FEATURE: Staying creative during lockdown | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Japanese Woodblock printing courtesy of Northern Print

As someone who identifies as both a northerner and an artist (northern artist, if you will) it can sometimes feel like the North East doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves for being a creative hub and that cultural output suddenly stops as soon as you leave Manchester. However, one of the advantages of Covid-19 has been that it’s pushed the importance of art to the forefront of the public consciousness, and how vital it is to keep us active and having some much needed relaxation time.

I know from my own experience that having online drawing classes and getting involved with other voluntary organisations has really helped me to maintain a sense of purpose but, more importantly, allowed me to have fun!

As we emerge, bleary eyed, into a strange new world of social distancing and ordering table service from our favourite bars, it’s important to remember that arts organisations still need our support. Many will still be running online classes and other voluntary organisations are there to help the vulnerable. With that in mind, here’s a snapshot of some of the arts and community organisations that are there to keep you entertained and feeling creative.

I find it incredibly heartening to see so many organisations responding to the pandemic by adapting their programmes to meet the challenges of the pandemic and, it is my view, that maintaining and supporting the organisations, where possible, is key to maintaining your mental health.

North East Wilds CIC

North East Wilds runs forest schools with the focus being placed on well-being and nature. During lockdown they’ve started a new community garden project, in collaboration with Chilli Studios, which supports the mental health and well-being of adults in Newcastle and Gateshead. Their current project is in Byker Community Centre, growing vegetables and sprucing up the garden.

For the past month participants have been growing seeds at home, ready to plant out in the newly composted beds in the garden, spending time outdoors, getting to know a great community of people and taking part in rewarding activities whilst learning new skills all help to support our well-being. We’ve had the generous support of the Suicide Prevention Fund to help us get this project started and hope to see it expand as social distancing restrictions relax and it becomes safe to do so.” Says project coordinator, Bryony Jones.

As well as the Byker project, North East Wilds CIC organise forest schools and bespoke, outdoor packages.

Further details can be found at their website and Facebook page.

Stitch and Bitch: The Mackem & Tap’em Branch

Stitch and Bitch is a relaxed group, based in Sunderland, for anyone who is of a crafting persuasion. They’ve been running for around six years and would meet once a week for a crafty session.

Normally we meet once a week in our spiritual home Pop Recs Ltd. Since the arrival of the pandemic we worked quickly to set up two virtual sessions a week via Zoom. Members log on to socialise while crafting – and of course help each other with our projects – whether it’s knitting, sewing or crochet there will always be someone on hand to offer a word of support and guidance.” Explains Kim Minshall, group organiser.

If Zoom isn’t your ideal platform, there’s a Facebook group where you can go and ask for advice with all of your crafty endeavours.

Currently taking place virtually on Tuesdays 7pm and Saturdays at 11am. Participation is free, but if you’d like to make a donation they suggest giving to Pop Recs Ltd.

North Tyneside Art Studio

North Tyneside Art Studio is an award-winning organisation based in North Shields that has been using art and creative activities to transform the lives of people experiencing mental health problems since 1991.

In addition to Beginner’s Art for Mental Health which provides an easy access point for adults to engage with art for their mental health, we are launching three new sessions as part of a monthly programme of workshops to bring the benefits for art for mental health to a wider audience.” They explain. “Drawing Adventures is a family friendly workshop that uses the imaginative approach of children’s books.  Drawing from the Past will combine art history and analysis with live drawing and painting tutorials.  My Art, My Voice will take inspiration from cartoons, graffiti, and pop culture to focus on art as a means of personal expression.”

The sessions are free and open to everyone.

Northern Print

Northern Print is a printmaking studio in the Ouseburn Valley. They’re offering a wide range of classes, courses and workshops for both their members and members of the public including online printmaking, Zoom classes and virtual studio tours!

They’re also offering a Click and Collect service for art supplies and other crafty essentials.

Bernadette Koranteng Life Drawing

Bernadette Koranteng hosts fortnightly life drawing classes that are affordable and friendly.

Bernadette says: “Join me in my virtual studio for an afternoon of Life Drawing. All you need is paper, some basic drawing materials and an interest in drawing the human form. I am there to provide support, tuition and encouragement to make this a friendly, creative experience. We meet on Zoom and do two 40 minute sessions with a short break in between. The fee is £9.50 and can be paid securely by either PayPal or BACS. “

To book please email bkart@live.co.uk

It’s worth saying that this is a mere snapshot of the wide range of programmes that are on offer and there’s lots more to keep you entertained. Having something creative may help you to navigate the brave new world that we find ourselves in.

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