engagement. We have evidence from feedback from referring agencies, participants and evaluation feedback questionnaires completed.

As a result from joining our groups people have enrolled with college courses, widened their social engagement with community activities, and attend cultural visits.

‘It has given me joy’  – Joan aged 69

‘I have always wanted to try but not had confidence before’ – Peter aged 45

‘I felt relaxed and calm for once’  – Tim 30 ‘

Participant’s artwork

Covid 19 has meant that many services have had to look at new ways to reach and engage participants and provide meaningful outcomes, including reducing the risk to vulnerable people impacted by the social isolation caused by the Lockdown.

AOP has responded quickly and effectively to the needs of our clients by setting up a new AOP members’ Facebook Page and a WhatsApp group providing a safe space for participants to connect, share, and collaborate on art for wellbeing projects.

AOP has also set up three online interactive opportunities a week via ZOOM, for clients to engage and participate in. These include singing, mindfulness, and our weekly Keep Safe, Stay Connected, Be Creative Friday Art sessions.

All the sessions we have held so far have had at least eight attendees and one session had 38! I think this proves that we are targeting those who need the service and our feedback from the AOP attendees and healthcare professionals has been really positive. We are currently evaluating the benefits of using ZOOM and looking at how we can improve delivery and monitoring the impact on wellbeing.

Over the past few weeks we identified that some people had limited access to art materials. We have had further discussions with services in the town and now have a waiting list for these items. We have received specific funding to allow us to buy and distribute Art and Wellbeing packs to people who are the most vulnerable and in need. 100 packs funded by Sussex Community Fund and Hastings Museum are going to be sent out this week to residents in Hastings who are in isolation during lockdown who would benefit from participating in art for well-being activities!

Participant’s artwork

Our creative workshops have reduced social isolation and connected people to opportunities in their community alongside building confidence and resilience.

We have also given opportunities to 20 local artists to work within a progressive environment linking art to health and wellbeing where they can share their knowledge and further develop their skills.

We have just received to funding to deliver free mindfulness sessions to frontline key workers who are impacted by the Covid 19 lockdown.

‘This is a great service. I am fully behind it’ Dr Shepherd, Warrior Square Surgery ‘

My client came back with an enthusiasm I hadn’t seen before’’ Alison Tanner DWP long term disability advisor

That’s the first time I’ve seen Nick smile for ages’ from the carer of Nick, 29

‘It’s been great sharing my skills and processes with people who are genuinely interested and seeing the visible improvement in people’s self esteem’ Jess – Artist AOP

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, 18-24 May, Isolation Station Hastings is hosting Thrive at 5 – a programme at 5pm which is exploring all sorts of ways to improve mental health. The programme is presented by Sharon Rhodes who is an experienced user of mental health provision in Hastings. Her guests are the service users and staff from organisations that support positive mental health initiatives.

You can find out more about Arts On Prescription by visiting the website.

Art Packs

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