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On a Saturday in Spring as the North Kensington community spilled out onto the streets for the locally organised We are One event, arts therapists with the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service rolled sheets of white paper onto pavements, and invited the community to express themselves with spray paints and other art materials.

Graffiti made by the community, at the We are One event

One by one, children and adults joined in to put paint to paper. Using stencils, they painted birds, bears, flowers, doodles and whatever moved them.

The Arts Therapies team provide individual and group therapy to people in Kensington and Chelsea.

Since June 2017, they have also used their skills to offer unique Arts for Wellbeing workshops for the local community. Arts Therapists work as part of the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing service, offering traditional arts therapy sessions as well as these workshops, where the arts are used to provide a thoughtful, creative and supportive space.

Whenever the team hosts graffiti and other creative arts workshops in the local community they’re very popular−people say that making art makes them feel good.

“Many people say our workshops are relaxing, calming, positive and enjoyable. They suggest that these tailored supportive activities are helpful with mood, learning resilience techniques, and for facilitating a greater awareness of unhelpful thinking patterns,” says Claire Grant, who oversees the arts community events, and arts psychotherapies within the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service.

Free community events
This team runs a wide range of events in the community – workshops or drop-ins− for people of different age groups, whether or not they’re being seen by the Grenfell Service.

Their community events include everything from expressive art, music making, along with workshops using clay, graffiti, dance, body percussion and puppet-making. One popular workshop involves enabling people to make creative wellbeing boxes, where people can reflect on objects, materials, and scents that remind them of helpful and supportive people, or memories and activities in their life, such as friends, family and hobbies.

Since Grenfell, they’ve connected with over 1,000 community members through events. Initially, the team started off responding to requests from community organisations, and callouts to support local family events.

“We got involved in family days running drumming, vocal and arts workshops and our input was very much appreciated. As our service evolved, we recognised that some people were finding our outreach Arts for Wellbeing projects a route into finding the emotional support they needed.”

“Art, drama or music are good starting points for people to start thinking of their wellbeing. After participating people have described ‘having a positive feeling of connectedness’ with their bodies, and ‘a sense of peace,’” said Claire.

These events can also be a bridge to coming into therapy – a stepping stone for those who may struggle with accessing services the traditional way.

People might not feel ready to confront their feelings head-on but these community events bring people together – the workshops can help create a feeling of safety and an opening for people to access wellbeing support when they are ready to.

“Our therapists are able to pick up on wellbeing needs, and are able to signpost people and support them to start thinking about their wellbeing.”

As one member of the community said at a recent event, “It gives me and others the tools to talk about our feelings.”

Creative boxes