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Arts & Minds: Charity art shop boosts mental health and community

by Now Then Sheffield
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Ian Judson (right) and Dave Elsom (Left).

A string of cardboard letters spelling 'Art and Minds' occupies the window of a small grey shop which sits modestly on the high street of Killamarsh, a village on the edge of Sheffield.

Inside the shop is chaotic with ingenuity and no space is unused. It's a mosaic of craft. There are trees fashioned from wooden pallets, colourful prints and delicate sculpted figures standing on every shelf. "Everything we have in here tells a story," owner Ian Judson tells me.

Arts and Minds is a non-profit, which Ian started two and half years ago in a bid to provide a hub of support and regular art therapy for the community. Ian sells the art that he and others in Killamarsh make and uses the proceeds to pay rent, bills and cover the cost of materials to keep the shop and its classes going.

"[Art] is our coping system. It's our therapy. It keeps us sane, the same way people like seeing music and going to football matches," he says.

Ian is unmistakably cockney and speaks with a disarming honesty. On a Sunday afternoon he tells me about his experience of the mental health system. He articulates the 15 years he spent on and off a psychiatric ward.

[Art] is our coping system

"They were like my family," Ian says, referring to his friends from the ward. "The trousers that I'm wearing today were given to me by a psychiatric nurse." It is this sense of community that helped Ian recover and the kind of thing he has been striving to provide for his neighbourhood.

"Lots of people suffer with mental illness and they don't open up. Until we started doing this, I couldn't believe how many people are involved in social isolation of all ages. What people like here is that when they come in here, they feel wanted. It's just a place to come home and be yourself."

Ian runs the organisation with fellow volunteer Barry Thompson. Together they work in conjunction in with the Mental Health Trust to provide classes on mental wellbeing in Killamarsh and Chesterfield.

"The thing is, now that we're more experienced and the NHS now know what work we're doing, they're changing their attitude. Their hands have been tied behind their backs for years, but now they're being loosened and they've got to work with the communities.

"They are changing their structures to let people in who have experienced mental health issues to work side by side and that means so much to us. I'm a product of the NHS. I'm one of their success stories and there's not enough of us, but if we work together there can be."

Despite the organisation's significant local impact and a community exhibition planned for March, Ian wants to continue expanding the reach of Arts and Minds further. Dave Elsom, volunteer and part-time artist, has started fundraising in a bid to dedicate more time towards the project and allow him to take part-time work teaching classes in different areas.

"We need stability here," Ian says. "We need administration to help other people come on board. We [Ian and Barry] are both in our sixties now. We're getting older. I love networking and going around, but I can't do everything. Dave's generation, and the generation below him, are our future."

Rory Ellis

861 picture2 1579526064
Inside Arts and Minds.
by Now Then Sheffield

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