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2000- 2004: i am- Arts and Mental Health Forum for London. Co- development, peer- led with Helen Shearne

2010- 2012: Emergence Arts Social Network (Programme mangement)

The Arts and Social network is a support group that provides an opportunity for people who identify with the diagnosis of personality disorder, their carers and friends to meet monthly, outside of conventional ‘ therapeutic support systems at London based arts and cultural events on a regular basis.

Its main aims are:

  • ·      To support and facilitate service users to meet together in a safe and inclusive manner
  • ·      Provide a resource for people who may feel extremely socially isolated to enjoy the experience of going to cultural events
  • ·      Be with a peer group who can appreciate the difficulties of identifying with issues around personality disorder
  • ·      Enables people to socially engage with arts based practice and use the medium of art to connect with each other and others
  • ·      Provides access to the arts to those who my be excluded from mainstream arts practice or access
  • ·      To challenge the stigma of mental health by engaging with the public in a positive dialogue about mental health in the non- clinical, cultural settings when sharing workshops and public tours.

Type of Art Practice

Responding to the interests of the members, the ASN accesses a wide range of art and socially engaging arts based practice. These include: Attending major exhibitions and events, participating in visual art workshops, music and film. Events have included, Hollywood Costume at the V & A, Yoko Ono at the Serpentine, Workshops at The Wallace Collection, Critical debates at The Camden Arts Centre, participating regularly with the Art into Life at Tate Modern, classical concerts at St Martin’s in the Field, The Cinema Museum. Events are often led by the curator, facilitated by an artist, self- directed or in- house arts activity following a cultural visit.

Tate Leadership Programme

Selected ASN members are currently attending a Leadership Training Programme at Tate Modern to enable them to lead Asn Art into Life workshops at Tate Modern for Emergence. Over 6 months Liz Ellis will be guiding 6 members to experience different community learning techniques to enable them to confidently lead sessions on their own. 

The Importance of Art and the ‘here and now’

The group provides the context within which socialisation and the formation and development of self can occur (Benson, 2987). A process of socialisation is possible through the medium of art, which reduces the “pain of being together” (Brooker, 2010). The art plays a dual purpose primarily as a distraction technique to enable those attending to have a tolerable and meaningful experience of connection to each other and by providing an experiential focus for conversation. The art enables people to stay in the present, “lessening the impact of their overwhelming self- critical internal dialogues” (Brooker, 2010).

Benson, J. (1987). Working more creatively with Groups. Tavistock Publications Ltd.

Brooker, A. (2010). ASN Underpinning. Emergence.

Emergence (2011). Evlauation of the Arts and Social Network

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