Creative Writing for Carers in Manchester

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New arts for health programmes and initiatives are taking place at The University of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery with the aim of making art and creative writing more accessible to carers or those with a physical or mental health need. Dementia has been the focus of late, and two of these programmes are running from the end of September into early October: ‘Creative Writing for Carers’ and ‘Coffee, Cake and Culture’. Whereas the former looks to make use of the written word to write about art and emotional or psychological experience, the latter introduces a range of methods and materials for expressing ourselves visually:

Central to these programmes is the premise that when we represent our experience (whether in and through words or other means of expression) the effects are therapeutic. Particularly this can be case when experiences occur at the limits of what we are able to convey, as with trauma or depression for instance. This would have a value in itself; though politically I think it’s important to offer this kind of catharsis or alchemical approach in a society where the pharmaceutical route has become so commonplace. Pills are regularly and even casually prescribed by GPs for a range of ailments often under the broad umbrella of ‘stress’. For many, symptoms may simply be there as a result of not having had the opportunity to speak or put into signs what has, up until now, remained ineffable or been felt in the body (tears for example are a somatic response to pain).        

‘Creative Writing for Carers’ will essentially involve asking participants to look around the gallery and choose an image or object that seems meaningful or interesting to them. The next stage will involve close looking at what they have chosen, and writing a piece of creative writing (any form will do) which in some way describes the image or their experience of looking, including being in the gallery space. Later the participants will re-convene for a group discussion to explore what, if anything, of their present lives such as mood states or bodily sensations has managed to find an outlet.      

Introducing or re-introducing the practice of creative writing can involve significant hurdles. The most obvious one is low confidence or self-esteem and the perception that creative writing is not for them, or it’s something that talented people do. An effective strategy to adopt, if we are ever tasked with facilitating such a group, is to avoid using terms such as ‘poetry’ or ‘art’. These are, for most, too highbrow and intimidating; they can seem out of reach. It is far better to talk about expression, playfulness, fun, or experimenting with words and seeing what they can do. Indeed, this is, I would expect, how most of us who now think of ourselves as poets or creative writers began in the first place.

For further details on any of the programmes or to make a referral, please email Daisy Strang the events organiser.

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