Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it – you get out what you put in
The creative industry is driven by people with a passion to connect with others in a way that isn’t merely about handing over money in return for their wares. Of course an artist or arts facilitator needs to make a healthy profit to make a living but that’s not what drives them.
For instance, Marie Lefebvre wants to change the world for the better: if that’s not enough of an ambition to get you out of bed for work every morning, I don’t know what is.
“We do what we do because we feel that by showing what at first appears impossible, others can be inspired, follow suit and change the world into a better one,”
she says. Footpaths based last year’s Green Festival of Making and Mending on inspiring people to make and mend in an ingenious, creative and environmentally friendly way to keep their possessions for longer. The ethos is a statement in itself: why buy it when you can make or mend it? A statement that goes against the grain in a culture many might argue has become a rather soulless commercial vacuum. “The objects which I love and value most in my life are almost all made by friends or old with a history of care and repair attached to them – their physical beauty or use has a patina of emotional attachment,” explains festival organiser Zina Zelter. “I’d love to change the world to one where it we all had fewer, but more valued, possessions and we wanted and knew how to mend and care for them. I think that world would be much richer and involve many more connections to people than our current consumer culture.”
A motivation like that is in your bones. Health and wellbeing workshop leader Lisa Pidgeon would agree.
“Being a human is a very lonely affair and just having a community around you helps with that loneliness. I hope that I am helping others who are struggling with their mental health to feel less lonely, to feel that someone cares and that they can do something to help themselves lead happier and healthier lives. That’s why I do what I do.”
she admits, a need which led to her taking redundancy from a clinical job and pouring her efforts into setting up Little Bird SOS. Lisa adds: “I want to help others, particularly those experiencing mental health difficulties, to create a community and to help them find a way to cope. Being a human is a very lonely affair and just having a community around you helps with that loneliness. I hope that I am helping others who are struggling with their mental health to feel less lonely, to feel that someone cares and that they can do something to help themselves lead happier and healthier lives. That’s why I do what I do.”
Lisa knew she wanted to make a difference to people with mental health difficulties and so her ideas were born out of that drive: her workshops involve creating things which are completely unique from materials such as cereal boxes, envelopes, old jumpers and sarees, willow twigs, newly sheared sheep fleeces…. “I really don’t want to be a teacher – that feels too prescriptive to me,” continues Lisa. “I want to be more of a facilitator, creating the circumstances for creativity to happen in a beautiful, inclusive and nurturing environment. It can be unsettling for some, especially those who have always been told that there is a right and wrong way to do things, but over time, they come to embrace this way of doing things – it’s about empowering mental self-sufficiency.”
One person who can wholeheartedly agree with Lisa from personal experience is Peter Hirst, whose innovative Moving InWards and rethinkyourmind projects have tackled mental health in a positive way using music, such as live music on wards and the release of an EP containing the lyrics and artwork of those touched by the subject. Peter’s vision was “to help to normalise mental health and provide support and signposting for families, friends and carers”. No small task, but he – like Lisa – tackled it with creativity, recognising that mental health challenges don’t need to be a life sentence of doom and gloom. Pete points out:
“I am very keen to approach the subject creatively in a positive way, as the word mental health is often linked with illness when, in fact, the word only states health!”
Whereas Lisa’s background in nursing gave her an insight into care and compassion beyond medicine, it was Pete’s experience on the other side of the fence as a patient which inspired him to make a difference. “It feels very much like I was meant to do this work,” he admits. “I feel very strongly that people should be provided with empowering tools and support signposting to help them on their journey in life. I spent time on the hospital wards in my early 20’s before being diagnosed with bipolar. It is this work and those tools which have helped to keep me well over the years. I believe options are the most important things for us in challenging times, as when you find what works for you, everything changes.”
Whatever the part you play in your beloved art, “do it for devotion, not ambition,” advises Rob Gee. Devotion came through stronger than anything else when interviewing everyone for this blog. As Anand Bhattof dance company Aakash Odedra sums up beautifully:
“Dance is who I am, not what I do.”