A project running in Helston aims to develop social connections for people living in a rural area, whilst learning creative crafts in a friendly atmosphere.
Working with artists Melanie Young and Laura Menzies we ran a series of creative sessions in Helston and the surrounding area for people to learn new crafts in a friendly atmosphere. The aim of the programme, which was funded by the Big Lottery Awards for All, was to enable people to develop local connections and friendships.
The project focused on the Helston area as it is a place characterized by a large proportion of single-person households, limited access and provision of community and cultural services. Our aim was to provide a regular creative opportunity for isolated adults, particularly those over 55, to come together and develop social connections, learn new skills and practice existing ones and to build resources and resilience.
The sessions took place in the Old Cattle Market and participants were recruited through posters and fliers which were circulated widely to potential referrers across the Helston area, including GPs, community mental health teams, district nurses, the library, local shops. We also worked with Inclusion Cornwall to identify people who could benefit from the project. We sent out a media release and this was covered in the local Helston newspaper and in the free paper circulated to Helston households. Through these means we were able to start the group with 20 participants – all of whom attended throughout the project.
Over the course of the project the group undertook many different activities:
– Wet felting
– Willow lantern making
– Making chocolate truffles
– Clay work, making pots and small plates
– Printing and sewing bunting
The final session before Christmas became a celebration to which participants invited friends and family and we also invited local community organisations and representatives to attend. The Mayor of Helston welcomed everyone to the event and further connections were formed. We also put together information on other groups in the Helston area which we gave to all participants together with information on support to community groups to encourage them to become self-sustaining.
We had a group of 20 participants, 18 women and two men. One husband and wife came together, and there were two mother-and-daughter pairings. The 20 participants attended throughout, 14 of them attending every session, 5 people missing one session for a variety of reasons (transport or ill-health) and 1 person who missed 2 sessions.
It was clear to see from the work that people made that they had learned new skills; it was extremely rewarding to see people who expressed huge doubts about their ability to create things then going on to make beautiful pieces of art work.
The fact that participants continued to attend week after week demonstrated that they were finding the course valuable; although some had to miss the odd session, all of them stayed with the course right to the end and most have continued to meet informally since then.
It was also clear that the group quickly became very sociable and supportive. The community centre manager, whose office joined on to the space we used, commented that she could ‘hear the group gelling’ as they got more chatty and there was more laughter each week. Participants took on informal roles in the group – making tea for others, clearing spaces, giving out scissors – and the final event was a real celebration.
We also noticed people exchanging phone numbers, giving each other lifts and arranging to meet up at other times, so we are confident that our aim of developing social connections was also achieved.
We collected anonymous feedback from all participants – here is a selection of their comments verbatim:
Having had a serious illness (now recovered) since retiring, I felt in need of something to get me going and meeting people – and this has been ideal.
Thoroughly enjoyed the course and trying out new crafts. Have made new friends and would like to continue with some of the crafts.
I have very much enjoyed this course – especially the camaraderie with the other members. I have learnt a lot of new crafts that I never thought I would be doing in my seventies!
I really enjoyed the group, trying different crafts and meeting very friendly people. I’ve also made contact with others in the group for another course.
Perfect venue, superb organisers, good variety of activities. I enjoyed meeting other people from the local area. It got me out of the house so have helped my mental wellbeing.
After a spell of ill-health the course has really encouraged me to continue with my art work. Good time well spent.
After losing my husband very suddenly a year ago I came to the group to meet new people and because I have always enjoyed crafts of all kinds. It is interesting how people have relaxed as the weeks go by and greet each other as we come in. I have never done any of the crafts offered and really enjoyed learning new skills. I have met a lady with similar interests to mine and we shall keep in touch.
Just having moved into the area I thought it would help to get to know people in the local area. It has spurred me on to look at other crafts and groups I might be interested in as well.