Creative partnerships fuelling wellbeing

The small market town of Bentham is about as far west in North Yorkshire that you can go before you hit Lancashire, and it was here that our recent visit to community groups started.

In hot sunshine, after a glorious drive through the Dales, a group from Two Ridings and Clare Granger the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire were greeted by the lovely Lynda and Nikki at Pioneer Projects. Based in a converted mill, this bright and light community space is the heart of a charity that promotes health and wellbeing for people using the arts.

Two women laughing at an Art class

With a daily range of activities in their Bentham base, they also run activities in Settle and Skipton and throughout the Craven area with an emphasis on holistic wellbeing and partnering organisations to reach as many local people as possible.

We enjoyed meeting folk at their Creative Community Hub session, where people of all ages come together to work on their own art projects, with a cuppa and others for company.

One woman explained how she lost her confidence to go out during Covid and the group helped her regain that self-esteem as well as find her creative side. Another older woman was proud of her bold cat picture and told us how the group brought her friendship and banter after the loneliness of losing her husband.

‘I have been coming to Pioneer Projects for 20 years,’ said one man busy making a complex wooden model of a car.I come twice a week, my wife comes to a dementia group here, and even my daughter comes to sessions. It’s a lifeline for us all.’

collage of people at an Art Class

The visit in Bentham culminated in Nikki, an artist and community lead at the Pioneer Projects receiving a High Sheriff’s award for her 25 years of service, inspiring others and being the Queen of recycling in the name of creativity. There were cheers and tears.

Friendship and socialising at Pateley Shed

We moved on to Pateley Shed in Nidderdale, a great workspace, tucked away on a back street of this Nidderdale town, where local men showed us around and talked passionately about the difference the space had made for them.

Making bird houses, lathing ornamental mushrooms and showing off the big projects they have done for the community, Pateley Shed acts as not only a place for men to come together to work on projects, but also a place to chat and talk through their problems when they need to.

Collage of the inside of a men's shed

‘I moved to the area three years ago,’ Steve told us, ‘I didn’t know many people and this has provided a bunch of guys I can talk to and great facilities to work on projects I don’t have the tools for at home. I think men find it difficult to share their problems, but it is amazing here, as soon as someone talks about something, everyone jumps in and has a similar issue, or solution to share.’

Pateley Shed struggled during Covid and with funding from Two Ridings managed to encourage more members and purchase some power tools. It now runs three times a week and has a core membership of twenty men. They work closely with other groups in the area, providing a ‘community workshop’ for any woodwork and making items, like planters,  to benefit the community at large.

Routes to wellbeing for everyone

Orb Community Arts in Knaresborough was our final destination.

What looks like a backstreet industrial garage from the outside, is actually a thriving community hub where people of all ages were enjoying a fun arts session, a musician was laying a track in their purpose built studio and at the back a vibrant vegetable garden and wildlife haven was being tended, and enjoyed.

Established in 2004, Orb is a mental health and wellbeing focused arts charity that works directly with people experiencing the effects of poor mental health, engaging them in a range of creative and celebratory activities. Here people overcome isolation and fulfil their potential. It’s a very inclusive and vibrant community.

‘I love coming here,’ Matt told us. ‘I feel part of something, and it is so happy and friendly’.

A young woman working in the garden explained the difference gardening at Orb had made to her.

‘I live in a small apartment with my daughter and assistance dog. I grow tomatoes, but don’t have the space to do anything else. Here I have the space and it makes me feel good. I love being amongst the plants. You can’t believe you are the centre of the town. It is tucked away and a real haven. I work long hours in a care home. But this is my sanctuary.’

a lush garden full of vegetables and greenery

Orb also work closely with other local organisations in the wider Harrogate area providing a ‘Route One to Wellness’ partnering with Mind, Wellspring Therapy and Claro Enterprises to provide a holistic approach to wellbeing. Orb recognise that people need support and things to do from all angles and by working together they can provide not only the activities they put on, but further support through therapy, counselling and a wider choice of things to take part in.

Celia McKeon, Chief Executive of Two Ridings reflected on the power of partnerships in enabling holistic community action following the day. She said

‘Partnerships are at the heart of how Pioneer Projects, Pateley Shed and the Orb are all working – spotting ways in which they can complement and collaborate with others.

It’s strategic but it’s also instinctive, and it means they do an amazing job of responding to everyone who walks through the door as a multi-dimensional human being. They see ways in which their organisational contribution fits into the wider web of services, opportunities and initiatives, and they make those connections work for the people who need them most.

I think we as funders could do a lot better at recognising, supporting and investing in the work of grassroots partnerships.

We all need to think about being less directive or “projectising” everything.

Partnership takes intention and time and trust; it’s fundamentally about relationships. And I’ll be mulling on ways in which we can honour the importance of this in the way that we fund.’

It was a day full of smiles, creativity and learning. The High Sheriff was presented with a goodie bag of vegetables freshly picked from the Orb’s garden.

She commented:

‘In my year as High Sheriff, I wanted to ascertain the connection between creativity and wellbeing. Today, I have seen first-hand three community organisations proving how crucial it is.’

collage of people enjoying an arts centre and a garden

Continued support always needed

If you want to make a donation to Two Ridings to ensure our vital support goes out to the community groups in your area you can do so here.

Make a donation

If you want to talk more deeply about making a difference to local communities and people in York, North Yorkshire, Hull and East Riding, do not hesitate to get in touch with our CEO Celia McKeon