Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Guest Blog Post, Meet Kath...

As you know we have been sharing stories about the experiences of our past Arts on Prescription students recently. We have a treat for you this week with a guest blog post from one of our former students and volunteer - Kath Rimmer, in her own words she tells us how she found AOP and the impact it has had on her life... A truly inspiring read!


A couple of years ago my daughter picked up a leaflet for Arts on Prescription in our local post office. We are both avid crafters and spent ages poring over the courses that were on offer – to be honest, we fancied them all. At the time I was feeling pretty low emotionally for all sorts of reasons, and wondered if I could cope being in a room full of strangers trying to learn something new, but in the end I decided to just give it a go – after all I could leave if it was too much for me.

We both chose different courses, my daughter did  print making and I chose a general craft course where we would be having a taste of all sorts of things at the ACE centre in Nelson.

Looking back now, I can see that taking part in this course changed the direction my life was taking. I had left a job through stress and was finding it hard to envisage my future, it was a pretty bleak time and the courage it took to make the decision to go to that class was immense, but I am so glad I did it, and oh how my life has changed since that day!

The tutor on the course made us all feel comfortable, she was happy and enthusiastic and so eager to share with us the skills and knowledge she had. We did all sorts of weird and wonderful things, felt making, printing, paper making – we even ironed plastic bags – all in the name of art! But – it was the people who attended the course who made it what it was. We were all there to get out of the house, to learn something new, and to meet people. We gradually began to talk to each other and make friends, we all had so much in common – we were there because we needed to get away from the pressures of life, even if it was for just a few hours a week. Those few hours would help to sustain us until the next week which couldn’t come round soon enough – we would talk together, laugh at some of the weird and wonderful things we produced and soon came to realise that we were not isolated in our feelings and emotions, we could share with people who understood.
I came to realise just how therapeutic I found the creative process and when the course came to an end a group of us who wanted to continue to meet started to attend a similar group independent of the AOP.

I began to realise that I wanted to use all these wonderful experiences to create a better future for myself doing something I have always loved and so in 2013 I signed up to do a degree in Contemporary Textiles and the University Centre at Blackburn College – something I had always wanted to do but never had the time or the confidence for before – I thought I would be older than most people there, but I wasn’t, I thought I had been out of formal education for too long, but I had a wealth of life experiences to bring with me, and it has changed my life!

As part of the degree we had to undertake ‘Work Based Learning’ in an area we wanted to work in. Straight away I contacted Kirsty Rose at AOP to see if there was anything she could offer me – and after one of the nicest interviews I have ever had, signed up as a volunteer on a Journaling course they were running at Pendleside Hospice in Burnley with people who had been bereaved.

I will not lie, I was nervous. The tutor Beverly was great, setting everyone at ease as we embarked on a series of sessions that gave everyone the creative tools they would need to create beautiful meaningful artistic journals. It was an incredibly moving class, wonderful to observe a group of people, again with a great deal in common, as they began to get to know each other and relax in each other’s company, seeing friendships form, and how everyone had great respect for each other’s feelings and emotions. I felt very privileged to be allowed to be a part of that.
My duties as a volunteer mainly involved carrying equipment in and out of the building, washing paint pots and brushes and offering my own bits of knowledge and expertise where I could, and of course taking part in the classes and learning and meeting new people.

It’s not often in life these days that opportunities like the Arts on Prescription classes come along, education has become more and more expensive, most courses come with an exam at the end, and nothing lasts forever. To be able to take part in a course taught by a professional who is passionate about their field, to have no pressure or worries for those few hours every week, to gain a new skill or reignite a love of something you haven’t done for years, to meet genuinely lovely people who can empathise with you – to have that human contact, well its worth more than its weight in gold as my grandmother used to say.

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