Angus Creative Minds is an emerging social enterprise created by people in Angus for people in Angus. We focus on the right to health using creativity to break down silos, recognise the parity of mental and physical health and also social barriers people face.
The idea emerged one afternoon when three of us, who were working on a co-created and co-produced exhibition as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) in 2019, were asked if we knew anyone who would take over a building from its current tenants, and we each looked at the others and then all nodded, YES! Little did we know that 18th January 2019 was going to be the start of an exciting journey. At the time it was easy to wonder if we were dreaming or being unrealistic, or if our ideas were going to fit together well. More importantly, we hardly knew each other, but soon learned we all had lived experience.
In developing a way for working together it was important for us to recognise the challenges we all face, and even more so to find a way of working which captured our talents, skills and strengths. We were determined not to be forced into methods which stifle creativity, sense of self, or negatively impact on our mental health individually and collectively. We fostered an organic approach to working, opting for unstructured meetings, spontaneity, and synchronicity, utilising psychological bricolage. Instead of project planning with a critical path and formal methods, we call our approach ‘project unplanning’. By this we mean there are minimal fixed factors. We also agreed there would be no ‘musts’, ‘have tos’ and ‘shoulds’.
We recognise that our unplanning approach mirrors our experiences of living with mental ill health – some days everything goes to plan, and our productivity is exponential. On others, self-care is a priority. Working together created many opportunities for sharing personal stories and learning about each other and how we tick.
This approach worked successfully for the Celebration of Creativity exhibition, allowing us to go with the flow and respond to last minute changes, making the exhibitions held during May 2019 a success in terms of the number and range of artists exhibiting their work, and also the diversity of their personal experiences, which many people shared with us.
During this busy time preparing for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2019, our plans for a creative centre were developing, and we started working towards this vision. Now and then one of us would take a step back to prioritise self-care, but overall we kept building towards our dream – a quality gallery space, and creative workshop areas, somewhere for anyone with any health or social problem to engage in creative activities.
Our motivation was helped along the way by an informal discussion with a potential funder, and more recently in July 2019 a meeting with a couple of senior workers in mental health services in Angus. A few days beforehand we thought it might help to think about how to present our ideas, and a 3-d model of the premises was prepared, along with a vision / mood board. At the meeting, we were momentarily speechless when one said he was already ‘sold on the product’ and the other asked ‘when can we have one in every Angus town’. Next came the challenge to secure enough funding to open the premises, to create the gallery space with the desired quality finish, and prepare the creative areas. A draft funding application was prepared at the end of July, and our critical friends agreed to review it for us, and provide some really useful feedback. Midnight oil was burnt to revise the funding application ready to submit in a matter of days in early August, a week ahead of a meeting where we had the chance to give a presentation.
In the last week of August we were visited by a senior NHS manager, who was keen to meet the team, and hear about our plans. Later that day we received the news that our funding request had been approved.
Now we have a short time before we get the keys on 1st October, and open on 18th October with ’Making an Exhibition of Ourselves’. The premises need to be refurbished, staff recruited, equipment and resources sourced, and numerous back office tasks.
Soon to open, Angus Creative Minds is a:
- Centre for creativity and wellness
- Created locally by people for people
- Sharing experiences, skills and food
- Nurturing, caring and growing together
Blog Author: Sheila Newcombe, Angus Creative Minds
Angus Creative Minds is a finalist in the VHS Annual Conference 2019 Poster Competition. View the poster here: