As I look back over the past four years, I am trying to remember what lead me to begin running the Bee Creative Community Workshops. As a creative myself at the time, I saw the benefits of indulging in a artistic past time outside of the day job. Don’t get me wrong I love being a teacher, and at the time I had a great job coaching GCSE students in a city academy which was both meaningful and rewarding, but I needed something else – an escape.I have always had a creative side, my most successful subjects at school were art and literature, and I love any opportunity to let my imagination run free.

Creativity somehow helps to balance out the pressures of work and life in general. I suppose if I thought that creating had this effect on me, then it could work this way for other people too. And so my little eco-sewing business extended to a series of creative workshops, which started as part of other events like The Remarkable Recycling Gala and the Sunshine Vintage Bazaar.Sewing has been one of my passions since I was a child, however my first workshops were based on origami models I learned from a special needs teacher I used to work with, who helped me to retrain my non-logical brain with a series of increasingly complex models.

Origami is a great craft to learn as it is entirely portable and resources needed are minimal, and so it became a therapeutic art-form that I could take anywhere and teach anyone. Once mastered, the repetitive actions are known to calm the mind and it can be incredibly satisfying watching the pile of carefully creased models grow in front of you. Some of our group origami sessions have led to some beautiful installations. One of my favourites was Travelling with Nature, a destination focused project that saw us sending folded butterflies all over the world, which encouraged visitors to Beeston Library to fold and contribute their own handmade butterflies.

Crafting in a group does so much more than offer an opportunity for some time-out, it also promotes community. It is this that spurred me on more, I think. Watching how participants confidence has grown both in their creative abilities and social interactions has hit home how much these weekly sessions can help to combat loneliness and make people feel part of a group. Humans are social animals and we crave interaction, even if it we like it to be on our terms, and I hope that running group sessions like Bee Creative Community Workshops goes some way to breaking down the barriers that some people have with regard to meeting people with similar interests.

I have seen friendships develop and heard coffee dates being arranged and all of this encourages me to build on what was once an idea to get people together crafting, just for the sheer goodness of it. Since moving to Middle Street Resource Centre in June 2017, Bee Creative has attracted local people of all ages and backgrounds and although female dominated there are occasionally male participants too and anyone is welcome. People who rely on the mental health services supplied by Middle Street Resource Centre sit comfortably with members of the wider local community and there is always an atmosphere of encouragement and warmth. It’s what makes what we do so special.

We do a range of crafts from painting to printmaking, stitching to decoupage and are now a fabulous team of four. I now only need to plan, prep and deliver one session in four, I have more time to devote to additional projects that I hope will further empower members of the group. We are currently building up a gallery of our work, planning workshops for this year’s Remarkable Recycling Gala and working on extending our range of skills. Supported in the early days by Lucy and her amazing team at Two Little Magpies, we are going to be working closely with them this year to launch teen art therapy sessions. And so our little community continues to grow.