More than 60 service users have taken part in Creating Change – a programme of art-based workshops at six women’s centres.
The centres, which are run by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC), hosted the programme, which was devised and delivered by BearFace Theatre and Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Creating Change uses drama to encourage service users to explore relationships, thoughts and feelings. The programme supports desistance theory in multiple ways: by developing strong support bonds and networks; by recognising strengths rather than offences and by building self-esteem and self-confidence.
Activities were designed to be fun, reflective and motivational. Almost 80 per cent of attendees completed the course.
Exercises included ‘bombs and shields’ where participants chose another group member for each role and move to keep their ‘shield’ between them and their ‘bomb’. This leds to reflections on real life triggers such as alcohol and corresponding shields such as family support. The exercise helps with developing spatial awareness, understanding choice, empathy, trust as well as discussion around coping strategies.
Laney Dimmock, a service user at Fareham women’s centre, said: “Of all the groups I go to, these drama sessions were my favourite. We created scenes and explored how people see things differently.
“Team games involved listening, touching and trusting. I learned a lot from the communication without speaking. It’s really helped me to be in a place where no one judges or makes assumptions. Being in a women-only group helps, I see many women speaking up where I think they would stay quiet in a mixed group.”
Julie Eden, HIOW CRC senior case manager and women’s centre facilitator, said: “We work really hard at the women’s centres to create a safe environment for service users. This is important because a high proportion of attendees have experienced trauma.
“We encourage women to develop positive support networks in their community and relationships with each other. Our colleagues from BearFace Theatre and Hampshire Cultural Trust shared these values and I have really enjoyed working with them.”
Creating Change uses Cognitive Behavioural Theory (CBT) techniques combined with drama and performing arts skills.
Julie added: “Many service users said they developed a better understanding of CBT because of Creating Change. This is fantastic because it means service users are more likely to apply this knowledge and understanding.
“For several women, Creating Change was their first experience at the women’s centre and by the end they said that they had bonded with the other service users. I am delighted because evidence shows positive relationships are a crucial part of helping women to stop re-offending.
Aimee Wynn, an attendee at the Southampton women’s centre, said: “I enjoyed the workshops a lot. My favourite activity was ‘bombs and shields’, learning who to keep away from and who is helpful to me. Taking part has helped me to think more before I act and speak.”
Charlotte Slinger, Hampshire Cultural Trust cultural engagement manager, said: “We have been delighted to develop innovative and responsive arts-led programmes with HIOW CRC, we believe arts and culture can help to develop confidence, opinion, team work and many more life skills. The Creating Change programme is a key part of our Better Life Chances strategy, using culture to change lives in Hampshire.”
This initiative was funded by an £8,000 grant from the Purple Futures Innovation fund.