World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a day to talk about mental health and show everyone that mental health matters.*
Today we share a local story we hope will help show that the answer to many of our problems lies in the community’s power to bring love, hope and intimacy into our lives. We had the pleasure of listening to the latest telling of this story at a recent meeting.
Meet Creative Kindness and movement founder Chris Reid.
Chris from Coventry had lived with loneliness for most of her life since developing epilepsy as a child. Presented with the diagnosis and further challenges, misunderstandings and stigma at a young age, her mental health was affected.
She says: “My life journey has given me understanding, empathy and compassion for others facing similar issues. I wanted to help others but didn’t know how or where to start.”
In 2019, an encounter with Grapevine on an organised walk in her local park showed Chris how a group of like-minded people could bring about the change they wanted to see and support each other in leading that change. This became the catalyst for ‘Creative Kindness’.
Creative Kindness creates things to share with others so they too feel valued. A core team of five people quickly grew, meeting weekly to craft, chat and laugh together.
“Creative Kindness remains a place, a group of people I can rely on, a safe space I can count on being there.” (Creative Kindness member)
Friendships formed around a common purpose. There was a role for everyone.
Chris continues: “We realised very early on that no-one is strong enough in every area so it was important to get the right team together. This makes the difference.
“We overcame self doubt and lack of confidence by leaning on each other’s strengths together with our enablers, Grapevine.”
“This group is more than a group… we’re family.” (Creative Kindness member)
Their first weekly arts and crafts session launched at Coventry Central Library in May 2019.
Grapevine community organiser Melissa Smith was involved from the start. She says: “This is a piece of work I am very proud to have worked on as it has brought me and the people of Coventry much joy!”
Creative Kindness expanded rapidly after pandemic restrictions were lifted with new groups in other libraries, cafes and public spaces.
There are currently 13 groups running six days a week, including one for staff at a secondary school and another for university students, aiming to integrate them into a multi-generational ‘family’ while away from home.
Up to 100 members now attend each week.
“Creative Kindness believed I had something to offer the group. I didn’t believe it about myself but as they continued to support me and keep me under their wing, I grew in confidence.” (Creative Kindness member)
They have a ten-step development plan for members who want to progress from attending a craft session, to helping others, to assisting in leading a session and eventually becoming a session leader. It all depends on their individual comfort level.
Creative Kindness has a clear vision for the future too – a session in every city library, more leaders and a solid infrastructure, and continuing to develop and nurture their members and leaders.
The group is always on the lookout for funding to support their work.
If you can offer any or would simply like to join a session, follow along or send a message to @CreativeKindnessCoventry on Facebook and @WeAreCreativeKindness on Instagram.
Our work with Creative Kindness forms part of Connecting for Good, a movement sparked by Grapevine and local people to tackle isolation and marginalisation in Coventry.
*Sometimes the content shared on days like this can be overwhelming or difficult to read. The charity Samaritans say it’s OK to feel this way. It’s OK to not post anything. It’s OK to log off. It’s OK to do what’s right for you. Call 116 123 to talk if you need to.
A quick round up of the Creative Kindness story
- February 2019 – the group forms with Grapevine’s help
- May 2019 – Formal launch at Coventry Central Library
- August 2019 – Chris shares her story for crowds at our Connecting for Good Walk and Talk
- 2019 – The group’s weekly session at Central Library grows and grows
- 2019 – Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport makes a film about the group
- 2020 – Covid hits and they take to Zoom. The group keeps growing, attracting new members from as far away as Australia and South Africa!
- 2021 – Lockdown restrictions lift for the final time and outdoor crafting can take place
- 2021 to now – Creative Kindness is running six days a week across 13 groups.
Some of the projects they have been involved in
- Welcome to Coventry embroidery project
- World Kindness Day giant butterfly installation at Coventry University
- Banners for Coventry City of Culture opening ceremony parade
- COP26 banner sent to Glasgow
- Herbert Art Gallery Museum city banners project
- Coundon’s ‘Art in The Orchard’ exhibition entry
- Coventry Open Art competition entry
- Craftivism projects
- Over 4,000 stars made for Coventry’s ‘10,000 stars to end violence’ project.