Tower Hamlets resident, Phillip Singh is turning what has been a difficult period  in his life into something positive that can benefit others. With the support of Gary Long, Working Well Trust  Employment and Vocational Adviser, Phillip has secured funding to run a user-led art group in Tower Hamlets to support local people going through similar difficulties. Expressions in Art takes place every Wednesday evening from 6.30pm on the Isle of Dogs. Phillip said, “I hope the group will provide a way for people to express themselves though art. I am someone who finds it quite difficult to express myself verbally. I have dyslexia so have struggled most of my life to express ideas and feelings in the way most of the world wants me to. However, I have never had any problems conceptualising things as pictures. I think this approach could be helpful to others. One size doesn’t fit all. I find art is my language more than words.” Expressions in Art runs as a self-help group for people who have experienced mental health difficulties. Participants don’t have to be good at art but be interested in exploring it as a way to express feelings and emotions. The group plans to explore a range of art styles – contemporary, abstract, Pop Art, etc. Phillip has managed to secure a low cost room in a local church which means that the grant can be used mainly for art materials. He hopes that participants will eventually be able to help with fundraising through selling artwork to generate more funding for the group to be sustainable and continue. They also plan to hold pop-up art exhibitions. Phillip is particularly keen to attract people to the group who may have become isolated due to mental health issues. He said, “I know how small your world can become when you feel anxious and become withdrawn. Even doing the simplest thing can feel quite overwhelming. But small steps can lead to bigger steps. I hope people will feel able to join the group knowing that there are others there who understand – independent of the NHS but with the support of Gary and other professionals if needed.” Phillip hopes by joining the group that the artists will find it a form of expression and make new friends and contacts locally. Not all the sessions will take place indoors. When the weather improves, the group plans to have some of the sessions out of doors and trips to art galleries together. “I hope individuals will feel empowered by the group and find it a therapeutic space to develop their skills and work with others. It is a calm reflective way to work through things. I hope that the group will evolve naturally and help to build personal confidence in the artists. I think people will come and go as they recover and resume their previous lives. And others will join.”   http://www.eastlondon.nhs.uk/News-Events/Press-Releases/2013/Expressions-in-Art-Self-Help-Group-Starts.pdf

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