This Partnership’s a Real Lifeline
Studios from across the North East join forces to deliver inspiring ‘Lifelines’ project to their clients
Six art studios from across the North East, who provide services to local people experiencing mental health problems plus other disabilities, have
joined forces to raise funding for work with innovative curating and producing group ( maybe insert Community Interest Company' and expand on
curating / producing later in text ? ) Fitzrovia Noir. The project, titled “Lifelines”, funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, will see a group of artists work
with people in each of the studios, culminating in a series of exhibitions and this special publication celebrating the work.
0. The studios span the length of the region: North Tyneside Art Studio (NTAS) in North Shields; Chilli Studios, covering Newcastle and Gateshead; Bill
Quay Art Group in Gateshead; Arts4Wellbeing in South Shields; Artrium in Hartlepool; Phoenix Art Group in Stockton. Their services are people-
focused and participatory, creative and challenging, intimate and offer long term support where necessary. Between them, they support over 500
individuals with a wide variety of ill health and needs.
0. The benefits to service users in each of the studios is wide ranging and real. Typical benefits reported include increased self worth and confidence,
improved quality of life, personal growth, skills development and reduced symptoms of ill health. “The Art Studio turned my life around in such a
way I can hardly begin to describe. My world was so closed in that it even frightened me. I was living in pyjamas…all of my curtains and blinds
were closed… On a few occasions I tried to take my own life. Now I have skirts and jeans on my washing line instead of pyjamas and
nightdresses. My curtains opened last week for the first time in 2 years. The Art Studio has become my saviour, a place of peace and tranquillity
and an oasis of encouragement and friendship.” (Wanda, NTAS service user). This impact is nationally recognised, “The arts, creativity and the
imagination are agents of wellness: they help keep the individual resilient, aid recovery and foster a flourishing society.” (Charter for Arts, Health
and Wellbeing, July 2012 – National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing)
0. The Lifelines project started by giving a specially printed Logbook to each participant, distributed to groups at each studio. The centrespread has a
blanked-out Metro and local rail map, with the locations of each studio marked at the nearest station, encouraging participants to create their own
response, mapping their connections and personal interests.
Garry Hunter worked at Tynecolour photographic laboratories in the 1980s, a stone’s throw from Arts4wellbeing. He introduced
traditional film-based practices using large format cameras and Polaroid, where each member of the group chose an exotic
destination and experimented with ‘hand colouring’ techniques and designing magazine covers featuring their own ‘assisted’ self
Bee Taylor leads the workshop programme at Bivouac on the Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire where her alternative 12 Days of
Christmas sculptural trail using found materials was installed in the forest. Her work encapsulates ceramics, glass and ephemera.
She made use of the Artrium kiln to demonstrate glass-making techniques, where participants looked at the maritime heritage of
Hartlepool, and learned how to make their own pieces. She is also advising on ceramics to the studio users.
‘Chewing Gum Man’ Ben Wilson’s great-grandfather was a sea captain from Middlesborough. He has made at least one detailed
miniature painting on discarded gum at each of the six studios, leading workshops at four of them, where he expanded the choice
of ‘upcycling’ to give participants the choice of painting on other waste materials including squashed tin cans and bricks.
Cityzen Kane AKA David Evans was born in Nigeria, while his father was working in mining, then spending his formative years as a
teenager in Darlington. He develops his own recipes for materials to mold often complex 3D ‘ancient alien’ installations and led
workshops to pass on his skills of creating ‘ancient aliens’ in clay. He also assisted Tom Chadwin at NTAS.
Tom Chadwin grew up in Rosneath, Agyll, Scotland and studied glassmaking at the University of Sunderland. For Lifelines he
has made a chandelier of layered fused glass sections designed and made by studio users themselves, that he is mounting onto
bicycle tyre rims of various sizes, powered to rotate with a mirrorball motor. He also assisted Cityzen Kane at Chilli Studios.
Matthew Kolakowski has taught in every sector from primary to higher education and his Memento adult and community learning
module developed into a big European partnership. He shared his skills of making waste cardboard into suitcase sculptures that
represent an icon from the golden age of travel and poignantly links to issues of forced and economic migration. He also led
workshops at Chilli Studios.
The North East Art Studios Partnership project is funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and is a partnership development activity. The aim is to
develop relationships, communication and sharing of best practice between the studios, plus strengthen their visibility and voice in the region. The
creative project, Lifelines, is the heart of this development activity.
Fitzrovia Noir was established as a Community Interest Company in 2011, after producing over 30 site specific projects starting in 2008 with a major
documentation of the demise of the Middlesex Hospital in central London, photographing during the demolition period former patients and staff
including Professor Sir Anthony Epstein, who started at the teaching hospital there in 1946 and went on to co-discover the virus that causes M.E.