The Pink House Craft Club has been running at Oundle Library for several years, with the focus on helping people who live in rural communities, and especially adults who are feeling lonely or isolated.
The club was started by Caroline Kisby, a freelance creative practitioner, and Charlotte Williams, who used to work at Oundle Library, after meeting on the Friends of Oundle Library committee.
Due to the insecurity of obtaining ongoing funding, they formed the Pink House Arts Community Interest Company in 2018, which allows them to apply for larger grants. A community interest company is a special form of non-charitable limited company, which exists primarily to benefit a community, with a view to pursuing a social purpose.
Earlier this year, when the pandemic hit, the craft club was halted. Because many of the participants had health problems, they had to shield during the lockdown, and not being online increased their loneliness.
It was then that they came up with an alternative scheme to deliver craft supplies to the club members. With funding from the Central England Co-operative, they began to supply free craft activity bags to older people, helping to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety they were experiencing.
“Since coronavirus we have had to change the way we work and quickly adapt to evolving situations, which is why we designed our Activity Bag Project specifically to help people who are having to spend more time at home because of the pandemic,” Ms Kisby explained.
Participants are able to choose what sort of activity they want to do and once a month they receive a bag with everything that is needed to do a couple of crafts at home. Activities include painting, sewing, knitting, jewellery making, mosaics, puzzle books and jigsaws.
Ms Williams said: “We keep in touch with people by phone to find out how they are getting on and we include a newsletter in the Activity Bags. We’ve found that people who start off being quite rigid about what they want to do then see what other people are doing and say, ‘well I could do that’. They’re pushing themselves a little bit more each time, and becoming more confident to try to new things.”
They have mostly been working with residents at Stronglands Court in Oundle. But in September they were awarded a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund which has allowed them to move to the next stage and work more closely with libraries in Oundle, Rushden and Corby to see if any of their housebound customers who get monthly deliveries of books would like to participate, with activity bags delivered at the same time as books. Oundle Baptist Church has also been encouraging people in outlying villages to join the club, and several residents at the Riverside Maltings in Oundle have become members.
Ms Kisby has a wealth of creative experience and has worked in mental health arts since 2006, in adult education and with NHS Trusts, mental health charities and organisations. She has partnered with the Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust and a local mental health charity to establish and curate a public art gallery in the Cavell Centre, Peterborough.
“The creative arts have long been recognised as a beneficial outlet for the emotions of people with medium and long-term mental distress and as an aid to help towards recovery,” Ms Williams said. “At Pink House we strive to support every individual to find their own creative voice, enabling their lives to be enriched through creativity and thus improve their long-term health and wellbeing.”
1 December 2020