Good Causes

Rise of the Phoenix is lifeline for isolated people

Tammy lives on her own and has mental health issues. Not surprisingly, the social distancing measures introduced to combat the spread of coronavirus have exacerbated her sense of isolation and loneliness.

That’s why Rise of the Phoenix, an online art project Tammy takes part in using a computer at her home in Blackburn, Lancashire has become the highlight of her week – an essential way of staying connected with the world.

Tammy is one of about 30 people who are making phoenix feathers as part of the online group organised by Arts 2 Heal, a charity that works with people who have mental health issues. When the lock down restrictions are finally eased and Tammy and her fellow participants are able to start meeting again at Arts 2 Heal’s National Lottery-supported headquarters in central Blackburn, the feathers will be used to make a giant phoenix mural celebrating the community’s resilience and the resumption of normal life.

Tammy said, “The feeling of being connected with others has kept me positive. I live on my own and being completely away from everyone is taking its toll. I look forward to the online sessions and the phoenix feathers remind me that this will soon be over. We'll all come together again, and with each feather completed, that time gets closer.”

Each week, those taking part in Rise of the Phoenix use video conferencing software to join a project facilitator and other participants to make feathers using different techniques and materials ranging from clay to recycled junk mail. So far, more than 400 feathers have been made and those taking part encompass all ages, from children to the elderly.

The founder of Arts 2 Heal, Banu Adam, said teaching people how to make art isn’t Arts 2 Heal’s primary goal. Rather, the organisation uses arts-based interventions to improve their confidence and teach them the life skills that will help them into work or education.

Even so, the Rise of the Phoenix project has inspired some remarkable creativity. Banu said, “One lady told me she’d already made 70 feathers. She said [the project] has kept her going when she’s had bad moments. It’s a distraction for her and she’s still going strong.”

4th May 2020

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