I began working freelance in 1999 in order to develop a way of working that enabled me to balance a range of creative work, including teaching and devising and developing my own projects. Since then I have worked in local authority arts development including long term partnerships with Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team (2004-2012) and South Staffordshire Council (2000-2004) as well as undertaking project management, consultancy, research, development and evaluation for public art schemes, arts festivals, artist’s residencies and commissions for a variety of agencies.
Arts and health
Being freelance has enabled me to sustain and develop ideas and a number of threads have continued in my work over the past two decades. One of these is the role of participation in the arts in improving and maintaining wellbeing. Another is the use of an arts approach as a tool to deliver health outcomes and health promotion messages. I was first inspired to explore connections between arts, health and wellbeing after attending a talk by GP Dr Malcolm Wrigler in 1999. Wrigler is a pioneer of arts and health who took a creative arts approach to facilitating communication between doctors, patients, staff and the community to promote health and wellbeing. He pioneered a series of artistic commissions in his surgery in order to make health promotion information more accessible and improve patient’s experience of primary care.
In 2004 I began working with the Creative Development Team at Walsall Council who led pioneering work using the arts as a method of engagement. As part of their specialist arts into health team I undertook project management and development work around a series of health themes including sexual health, mental health and arts with older people. I worked closely with partners at NHS Walsall to undertake research and training and to develop projects to address health inequalities. Examples of these can be seen here.
Teaching and education work
I am a qualified teacher in the post compulsory sector and worked part time at Wolverhampton Adult Education Service (1999-2016) where my main role was to lead a programme supporting freelance creatives called ‘Steps to Self-Employment’ (previously called Creative Connections, Enter Arts and Arts Enterprise). I have also worked as a Visiting Lecturer for Wolverhampton University and Wolverhampton College and delivered artist’s training for Coventry University. I also work as an artist leading and supporting sessions in schools, as well as developing resources and curricula, most recently I have worked in partnership with Penn Fields Special School to develop creative activities that encourage nature connection.
For 17 years I developed an innovative programme of support for artists at Wolverhampton Adult Education Service. I led a course that supported artists across the region to gain the skills needed for freelance working. This included business planning, marketing, Social Media, applying for funding and understanding the various contexts in which artists can work. I built partnerships across the region and created a programme of visiting speakers to offer insights and opportunities in the regional arts sector and created a set of tools to help artists navigate freelance work.
I worked with Creative Enterprise at Coventry University (2014-16) to offer mentoring support and training for artists and creative businesses. As part of this role I established a Wolverhampton based creative network, Creative Monday, a monthly roving forum offering talks from experts, the sharing of projects and opportunities and a relaxed and inclusive platform for networking that showcased local venues.
More recently I have developed and facilitated a programme of artists commissions and skill sharing workshops as part of the Boundary Way Project. Sustainability has been embedded into the artistic development of the project which has also included a series of artist led workshops using natural materials from the site such as natural dyeing, making tools for mark-making, land art, encaustic techniques and cookery.
Arts, Nature and Wellbeing
Project development since 2015 has especially focused on the arts and the environment. I have been collaborating with others to explore ways of connecting with nature, minimise negative environmental impacts and develop sustainable ways of working. In partnership with other artists and organisations I have devised creative education work that focuses on responding to the landscape, working outdoors and learning about natural heritage. I have commissioned and collaborated with a range of artists to explore new ways of working, using natural resources.