Author: mike

Interview: Create filmmaker Aoife Twomey on community storytelling

Aoife Twomey
Aoife Twomey


Since 2014, professional filmmaker Aoife Twomey has been working with Create to bring film and animation workshops to a wide range of disadvantaged participants, from young people with disabilities to adults who are homeless. She’s enabled participants to boost their confidence, learn collaborative skills and express themselves through film.

Aoife talked to us about the power of everyday stories, how filmmaking can help build community and a special note she received from a young carer:

“Having access to creativity and play is so important for both young people and adults. Creativity provides much needed respite in people’s lives, and also an outlet to tell their stories in a safe place. Often the films we make on Create projects seem unconnected to participants’ stories, but through the workshops there are many opportunities for them to express themselves and this always makes it into the final cut in some way.

“One of the main barriers to people accessing the arts is confidence. Somewhere earlier on in life, people are receiving the message that they aren’t good at art – they can’t draw, for example. I love it when someone creates something amazing in my sessions and they say they never thought they could be creative.

“Creativity also brings people together. I always love lunchtime on my projects because, after all the ice breakers and working in teams, people seem more open and it’s here they feel most safe to share their story and find healing in being heard and accepted.

“Filmmaking is an incredible medium to work with in a community setting. It cuts straight to the heart of storytelling. People already know so much about filmmaking just by having watched films before and this creates a wonderful springboard into building confidence and positive learning experiences. With access to resources becoming easier, more people have the ability to make really good films. I love this about my work because I know people can transfer the skills they learn with me to making films on their phones and at home.

“I recently worked on an incredible project for Create, making a documentary with adults who are homeless and attend a drop-in centre in Deptford called 999 Club. I was so humbled by the experience of working with these men and women. We made sure there was space for their stories to reach completion fully and to show them that we were here to listen to their ideas, not to tell them what to do. I loved welcoming everyone as they returned each day (something we didn’t necessarily expect given their circumstances). I remember the day I didn’t even have to introduce the workshop; everyone just sat down at the computers and continued work from the day before. I think the participants gained a lot from the sense of achievement, from group work, from being valued within the group and from hearing each other’s stories.

“Create is an amazing charity to work for. The emphasis on getting it right for the participants is really special. As an artist I feel valued within the Create team, which is fairly unique. I love the Artist Sharing [Create’s six-monthly artist training event] and when asked to lead a session one year I felt honoured. As a freelancer it’s rare to find an organisation to feel so a part of and I feel really supported.

“I took an unusual path to working as a filmmaker. While doing a Masters in Community Arts Education, I completed a module on Digital Media for Social Change that introduced me to the power of film in storytelling and working in communities. I most admire the people working as self-shooting directors on a mission to uncover a human story, usually people I am working with on a project with or a director I’ve met at a small community screening. I believe in the power of storytelling from the bottom up, so I admire anyone who’s put the contributor in the driver’s seat and made an engaging film out of an everyday story.

“I have a card that young carers wrote for me after a Create project. One of them wrote: ‘Thanks for letting me in’. That made me realise the importance of the simple act of opening the door to people, welcoming them in, asking their opinion, giving them ownership. Some people struggle to find a place they fit, and I love that by the end of a filmmaking project people find somewhere within the process that they fit best.”

This article is from 2015.

Meet Owen

art space 2015 somerset
art space 2015 somerset


In February 2015, we were delighted to extend the reach of our art:space project to North East Somerset thanks to funding from British Land.

art:space, one of our cross-arts programmes for young carers, gives young people with caring responsibilities the opportunity to take some time out from their home-life to explore their creative talents with others. Through creative collaborations, the workshops develop the young carers’ confidence, self-esteem and interpersonal skills.

During February half-term, we worked in with young carers from Carers’ Centre Bath and North East Somerset, in collaboration with SouthGate Bath, to produce a short film with a live soundtrack. Brimming with ideas for their mini-movie, the young people worked together to come up with a plot, deciding on an action-based story inspired by video games.

The young carers developed their acting and camera skills with the help of our filmmaker Aoife Twomey, shooting many of their scenes – including an impressive acrobatic fight – on location at SouthGate Bath. They then edited their film with special effects inspired by classic video games including Street Fighter and Super Mario.

Guided by Create’s professional musicians Aga Serugo-Lugo and Alvin Ryan, the young carers then composed a soundtrack for their film, combining styles as diverse as classical music and hip hop. Their film was then screened to a captivated audience at SouthGate Bath, accompanied by their live rendition of the film’s score.

art space 2015 somerset

Owen (not his real name) aged 16, is one of the young carers who took part in the project. He cares for his elder brother who is blind and his mother who suffers from depression and chronic pain. Owen first visited BAINES three years ago. Here is his story:

“When I was younger, my mum was a district nurse. She had to leave at five in the morning but always left us a packed lunch each day. My eldest brother has albinism and is registered blind, so I have to guide, cook and clean and do other little bits to help.

“My sister left at 12 because she couldn’t take the home environment; there was a lot of pressure, a lot of tension and anger. My mum developed a back problem when I was about twelve years old. It progressed until a doctor told her she couldn’t work anymore and she now suffers from depression and constant pain. My brother and I were left to go through the teen years alone and it was tough, I have only just realised that. But like everything, my home life has its ups and downs and you have to make the best of what you’ve got.

“My advice to other young carers would be to find a place to go and talk to someone. Don’t be scared. I was nervous at first but I did it. A guy from Carers’ Centre Bath and North East Somerset comes to my house and sends me letters letting me know what’s going on. I know if it gets to the point where I’m feeling low, I just have to phone them up and they’ll be there for me.

art space 2015 somerset

“I like to be creative but I don’t often get creative opportunities like this. I can draw at home but if I wanted to go out and record a film, I wouldn’t have access to the equipment and, although I had tried filmmaking before, I didn’t have the opportunity to look at different camera shots or experiment with new techniques like I have done here.

“When we began the project, we all had different ideas but, since we had SouthGate Centre to use as a filming location, we decided on one that was just a group of friends going out to town. With every team there are moments. The difficulty working with other young carers is that we all have something which can cause tension or drama with other people. But I really enjoyed working with such a motivated group of people.

“It was really nice to explore making music because I’ve never had the chance to try it out before. Being in this environment with musicians who are friendly and have a laugh with you really encouraged me to try new things and expand my skills and knowledge.

“Creativity helps me to think positively, just getting on with music and doing something I like doing improves my mind-set. Knowing that you’ve created something gives you a nice feeling. I felt a lot of pride when making the soundtrack; pride and a feeling of accomplishment in saying, ‘Yeah, I did that.’”

Interview: Create writer Joanna Ingham

joanna ingham
joanna ingham


Create’s professional writer Joanna Ingham has worked with us for almost a decade, guiding and inspiring vulnerable children and adults across the country to explore their thoughts and feelings through creative writing.

As a writer of poetry, short stories and a novel for young people, Joanna has shared her love of writing with many people on the margins of society who can find themselves voiceless or without an opportunity to communicate their innermost thoughts.

As part of our Speak With My Voice project, Joanna has recently been working with a group of people who attend Deptford Reach, a drop-in centre for people whose lives have been damaged by homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and social exclusion. We asked her to answer a few questions about Speak With My Voice, her experiences at Create workshops over the last ten years and what creative writing means to her.

joanna ingham

Why do you think engagement with the arts is important? What do you think the people who participate in Speak With My Voice get from taking part?

I think that engagement with the arts is very important for everyone. In my view, the arts enable us to understand the world, each other and ourselves better. They support our imaginative lives and help us to notice, reflect on and enjoy what is around us. From what I have observed, the arts certainly seem to have a significant impact on the people who take part in Speak With My Voice. Creating poetry and music brings them together, helps them to communicate and share their experiences, and goes some way to restoring their sense of self-worth.The project gives people the opportunity to be heard, understood and appreciated. It allows them to have fun, to offer support to others and to make a contribution to a worthwhile whole.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into writing? What opportunities were available to you, and how did you go about becoming a professional writer?

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote poetry and stories at school and, after winning a local poetry competition at the age of fifteen, I was invited to join a poetry group. The members were very kind to me and inspired me to take my writing more seriously. I studied English literature at university, where I also belonged to a poetry group and wrote plays. I went on to work in writing theatre, where my role was to support other budding writers. Some years later, I did a postgraduate certificate course in creative writing and began to have poems published in magazines. I also got an agent after reading a short story at an event. I am now working on a novel for young people with her support.

What does writing mean to you? Is there a therapeutic element to creative writing?

Creative writing helps me make sense of the world and what happens to me. It makes me happy. I am not trained in the use of creative writing as therapy but for me I would say it does have a therapeutic element. I find it relaxing because it demands total concentration. There is something very satisfying and pleasing about wrestling with big thoughts and emotions, with characters and plots, and finding just the right words to contain them. When I read, I want to feel close to the writer, to feel that they have understood me. When I write, I am trying to communicate in the best, most accurate and truthful way I can.

joanna ingham

How do you approach your Speak With My Voice workshops? How do you get the most out of the participants?

I approach a Speak With My Voice workshop as I would any workshop with a group of committed, talented writers. I find a stimulus – a published poem or a set of images, for example – and use that as a starting point. If a piece of writing or a photograph seems inspiring to me then I hope it will draw out good writing from others too. I think the atmosphere of the room is very important: it needs to be warm, open but structured if I am to get the best out of the participants. The activities I plan need to be clear, challenging but with enough flexibility built into them so that anyone – from a highly able and talented writer to somebody having a go at writing for the first time, perhaps with English as an additional language – can access them.

Speak With My Voice brings together people whose lives have been damaged by homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and social exclusion. Could you tell us of any specific experiences on the project that stick in your mind?

Many participants have come along to a workshop looking very dubious about taking part and claiming that they won’t be able to write anything. On almost every occasion, though, they have written a poem and shared it with the group. I have been repeatedly surprised and moved by their willingness to take a risk, and by their work, which has often been excellent. It is very rewarding to see people amaze themselves and impress others.

Do you have any favourite quotes that the participants have said?

One participant, who is in his sixties, said that he had never written a poem in his life before the project. He has now written a whole series of poems, which he clearly feels very proud of. Another participant was pleased to come back to poetry after writing it as a teenager but little since.

Have you got a favourite piece of work that they’ve created?

One participant in particular always produces stunning work. He has an original and confident writing style, a real voice, and I always look forward very much to hearing what he writes.

Why do you think it’s important that Create uses professional artists to run its projects?

I think it is important for the people who participate in Create’s projects to meet and work with artists. As artists, we have chosen to put our artform at the centre of our lives and, if we so clearly value the arts and creativity, then hopefully the participants we work with will be inspired to take these things seriously too.

Finding a voice through poetry

speak with my voice 2015
speak with my voice 2015


This year’s Speak With My Voice project, generously funded by Pret Foundation Trust, began in December 2014 and we’re delighted to be able to share some of the inspiring poetry that has been penned during the workshops on the theme of “Time”. (This article is from 2015.)

Speak With My Voice is our creative writing and music project for people at the margins of society through homelessness, mental illness, loneliness, social exclusion and severe poverty. Since 2003, we’ve been working with drop-in centre Deptford Reach to provide vulnerable adults with the opportunity to express the feelings and develop new trusting relationships, social skills and self-confidence through the process of being creative.

Alongside a series of music workshops, our writer Joanna Ingham has led sessions exploring a variety of writing techniques, drawing on participants’ memories, beliefs and experiences to inspire their poetry. In advance of the unveiling of the book that we’ve compiled of their work, we have prepared a sneak preview of some of their poems for you to enjoy in advance!

speak with my voice 2015

Completely irrelevant, a boastful brag,
“Here I am, fresh and new. You just love me, don’t you?”

Oh dear me, another hurdle, challenge, to my face.
“Are you man enough? Can you handle me?”

I preferred you in Trinidad, on the windy
north coast. No amount of breeze
could dim the warm hug
of the Caribbean Sea.

Bake popping in the frying pan
to go with slices of cheese, and melting
butter on the scorching dough.

Or mornings in Belmarsh, tea kits
and cartons of milk. Breakfast TV
before art class. All the time in
the world.

Yet always you greet me, always surprise.
You surpass expectations.

Generally I’m happy, specifically I’m happy
in the morning.

Marc P

speak with my voice 2015

She places the hat on his head, they stand square. Taking her hands in his, he gently squeezes them, and then they lean for a little kiss. She smiles and he leaves the house. From behind the coal-bunker, he picks up his handwritten sign and grasping it to his chest heads with a good stride to the pick-up point.

Some others are also gathering at the pick-up point under the bridge. The only sound is the swish and vroom from the occasional passing motor. Did someone speak? If they did, it was quick; swish again now and cool humid smells of wet road; grey day.

Quietly confident, apart from the others, and choosing a brighter spot too. By a cord, he hangs the sign from his neck. No-one else has one, but they’ve seen it.

Marc G

speak with my voice 2015

Father Time has forsaken me.
Or has he made a fool of me?
Analogue are my days, dialled somedays,
fleeting moments through time and space.
Tick, tock, stick. I waver through the mix.
Seiko, Quartz and Rolex have transformed,
leaving me behind. It’s noon.
Forty-two years I have been isolated and
bound to this town square.
Unbroken, always reliable, to the specks
that are people passing by me.
I fear the stopping of my hands. Diligence
keeps my ticks and tocks moving.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish my ticks
and tocks to stop.


Women’s history month: five years of creative:u~turn

creative u-turn artwork
creative u-turn participants


To celebrate Women’s History Month this March, we’re remembering some of the achievements that the women who have taken part in our creative:u~turn project have attained over the last five years.

Since 2010, with funding and volunteer support from Reed Smith LLP, we have run creative:u~turn at Bethnal Green’s U-Turn Women’s Centre, which supports women who have been trapped in cycles of prostitution, drug addiction, physical abuse and homelessness from an early age. The drop-in centre provides the women with access to support workers, counselling, and kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Through creative:u~turn, our artists have enabled the women to explore their creativity and express their thoughts and feelings without fear, encouraging each to accomplish the sense of personal triumph that taking part in Create’s projects evokes. They have produced some extraordinary work, ranging from strikingly beautiful pieces of art and deeply personal musical compositions to uproariously funny dramatic productions.

creative u-turn

Since July last year, the women at U-Turn have been working on one extended project, delving into multiple forms of artistic expression through a series of engaging workshops. Beginning with photography sessions, during which the participants learned a variety of new photographic techniques, they went on to use their photographs as the basis of a story, written together as part of weekly drama sessions. In the following months, they turned their attention to music, channelling their stories into original compositions. Since then, they have created props and a set for their upcoming drama performance which will incorporate each of the art forms that they have explored.

The value and importance of these workshops becomes apparent when you chat to some of the women who have taken part in creative:u~turn. Marie* has regularly attended the project over the last few years. Forced into prostitution from a very young age, Marie was made to enter into an emotionally abusive marriage by her family to ‘cure’ her of being a lesbian. When her husband abandoned her and her daughter, she became a sex worker. Since then she has struggled with addiction problems and comes to the centre up to four times a week, which keeps her “occupied and from going to certain places I really shouldn’t go.”

“I’d be bored if the Create workshops didn’t happen,” she says. “Last week I was looking forward to coming because I said, “Oh, I’m going to finish my picture, I’m going to varnish it.” And I was really looking forward to it! When the day is over I think, “Rubbish, I have to wait another week to get excited!” I think art has changed me for the better. I definitely want to come and do more – I won’t be scared to do art next time.”

As well as the feelings of empowerment and accomplishment that creative:u~turn aims to inspire, its other main goal is to give the vulnerable women who attend the workshops the opportunity to collaborate with and support each another. Many of them experience social isolation and creating an environment that maintains a sense of safety, community and mutual support is vital in helping them to develop trust and foster strong friendships.

creative u-turn

Participant Margaret* explained, “You learn so much by communicating with other people who you’ve never met before. I never used to let my guard down like that. When I started taking part in Create’s workshops my confidence was really low. It had been drawn out over the years and I was close to rock bottom. I have just started feeling like myself again, discovering that I can achieve things I never thought were possible.”

According to a report from the Home Office, long-term effects of recent and historic sexual abuse can include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, social phobia, substance misuse and self-harm. Vulnerable women are encouraged to join in with creative:u~turn and express themselves without fear. Participating in Create’s workshops provides them with validation, company, support and the opportunity to narrate their experiences in a more visceral way than through speech alone.

Each piece of music, drama, art, photography, performance and creative writing that this group has created in these sessions represents the personal triumph of one of London’s underprivileged women. Our plan is to build on these five years of creative:u~turn and keep the triumphs coming for many years to come.

We are grateful to Reed Smith for supporting creative:u~turn and are delighted that they won the prestigious Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award for Social Inclusion in recognition of this in 2012.

creative u-turn

* names changed to protect identity

This article is from 2015.

Create and Matthew Bourne give 27 young people a world-class dance experience

matthew bourne edward scissorhands


Twenty-seven young people – and I (!) – have had an incredible start to 2015.

We are privileged to have internationally-acclaimed choreographer & director Matthew Bourne OBE as one of our Patrons and I met with him last year to discuss how we could work together to benefit vulnerable young people. It was an inspiring meeting of minds, from which came our first collaboration, a six day dance residency with his dance charity Re:Bourne at Sadler’s Wells.

This experience has been transformational for 27 young people, one of whom wrote to me:

“After spending the week following my passion and my dream, I am even more sure than ever that I will be a dancer.”

Between 3 and 8 January, 25 young carers drawn from seven London boroughs, four children from Rickmansworth School and two of our dance volunteers worked together as a dance company to devise and rehearse a new dance piece, Our Hands. All the ideas and moves were devised by the young people under the expert direction of Kerry Biggin and Paul Smethurst, professional dancer/choreographers from Matthew’s dance company New Adventures.

I spent a wonderful weekend – so worth cutting short my festive break for – watching the skill and commitment of these incredible leaders as they encouraged the diverse group of young people to get to know one another (most of them had never met before), build trusting relationships and work as a cohesive team (crucial for dance) as the new steps unfurled. Their creativity shone through, friendships blossomed and confidence soared as they developed a six-minute “Curtain Raiser” that inspired, delighted and moved to tears an audience of family members and professional dancers – more than 30 members of New Adventures – at the dress rehearsal on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells on the afternoon of 8 January.

I had the privilege of meeting families as they arrived and one mother – who has given me permission to tell this story – told me about her life and what the week had done for her daughter, Sylvie (not her real name). They had spent the last six Christmases, she said, in hospital with her husband. First he had his leg amputated; then he got terminal cancer; last year he died leaving them bereft. Sylvie, who had provided much of his care – medical assistance, household chores, emotional support – was now failing to cope and had been excluded from a school that did not know how to deal with her challenging behaviour and emotional distress. She and Sylvie had spent this Christmas looking at each other, lost because they didn’t have a father in a hospital to visit.

Then Sylvie started our dance residency. This gave her a chance to express her feelings, explore her creativity, meet other young carers and share experiences. As part of the young dance company, she had to work hard, remain focused and develop physical and emotional resilience. The evening before, I learnt, her mother had gone to Sylvie’s bedroom at 11.30pm to say goodnight and found her standing in front of a full length mirror rehearsing her moves. When I asked Sylvie the overriding thing she would take away from the week, she told me: “If someone gives me an opportunity, take it.”

At 7.30pm on Thursday 8 January, Matthew walked onto the stage at Sadler’s Wells and introduced the Curtain Raiser to the sell-out audience of 1,480 people who were there to see his production of Edward Scissorhands. I told Sylvie’s story and when I took my seat in the auditorium, the woman next to me said I’d made her cry.

The Curtain Raiser was beautiful, moving, dramatic and highly polished. As I sat and watched the young dance company – 27 dancers who just six days before had been 27 expectant young people – I too cried. They were professional; they were together; and the dance told a beautiful story of the power of bringing people together to explore and share dreams. As they came to take their seats for Edward Scissorhands they received rapturous applause … for the second time. After the performance, our young dancers partnered with the New Adventures dancers for a bucket collection, which raised an incredible £2,194.50. For me personally, the single most significant donation was given by one of the young dancers who came up to me at the end, drew a £10 note out of their pocket – literally pocket money – and handed it to me with the words: “This is so you can give other children an opportunity like this”.

If you too would like to give other vulnerable young people opportunities like this, please support us.

Nicky Goulder, Founding Chief Executive

Read the Independent on Sunday’s exclusive feature on the project.

This article is from 2015.

Young carers display at KPMG showcased on ITV and Sky News

kpmg exhibition young carers
kpmg exhibition young carers


We’ve worked with more than 350 young carers during 2014 and are celebrating the achievements of the 200 from London with a month-long exhibition at KPMG’s headquarters in Canary Wharf, a story that both Sky News and ITV have covered.

My City ~ My Life showcases artwork by young carers that explores their identities and experiences within the urban environment. Carers from Kingston, Redbridge and Southwark worked with our professional photographers Alicia Clarke, Tracey Fahy and Adele Watts over the summer in intensive workshops that enabled them to create a portfolio of stunning, thought-provoking photographs.

Alongside the photographs is a series of sculptures produced by young carers from Merton. Working with our artist Sheridan Quigley, they painted different sides of their personality onto cardboard cut-outs which then slot together to make a 3D piece of work.

kpmg exhibition young carers

Additionally, mini-films are being shown around the KPMG foyer, whilst their longer features were showcased at our exclusive preview last week, which was attended by more than 30 young carers and family members. These are also available to view over on our YouTube site.

There are around 700,000 young carers in the UK, of whom almost 21% spend more than 50 hours a week caring for a family member with a long-term illness or disability. They regularly miss school and can face challenges when they do attend classes, 25% being bullied. Our art:space and inspired:arts programmes work with these vulnerable young people to enable them to take a break from their caring responsibilities, meet peers in a safe, friendly environment, and most importantly, have fun!

This story is from 2014.

Create CEO and young carer appear on BBC TV



“In November 2014, I went to Nottingham to visit a project we’re running in partnership with Action for Young Carers and intu Victoria Centre. There are an estimated 700,000 young carers in the UK, children who can spend up to 50 hours a week caring for a loved one. 27% of those aged 11-15 miss school regularly and a horrifying 68% suffer bullying and isolation due to their caring roles.

“To help address some of these issues for a group of 30 young carers aged 5-18 in Nottingham, we designed a half-term project that gave them the chance to get creative with our professional artist Viyki Turnbull! Over five days, they devised a series of “Playful Cityscapes” that re-imagined the city, making new friends, learning creative art techniques and having fun “me time” away from their caring responsibilities.

“My visit yesterday was a lot of fun for me too! I worked as part of a “paint-up” team of volunteers from intu Victoria Centre and Laing O’Rourke, recreating the children’s work on a large scale. The twenty panels will be erected at the shopping centre in February next year as part of its current refurbishment plan. Chatting to one of the volunteers, she told me how much she’d enjoyed working with the children last week – “they were so much fun but I couldn’t believe how much responsibility they have at home!” – and how relaxing she was finding the painting up today. I thought so too! Working to recreate faithfully the children’s imaginative, vibrant artwork certainly took concentration and a steady hand!

“And what of the young carers? An 11 year old came to see how we were getting on – she LOVED seeing her house and castle painted up on a big scale – and to talk to the BBC about what the project meant to her. Our interview, which includes a behind-the-scenes peek at the mural paint-up, was broadcast on BBC East Midlands Today this morning.”

By Nicky Goulder, Create Founding CEO

All film credits go to BBC East Midlands Today.

Create chief executive wins Charity Times award for rising CEO star

nicky goulder wins 2014 charity times award
nicky goulder wins 2014 charity times award


nicky goulder wins 2014 charity times award

In October 2014, our Chief Executive Nicky Goulder was recognised with the prestigious Highly Commended award in the Charity Times Rising CEO Star category.

After co-founding Create in 2003, she was appointed to the new position of Chief Executive in December 2012. Since then, our income has increased by 53%, enabling more than 3,000 disdvantaged and vulnerable children and adults to take part in sustained, life-changing programmes rated successful by 98% of community partners.

The citation read:

“Nicky has led Create to its most successful year to date, directly as a result of her passion and drive to make society fairer, more caring and more inclusive. Her commitment to disadvantaged and vulnerable people has helped transform the lives of more than 27,000 participants.”

In nominating Nicky for the award, our Chairman Eddie Donaldson wrote:

“I believe that Nicky should be recognised as Charity Times Rising CEO Star because of her passion and dedication to transforming the lives of society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people. As Chairman, I have witnessed first-hand her drive to make Create a centre of excellence. Never complacent, she leads her team to deliver the best possible outcomes for Create’s participants and community partners. When we appointed Nicky as CEO, I knew she would bring her vast experience to the table to meet our expectations, drive the charity, deliver new and innovative programmes in the community and increase Create’s income and visibility through new initiatives. As I suspected, she has done exactly this, meeting and exceeding expectations with grace and flair.

“Our Trustees, staff, community partners and funders often comment on Nicky’s dedication, professionalism, and integrity to effect positive change. Her vision and determination to make society a better place permeate all her actions, making her an outstanding CEO. Her commitment to disadvantaged and vulnerable people has had a profound and lasting effect on her team and the lives of Create’s 27,478 participants to date, who in turn go out to change their communities. Her ambitious plans for the next three years will continue to impact the lives of individuals and communities into the future.”

In commenting on the award, Nicky said:

“I have the privilege of leading an incredible, dedicated team of staff and artists and, thanks to the transformational grant that we received from The Queen’s Trust last year, we are on target to double the reach of our work by 2016. This award feels like wonderful recognition for all we are achieving as a team to help transform the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable children and adults through our carefully tailored creative arts programmes. I would like to thank our Chairman for nominating me, the judges for acknowledging our achievements and Lloyds Bank Foundation and The Rank Foundation for so generously supporting of my post.”

Charity Times Rising CEO Star award recognises “a chief executive who has demonstrated dedication, professionalism and integrity throughout their short career, and who has produced an identifiably profound effect on the sector through their work and management and shows great potential going forward”.

Uxbridge young carers mural project with Carol Topolski

inspired arts uxbridge mural carol topolski
inspired arts uxbridge mural carol topolski


In July 2014, we were working with Hillingdon Carers in Uxbridge, combining creative writing and visual arts in a mural project as part of our extensive inspired:arts programme for young carers.

Under the guidance of published author Carol Topolski, 16 young carers started by creating their own original story based on “Through the Wardrobe – Imagined Worlds”, a theme we chose to fire their imaginations. The theme – linking with the recent intu Uxbridge Get into Reading Campaign – draws on CS Lewis’s popular Narnia escapades, encouraging children to read and create their own stories.

For some young carers, dreaming of other worlds may provide welcome “downtime”: 27% of young carers aged 11-15 miss school regularly and 68% suffer bullying and isolation due to their caring roles. They worked in pairs, supported by 11 volunteers from intu Uxbridge and Intu Properties plc, to create pivotal characters in the story and visited outdoor spaces for inspiration to imagine a new world.

Once the final story was penned as a group, the young people worked with painter/sculptor Sheridan Quigley to visualise their ideas for a full-sized mural! With further volunteer support from intu, the final six metre piece was painted by hand on site at intu Uxbridge over two days in August.

One young carer described his experience at the end of the project:

“I feel more confident in my artwork now I’ve done this project. It helps to have a professional who you can learn from. We all worked together, listened to each other’s ideas and have made new friends. I think the mural will make a big difference to the community, perhaps contributing to stopping anti-social behavior by giving people something to talk about”.

See below for the final story concept which inspired the mural.

inspired arts uxbridge mural carol topolski

The Portals of The Shadow Tribe

The Lost Shadows are miserable. They’re happy enough perched in Shadowlands’ jungly trees but are missing one vital thing – a person to be attached to. After months and months of moaning and groaning they decide to do something to remedy this and create three beautiful portals: one into Astria, the second into Flipside and the third into Dandilaisydill.

Prince Sebastian lives in Astria. He’s really rather gorgeous, with his long blond hair and emerald eyes and, while he has an Aston Martin, prefers to get around on his gryphon made of fire, which impresses his subjects no end. He can’t be doing with the prince thing since he’d much rather be a hunter, so he buys a necklace from which to hang his trophies; but because he’s hopeless at killing things it hangs round his neck empty. He’s pretty hopeless at swordplay too – has to wear padded shoes because he keeps dropping the sword on his feet – so he practices every day, thinking maybe he’ll pick up some skills.

One sunny Thursday, he’s slashing away in the palace garden when he spots a triangle shape in a bush. He makes a pass and a thrust and stabs the sword through its middle, but trips over his padded shoes and falls through.

‘Woo hoo!’ say the Lost Shadows, ‘Our first!’ and the teleporter whizzes and hums. Sebastian finds himself banged up in a prison that’s made of shadow flames.

‘One down – two more to go!’ say the Shadows and go to lurk by the portal into Flipside.

Boris the Beavcoon lives there, in a land that would make you and me queasy. Everything is upside down, so the locals walk on the sky and look up to the grass but they live a very jolly life together. Boris is a bit of a geezer, and like all the other inhabitants has the head of a beaver and the body of a raccoon, but one of his front teeth is gold with a diamond winking in the middle. He likes nothing better than to create a bit of mayhem, but he always clears up after he’s made it. If he eats penguins he turns into a flying, super-dooper steel version of himself, but should he happen to eat a taco, his powers disappear.

Naturally he avoids tacos.

He’s playing hide and seek one day with friends and comes across this random door propped up against a wall.

‘Perfect!’ he says to himself and squeeeeeeeezes his burly body behind it. Unfortunately for him it’s the second portal and with a whizz and a hum, he’s in the shadow prison too.

‘Clever old us!’ say the Lost Shadows, rubbing their shadow paws, ‘Just one more to go and we’re sorted!’

In Dandilaisydill, Jessica is much given to granting wishes. Just one per person – mustn’t be greedy – and when she’s doing her job she’s dressed like a standard fairy with sparkly wings and tutu and a wand like a leaf she bought in Poundland. Actually, it’s just for show because the real magic’s in her head, but it convinces the punters, so she waves it around wildly when she’s granting things. At the end of a busy day, she retreats to her 50 room mansion at the top of a tree and likes nothing better than to party. She slips on her black leather jacket, her hip hop silk trousers and a snapback with Fairy Posse on the front – the tutu stays – and boogies under the disco ball, drinking cocktails all night.

She’s a keen gardener and one day when she’s fluttering around, spots some flowers with perky little faces. She zooms in to have a closer look and, schlurp! She’s sucked though the portal and into the prison.

Result!’ snicker the Lost Shadows and sneak over to the jail to gloat.

‘Hey!’ says Sebastian as Jessica lands on his head, ‘Who the deuce are you?’

‘I might ask you the same thing,’ says the fairy, ‘How did we end up here?’

‘Wassup?’ says Boris, ‘Like, this is waaaay uncool! We gotta get out of this place, man – this is seriously cramping my style.’

‘Oh Lord!’ says Sebastian, ‘Where’s Mummy and Daddy when you need them most? Somebody needs to think of a plan. I’m far too posh to do thinking, so you, weirdo, get your act together and get us out, will you?’

‘Watch this!’ says Boris and runs at the bars. ‘Ouch!’

‘Oh no!’ says Jessica, ‘Your nose is on fire!’ and she smothers the flames with her wings.

‘Got any penguins, dude?’ says Boris. ‘One of those and I’ll bust us out – no problem, know what I’m saying?’

‘Ah,’ says Jessica, ‘But they only seem to eat tacos here.’ Boris shrinks away into a corner.

‘But with my princely powers of observation, I notice you happen to be a fairy,’ says Sebastian.

‘Can you do a spot of magic to get us out? All that abracadabra whizzy stuff?’

‘Just one wish each,’ says Jessica.

‘Penguins!’ says Boris, ‘Gimme penguins!’ and the leaf wand waves over his head. But there’s been a slight misunderstanding. A huge pile of chocolate biscuits sits in front of the Beavcoon’s snout and, hungry though he is, it’s not going to turn him into steel.

‘Idiot!’ says Sebastian, ‘Get me out of here, fairy! Destination Astria, if you please.’ There’s a bang and a snap and a fair sprinkling of sparkles and Sebastian’s back on home ground.

He stands at the portal and observes. There are the Lost Shadows, prowling round the prison, shape-shifting and licking their lips. Any moment now, the captives are doomed, but Shadowland is suddenly plunged into darkness. For one hour a day the light disappears and of course the locals disappear too. (Being shadows and everything, they would).

Summoning his fiery gryphon, Sebastian rides to the rescue. The gryphon gobbles up the prison’s bars of flame and Boris and Jessica jump on its back.

‘Phew! Party time!’ says Jessica. ‘Everybody back to mine!’ and they swoop through the portal to Dandilaisydill and boogie the night away in her mansion. Many cocktails are consumed by them all.