Saturday, 1 July 2017


International Culture, Health and Wellbeing Conference, Bristol, 2017
I am pleased to say we had a very successful time presenting at the International Culture, Health and Wellbeing conference in Bristol last week. Liz Sokoski spoke eloquently on her experiences with Art & Soul and how she came to direct the "Flow of Life" film we later screened to our audience. Many thanks to Betsy Lewis-Holmes who took time out of her busy PhD writing schedule to support us on the day. It was also pretty amazing to see the turnout of hundreds of conference delegates who were using creative activity in its various forms to enhance health and wellness. We also learned a white paper entitled 'Creative Health' is soon to launch, highlighting the increasingly acknowledged of value and potential of using creative engagement to enhance our wellbeing. Good.

I love fish. I love their shape, their movements and I think they are wonderful to draw. So this week, putting the group to the test I located a selection of fish imagery and designed a simple brief for participants to tackle the form considering the various techniques they had developed or learned during our workshops. It's important to remind ourselves what we know and what we can do and to put that knowledge to action. This doesn't have to be over complicated or over-thought, just a simple opportunity to reacquaint oneself with 'hey, I can do that' to trigger a growth mindset or cue a shift in perspective. I support this is also what I love about arts and wellbeing, the process and activity can function on so many diverse and functional levels.

From the inside - Art & Soul's guest blogger, B. Lee
Today as I was walking along in the rain along Whitton high street, someone stopped me, I didn't recognise her, she said, "you were the lady that drew the fishes!!" We stopped to have a chat and she was the daughter of one of our students who came along yesterday for the first time. She remembered me as when I left the (Art & Soul) group yesterday, I was holding up my fishes that I drew.

It's been an emotional time, am sure whether it's age or something -  my brain feels it's actually changing!!! Am not as organised as I was, and sometimes I forget to charge my mobile at night, but my mind isn't a black hole, isn't a mess of various people in my life, isn't a jumble of their emotions instead of mine. So I look at something in a different way, I see objects as they are, I can draw them now in my mind, everything seems more objective, more real. It's like a hazy mist on a cold frosty morning in the countryside has lifted and there is something being unwrapped underneath, like an orange peel.

I may even start to draw at home, in the times when I am alone and threats and anger seem to come to me, how different I might feel if I drew something, anything.  

The picture of the fish is lying on the table, am thinking 'shall I frame them so I can look at them and remind myself who I really am, what I can really do?'  I am not good at changes in my life, coming out of a comfort zone, but am emerging of sorts; it just feels so very different to what I used to be, who I used to be.  

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

From the Inside - Art& Soul's Guest Blogger

"I came to the class in the middle in time for the lovely lunch and cup of tea.  A warm welcome always greets us "Hello Babs how are you today".  I can feel myself letting go of the world outside, instructions once a blur for me to take in are clear "we are doing patterns and then putting them onto a collage" I started doing triangles, when I was a child I doodled boxes and triangles, so now I just did patterns of triangles, I decided I wanted them in one colour.  It all seemed quite easy for me to do, and for me to make a decision to decide on a colour or pattern, well that's a change from just putting a splurge of paint on some paper and saying well I can't paint.

After the class Julia sat with me while I articulated stuff about my family, about how I saw things differently now, that mental health issues had consumed both my father, and brother but now I have stepped out I understand it better, I am not part of it, I am on the outside, but I have suffered  from a family consumed with depression and sadness, I grew up in that family, at any time it could be me, going down like the others, not coping, not dealing, not seeing, not hearing.

I am at home alone today, there is always an emptiness where the love of family and past relationships should be but it's gone now that feeling has gone, so I plan my day, a swim this afternoon, teaching later and then to Kingston for rock choir singing.

I was so pleased that art and soul got charity status that we are part of that, that it's recognised what great work art therapy does In helping to heal.  I hope I can do something to raise awareness through art.  I want to do that.  Because I didn't go down, I didn't want to I fought it, but others do, and they can come up again. "

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Manchester - From our guest blogger

I am writing after the terrible news this morning. What would have been a recount of my art class has become a blur, an insignificant period of time during the day when I was occupied.  So today I am giving my recount away and instead I am leaving a space blank, a white empty space for all the victims and injured of Manchester.

Filled with sadness today xxxxxxx

Friday, 12 May 2017

We're presenting at the International Culture, Health and Wellbeing Conference in Bristol, 2017

In June, Art & Soul Member Liz Sokoski and myself will be presenting and showing her film, Flow of Life at the International Culture, Health and Wellbeing conference in Bristol

Presenting at the conference is a real honour for us. I think there were 400 applications from 20 different countries. Below, our session overview and conference bios. Wish us luck!

Presentation Overview:

Flow of life is a 15-minute film based on Art & Soul; an arts and wellbeing programme for adults with mental health challenges. Through the vision of service-user and film maker Liz Sokoski, the film explores the group’s recent Flow of Life exhibition and the use of creative activity to enhance mental health. Brief interviews with Art & Soul participants highlight their understanding of the effectiveness of the programme on mental health and wellbeing.

Entering its first decade, Art & Soul is an early innovator in the field of arts and wellbeing programming within a museum and gallery environment. A biennial exhibition lies at the hub of Art & Soul’s programming and provides an opportunity for an extended network of several hundred members to share and contribute their creative talents. This year, Art & Soul’s Flow of Life exhibition was attended by over 3700 visitors. 

As part of Art & Soul’s regular programming, weekly arts workshops take a proactive, positive psychology approach to creative activity and wellbeing. Here, open ended briefs encourage empowerment and self-discovery, with attention to themes that address meaning, enjoyment, resilience and positive community experience. 

The session will include a brief talk by Liz Sokoski on the experience and process of creating her film, as well as her membership with Art & Soul. The session will also incorporate a short talk by arts and wellbeing practitioner Julia Ruppert, on designing, delivering and measuring effective arts and wellbeing programmes within a museum and gallery setting.


Liz Sokoski, film maker and service user
Following a successful career in corporate marketing and communications, a series of major life incidents led Liz to a state of feeling helpless, hopeless and voiceless. In 2012, her need for reassessment and personal healing brought Liz to Art & Soul where she was encouraged to let go of self-criticism and explore the outlet of creative expression. Stemming from her engagement with the programme, Liz has gone on to complete a foundation Diploma in Art & Design and films for Time to Change, Richmond Adult Community College and Art & Soul.

Julia Ruppert, MA., MAPP.,  Arts and Wellbeing Practitioner

Julia has been involved with Art & Soul, since its inception. An HCPC registered Art Therapist, Julia’s work takes a positive psychology approach to wellbeing through practical and directed creative activities. Founder of non-profit organisation Collective Arts, Julia has curated and coordinated a vast range of art exhibitions, workshops, exhibitions and large-scale art installation projects. Julia is passionate about the impact of using targeted creative activity to empower individuals. In September 2017 she will expand on these ideas to launch The Artery Project, an evidence-based community arts and wellbeing programme.

After joining Art & Soul

A few weeks into our Community Learning programme, we asked participants to share what they had experienced or gained from being apart of the weekly workshops. This is what they said,

'Here there is no role or remit other than to explore. A creative brief is provided as a point to start you rather than a place to arrive or a criteria to meet. Expression is free and fluid. Rather than target-based choices; curiosity leads me. New possibilities take seed, come away and activity continues heart-fully once more. Calm occupation and orientation stills the body and awakens and refreshes the mind.'

'I found a way to be expressive in my art and achieve therapeutic benefits. The staff are very supportive when you're feeling anxious.'

'I've found friendly company and no bad vibes.'

'I learned that there is no wrong way to approach a creative task.

'Art & Soul has given me a space to explore my deepest emotions. At the beginning I could only draw abstract forms and colours to fill the page. Now my mind is more structured, quieter, and I am able to draw for the first time in my life, things, objects, people. Today I drew birds like a child discovering something new and I thought, "This looks good!"`My mind is less cluttered with acute family stuff, which would once send me into a black hole of low self-esteem, and now seems more manageable. Life is more manageable. Yes, I get low days, but I always look forward to my Monday class, even more so now as I feel I am becoming an emerging artist, creating things from mind that for so long I allowed to be controlled by others.' 

'I've been finding learning about art relaxing and enjoyable.'

'I've benefitted from meeting other people, learning new things about others and myself and being able to just 'be'. 

'I've learned about different methods of painting and blending paint by seeing what other people do.'

'Since I've come I've met a few people and got back into creating artwork. However, I have not met anybody who wants to accompany me to English Heritage sites when the weather gets better. It's very lonely visiting such sites as a single person!'

Photographs by Stephen Graham

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Domestic and Emotional Abuse

Women's Refuge Centre: 0808 2000 247 (24 hour help line). You can call this number on behalf of yourself or someone else.

An Occupation Order ( can be put in place to remove an abusive person from the home.

A non-molestation order ( can also be taken out if you want protection from someone.  The National Centre for Domestic Violence ( 0800 970 2070) has on-line forms for both of these.

Local police stations will have a domestic violence unit you can contact.

The Freedom Programme ( can provide other information and support on domestic violence.


  • None of this is your fault
  • You can't 'get it right' in an abusive relationship


  • Keep yourself as safe as possible.
  • Contact a neighbour who could call the police on your behalf.
  • Take evidence, for example a recording on your cell phone.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Art & Soul from the Inside - Guest blogger

A morning's art  - Monday 8th May 

"When I go into the art room I feel I am coming home.  I don't know why it's just a feeling of a sense of belonging.  And so this morning, I arrived, took my cup of tea and poised ready, the long art table in front of me, waiting for the drool of brightly coloured paints to spill over onto the plastic tablecloth.  I had quite a lot on my mind, big family stuff was lurking somewhere ready to explode like a lighted firework, but then somehow, somewhere I dampened the flame and it burned out slowly slowly,  until I felt some kind of inner peace again.

I had planned some stuff I wanted to do, I think it was to paint a door, a brown door which was slightly ajar, and it was like there was nothing around it just a white wall. And this door, it wasn't even on the ground just suspended.  Anyway I didn't get to paint it. And I've never painted a door before!!

And so some instructions followed on a piece of paper, then a practical demonstration.  Something about putting on silver paper and drawing through it, then painting it.
I wasn't really taking it in.  I can't take a lot of detailed instructions at the same time.  I thought, "I can't do this," I nearly gave up.  I wanted to paint a door.  

But then a gentle hand, a bit of one-to-one, and I got focused, and I knew what to do, and did it.  It was fun, some new technique, a different kind of paint, enamels. 
The morning was light and free, cups of tea, a brunch lunch, to take as when it pleases.
I looked around at the others, some beautiful images that now filled the art table which was just an hour before so bare of reds and blues and tinted gold.  

The time went quickly and just at the end, I kind of unburdened my issues to a friendly trusting face. That burden I had come with, of a feeling of abandonment and aloneness, halfway to loneliness lifted like a plane when its wheels just leave the runway and it soars into the white dusty clouds.  

And so with the image of reds and golds on a piece of silvery cardboard safely tucked away in a drawer and the art table cleared of paintbrushes dipped in murky sea blue cups of water another art morning ended." ~ Barbara