For the people who attend art classes at the Wilson Wellbeing Centre, the weekly sessions are a big part of their recovery from trauma and mental and physical health issues.
Among them is Naomi* who loves the support the sessions bring. “The class is really helping my mental health and I don’t know what I would do without it,” she said. While for Michael* it’s about, “having a chat and cup of tea and relaxing and being able to draw, colour and paint”.
Volunteer, former teacher and self-taught artist, Daljinder Nagi leads the group which meets on a Thursday lunchtime. With members aged from 18 to 65+, it’s a diverse group of people who take time out to experiment with different art media, practise their creativity or just have a chat.
Our members come from all walks of life, and from very different experiences. Together they have a cup of tea and each talks about their journey.”
Says Daljinder: “Our members come from all walks of life, and from very different experiences. Together they have a cup of tea and each talks about their journey. They are encouraged to use their creativity”.
“It’s a supportive network that helps people tackle loneliness and isolation as well as giving some structure to their week.”
The group is encouraging to new members, who can benefit from its restorative approach, regardless of their ability or experience of art. “What is really important is how welcome the group makes newcomers. There is no pressure to produce something – for some people it’s enough to come for a chat. But others bring a project they’re working on and talk about their ideas. People have really grown in confidence,” says Daljinder. “We all talk to each other and are encouraged to experiment with our own creativity.”
The members originally met in April 2022, while attending wellbeing workshops. When the group’s original premises were no longer available, members got together with another volunteer Michaela Bourke, and continued to meet in open spaces with Daljinder voluntarily facilitating each session. Following the launch of the Wilson Wellbeing centre, Daljinder was introduced to the space by the charity Jigsaw4U – and it seemed perfect.
“It’s a wonderful space, absolutely brilliant. It gives people a chance to come together somewhere that’s safe and local.”
She said: “It’s a wonderful space, absolutely brilliant. It gives people a chance to come together somewhere that’s safe and local.”
Since spring this year, the Wilson Wellbeing centre has been a place in east Merton where the local community can access wellbeing support, learn new skills or meet together. A programme of activities runs Monday to Friday and includes gardening, coffee mornings and arts workshops as well as cost of living support, advice around domestic abuse and services to tackle loneliness.
A Wilson Wellbeing Steering Group, responsible for the programme, has commissioned Jigsaw4u to help community organisations pull together the activities and support that local people need now.
Find out more about the sessions taking places on the Wilson Wellbeing website.
To find out more about the art group email [email protected]
*not their real names