Meet Renee, an adult carer from Islington

creative voices Islington

creative:voices is Create’s multi-artform programme that enables adult carers to take a creative break from their caring responsibilities, build trusting relationships with their peers and develop communication skills, new interests and confidence.

During September and October 2022, carers from Islington took part in six, weekly visual art workshops with our professional ceramic artist Liz Jackson.

Adult carer Renee (57) told us about her experiences.

“I have been caring for my mother for 15 years. Taking on caring responsibilities was hard because I wasn’t expecting it. I’d gone through a divorce and I’d just come home. Something happened to mum and she asked me to stay. I was self-employed but that job disappeared because I couldn’t travel up and down the country anymore.

“Mum’s doing really well, and I got her through COVID. I got COVID and she didn’t. I was so sick I thought I was going to die, so afterwards I thought: ‘I need to change the way I live.’ Now I live a short distance away [from mum] and my brothers do more to help, but I’m still the primary carer. It’s not easy.

Telling stories through art

“I have discovered that I love drawing. I now carry a little notebook with me.”

renee, adult carer

“This Create project was an opportunity to learn some new crafts. We did a range: drawing, painting, weaving and clay work. I had a lovely time. I have discovered that I love drawing, and I now carry a little notebook with me.

“I made a little feathery blue and white dreamcatcher which is now sitting in my bedroom. It’s so pretty, but it’s also a meaningful ornament. I think I need my artistry to have some sort of meaning or purpose and a dreamcatcher is a story. How did you make it? Who were you with? The story lives, in a way. I don’t have children. I think the need to create something that can outlast you is something fundamental to human nature. I like creating things from scratch.   

learning to play again

“I loved the project. It’s nice meeting other carers, chatting to people and just having a little bit of time for yourself. I also loved having a chance to explore and play and do things I haven’t done since I was a kid. I was told by a teacher I couldn’t draw, so I always thought I couldn’t. I’ve certainly said to that teacher, “you were wrong! You shouldn’t be telling children that they can’t do stuff!” Why should I be good at something the first time I try it?

“Working with everyone was really good. It was a nice harmonious group. I enjoy having people to play with. It’s that simple. Playing is fun and you often don’t do it. Life can be so serious and the challenges of doing what I do and holding a job, it’s just so hard. Having somewhere where you can come and play with other people who want to play and who are having similar challenges to you is really nice.

“Following these workshops, I now meet with two people I met at [the Create project] once a month. We eat and have a cup of tea and we bring our crafts out. It doesn’t matter what it is, we’ll just bring what we like, or nothing. It’s like a knit and natter class but it’s for arts and crafters.

“We’re all in isolated little pockets”

“Working with Liz was great too. She’s absolutely lovely. The thing that I really liked about her is that she let me be the creator I wanted to be. When we did the weaving, people were using the string and the wool, and I wanted to use ribbon. She didn’t bat an eyelid. When people were making small clay pots and I made a big one, she didn’t bat an eyelid. She believes in the right of the artist to create their own work, and that’s very valuable.

“Sometimes you’re pushed in very rigid ways and you can learn a craft but you don’t own what you’ve learnt. By letting me play and create the way I wanted to, I didn’t just own the end result, I owned the process.

“Projects like this help carers with our mental health. They give us somewhere to go. There’s a lot of fear. You don’t really know what we’re suffering because we’re all in houses by ourselves. We’re all in isolated little pockets, so unless we come together, we don’t know what’s happening for other people.

This project is funded by The Smiles Fund, awarding funds from Walkers and Comic Relief.