Why I make stuff, and what I do with the money…
This all started out back in 2009 as an informal user led support group; “Drip Stands and Dressing Gowns” as it’s known is a completely informal, unstructured, anarchic and wholly irreverent support group for those living with a terminal diagnosis. The group offers a different view on ‘end of life’ strategies – attempting to maximise the remaining quality of life together with occasionally going to the pub. The nature of this group means there is no long term consistency of membership. Participants come and ‘go’, but it has never been about ‘tea and sympathy’, far from it, this group is about life, and what we can do when we know it’s limited.
Closely linked to the group are a couple of spin-off initiatives to focus upon supporting the family and friends of those affected, and this in turn prompted the need for a safe space to offload any stuff and all stuff. OK some would say that this is a “Depression Support Group” and maybe so, but it isn’t all cuddly and therapeutic – it’s a safe space to offload and just be at ease, often with others who are either dealing with difficult circumstances, and just ‘be’. Depression can be utterly disabling, it is for the mind what a major fracture is for the body. If left unchecked Depression can also become a cancer of the mind – and ultimately can prove fatal. Healing can take time in exactly the same way as a fracture needs time to heal, then physiotherapy to regain strength.
A Penny for your Thoughts has been a symbolic fund raising initiative ostensibly based around making coin rings from old “1d” pre-decimal Penny copper coins from the 1960s – but the symbolic influence is that it really is ok to be honest about our thoughts.
For many years I’ve worked for the NHS within the field of drugs, alcohol and sex. Initially off the back of copious funding initiates in the mid 1980s to tackle HIV. I was very fortunate and privileged to be a part of a global movement that was exploring initiatives to minimise the harm associated with drugs, alcohol and sex.
I’ve written extensively for print and broadcast media and have contributed to a number of discussions regarding consent and sexual identity through practice. This led to another initiative; Time To Talk About Sex “TTTAS” is a health education project providing judgement-free advice and information regarding safe(r) sexual practice – predominantly, but by no means exclusively aimed at the over 50’s, all aspects of relationships are addressed, from consent to negotiating new areas of play. The overall focus is upon creating and maintaining healthy physical, emotional and psychological relationships, whether monogamous, polyamorous or otherwise non binary. I firmly believe that we must all engage in an open, honest and non judgemental dialogue about sex – if we do not proactively educate children and young people – the internet will do it for us, and I find that option terrifying.
In order to enable these initiatives a safe, welcoming and private space is needed. The Boathouse is my canalside workshop and studio. It’s where I make stuff and also make anyone coming through the door welcome. It really is a safe space, accessible and with a permanently warm kettle.
The above ‘projects’ are all kind of linked in that they are about offering non judgemental support and camaraderie – a listening ear and really good coffee (and tea – I have really good tea too…). At various times we throw all the tools into a corner and the Boathouse becomes a venue. We’ve had parties and fundraisers. When you buy some of my stuff, you are directly supporting all of this 🙂
The main thing I try and bring is my own experience, professionally and personally. I have lived with Cancer for over 20 years. I also live with sometimes crippling Clinical Depression. I don’t judge and I rarely offer advice. I know that sometimes it’s important to talk, and sometimes important not to.