Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has met with Stephen Rabbitts, Carers Operational Lead at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) and Jo Keay, Manager of Open Arts, to discuss the work of Open Arts – a community based arts project that supports people who have had mental health problems, and those at risk, including carers.

During the meeting, which took place on 11th July, Giles heard how the Open Arts project runs twelve-week courses, which give participants an opportunity to learn new art skills and techniques within a safe and supportive environment – with the aim of promoting confidence and social inclusion.

No art experience is necessary, and sessions are run in community based venues. People can be referred by a mental health professional, or they can self-refer, and Open Arts aims to ensure people can move forward as part of society, challenging the stigma of mental health.

On completion of their course, participants are offered a day a week at the Open Arts Studio at Hadleigh Old Fire Station House, to give them further time and space to develop their artwork and studio practice. The studio promotes independent art making, networking and provides longer-term support, with six-month placements being offered to studio members. Participants are also signposted to other opportunities such as further learning and volunteer opportunities.

Open Arts was 'Highly Commended' in the Partnership Working Award category at the National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards 2016, and won the Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing Award at the National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards 2015 and 2013. Participants have also gone on to display their work, and some have had commercial success after completing the course.

Moreover, having been so successful in South Essex, Open Arts are now looking to offer courses locally in the Clacton constituency. However, as Open Arts is not a core commissioned service within EPUT, they are completely reliant on external funding to pay for the running and delivery of the project, including core costs, courses, studios and materials. Giles has, therefore, written to Tendring District Council to ask that funding be provided for this scheme locally.

If you would like to learn more about, or support this important scheme, you can do so here:

Giles said

“I am grateful to Stephen and Jo for coming in to meet with me, it is clear that this is a unique scheme, which does so much to support the most vulnerable. I believe that this initiative is exactly what we need in the Clacton constituency, and I hope that Tendring District Council look favourably upon it and help roll it out in our area.”