Independence Trust will be taking over a shop in the Five Valleys Shopping Centre in Stroud for six days in November to offer drop-in mental health and wellbeing support to anyone who needs it. There will also be an exhibition of work from our mental health art groups who have devised ‘The Loneliness Project’. This explores the theme of Loneliness which is so widespread and so damaging to mental health and wellbeing. There’s a positive message though, because through one-to-one help and over 40 regular activity groups covering art, gardening, walking, creative writing and much more, Independence Trust can help people out of loneliness and back into enjoying life.
The Pop-Up Wellbeing Support Shop and Art Exhibition will be situated opposite Home Bargains in the Stroud Five Valleys Shopping Centre, and will open 9am to 5pm for six days, from Monday 13th to Saturday 18th November 2023, inclusive.
The Pop-Up Wellbeing Support Shop will be staffed all week by mental health and community wellbeing support workers from Independence Trust, and there will also always be someone there from another supportive agency such as the CAB or Foodbank (see timetable pdf). The shop will be a great chance for people to find out about the support available, and actually get some wellbeing or mental health support there and then.
“As we emerged from the Covid pandemic, some of us found ourselves in a pandemic of loneliness and isolation.” said Sue Tomlinson, Independence Trust District Team Leader.
“To address this issue, we decided to organise an art exhibition showcasing the experiences of our clients who have felt isolated.”
“But we decided that our Loneliness Project art show should not only be an art exhibition, but also offer solutions and support,” explained Sue.
“We wanted to put on a really purposeful exhibition, and by listening to people and then drawing on the myriad of support that we know is in our community, we realised that we could create an all-in-one pop-up support event, covering housing, debt, mental health, food poverty, the list is endless. We have been lucky enough to team up with a comprehensive range of organisations and community groups that will be joining us in offering a really useful pop-up event.”
Most of the artworks in The Loneliness Project Art Exhibition have been produced by members of art groups run by Independence Trust Artist In Residence Anni Dalton (pictured below). Anni herself received mental health support from the Independence Trust and now works with the Trust to help other people improve their mental health through art.
“I am an artist volunteering my time running workshops helping people at an amazing organisation called the Independence Trust, a charity that aims to help and support people with mental health issues in Stroud and throughout Gloucestershire,” said Anni. “I reached out to the Independence Trust in 2015 for help with my own wellbeing after a life of trauma. They picked me up and gave me the stability and strength to take control, which led me to go to college and university where I gained a BA Hons degree in fine art.”
Anni continued “I believe art can help to heal, inspire and enable the minds of the people that come to my workshops, it provides a safe environment for those who are suffering to express themselves and gives them a place they can look forward to being. Most come back every week, having felt the benefit of being creative in a non-pressured environment, to be positively but gently encouraged by myself and often by their peers, a group working together for each other, understanding each other.”
Another former Independence Trust client, Bernadette Bridger, said
“In the past when I was unwell with my mental health, I attended Independence Trust who, amongst other things, offered me art classes. The experience of being able to express my feelings through art, without having to actually say anything, was so helpful and therapeutic. Art has a way of reaching your deepest emotions and thoughts, in a very non-threatening way, and it allows you to go at your own pace and in your own way.”
“Art has helped me to recover enough to run my own small arts and crafts groups, over the last few years. Some have been at Independence Trust. I love to share my pleasure in it with others and want to encourage people to have the confidence to have a go – even just cutting out shapes is a great achievement when you feel unwell, but it is still being creative and will feed the heart and the mind. It really does aid recovery.”
The Loneliness Project started through our Tackling Mental Health Stigma Group, listening to clients who felt isolated and alone. We decided to explore the concept of Loneliness through the medium of art because our clients found it easier to sit in a supportive group and express thoughts and feelings visually on paper.
Throughout the week of our Art Exhibition and Wellbeing Event, there will be people attending from Independence Trust, plus partner agencies and community groups, and the artists themselves too. Visitors can chat and obtain advice and support, either for themselves or for someone else. There will also be plenty of advice and support literature available to take away.