In November and December 2020, we teamed up with Carers Trust to run six weeks of inspiring workshops with adult carers from across the UK.
The project, creative:voices, saw our professional artists run workshops in partnership with eight Carers Trust Network Partners in East Sussex, Enfield, Leeds, Lewisham, Sefton (Liverpool), Suffolk, Surrey and Tower Hamlets. Delivered via our Create Live! delivery mechanism over Zoom, these included creative writing, music, photography, and visual art.
There are almost seven million unpaid carers in the UK. 81% say they feel lonely or isolated as a result of their caring role; 72% say they have suffered stress or depression as a result of caring; and the proportion of carers who report experiencing poor mental health has increased by 10% during the pandemic.
creative:voices gave 51 unpaid adult carers the opportunity to take a break from their caring responsibilities, explore their creativity and self-expression and meet other carers, building a support network. It enabled them to build skills, boost their confidence and have fun. 94% said the project enhanced their creativity, teamwork skills and wellbeing; and 100% said they enjoyed working with our professional artists. 69% reported increased confidence as a result of taking part in the project.
This is what some of the participants said about taking part in creative:voices. All names have been changed to protect anonymity.
Jenny (60+) cares for her father, who suffers from schizophrenia and is addicted to alcohol and gambling. She took part in the creative writing workshops.
“You can feel quite small when you’re a carer. You’re giving all your time and energy to somebody else. Your world can become narrower and narrower and more and more restricted so to have that opportunity to step outside of it and to meet other people who are in the same situation is so important.
“I can come into the start of the session sometimes feeling quite low but step out of them feeling boosted and exhilarated as if I’ve travelled to far-flung places. By the end of a short two hours, to have words on a page, unique words, that have come from within gives me a huge sense of achievement.”
Sally (39) cares for her daughter who has Down syndrome, while also looking after her son who was born with a cleft lip and palate. She took part in the photography workshops.
“Being a carer is harder than any job I’ve ever had. You don’t get a break, so there’s no time for me. I’m shattered by the end of the evening.
“This project is brilliant. I really enjoyed it. Projects like this remind you of what you used to like, before this life that you didn’t ever expect came along.
“It was really nice to do something for me, and something I can take with me in everyday life. We take so many photos of family and friends for Instagram, and I look at everyone else’s and think ‘gosh I wish I could do something like that’, and I realise actually I can do that. That has been the biggest positive for my self-confidence.
“I liked that we had time to come back and really look at each other’s work and talk through our vision. Through the week I was like ‘I didn’t think of that, that’s really clever’. Then because I saw their vision, I started seeing it through the week in my photos, and I found moments when I would smile to myself during the week and say ‘Ooh this is nice’.”
Stacey (34) cares for her seven-year-old son, who has autism and ADHD. She took part in the music workshops.
“When you’ve got a child with autism, the demands are quite a lot higher. It’s constant. It does take quite a toll on your emotions and things like that. But I do find it very rewarding as well.
“Music for me has always been important, but during my caring role I’ve kind of put it to one side, thinking it wasn’t important enough to pursue. I made myself sign up for the workshops thinking it will be nice to do something for me, and I’m glad I did it. It reawakened a part of me that’s been lying dormant for too long.
“The workshops have been really experimental, creative and innovative. People have been able to join in and access the workshops even if they aren’t musicians or haven’t played an instrument before. It has been really inclusive for everybody. It’s also amazing that we could do it all together, in this strange COVID world.
“The biggest thing is that it’s good for your wellbeing. Being creative in this way has really helped me from a mental health and a physical health perspective. My kids have seen a part of me that I’d never shown them before, and now they’re more creative with their music as a result of that. I get a buzz from playing, and I also get a buzz from seeing them enjoy me playing music to them as well.”
May (60+) is the oldest child from a large family, and she has spent most of her life caring for various family members. She came to the UK from Africa “when Idi Amin threw everyone out” at the age of 21. She took part in the visual art workshops.
“I think as a carer, you get side-tracked and forget yourself. You’re so busy looking after everybody else. I came to realise this when I had a heart attack 13 years ago. I had to stop and re-evaluate my whole situation. I still look after people but I have boundaries in place now. Even if you mark out two hours, it’s two hours that are dedicated to you. It’s a way for you to look after your own health.
“I’ve never been online. My daughter does everything for me so this workshop encouraged me to do some independent learning as well, which is brilliant. It actually pushes you to wake up and do something, because otherwise you go from week to week doing nothing. You just get bored.
“The workshop with Create has inspired me a lot and taught me about artists I’ve never heard of. It gave me the push to explore. I feel like an artist again – an artist reborn!”