Tara with Philippa
Artwork created by David with support from Tara
Cherry Blossom themed art inspired by Damien Hurst
Mural in response to the war in Ukraine
Philppa at Playhouse
Photo group at Polsedon
Playhouse mural art
Regan at Playhouse
Visiting scupture gardens
The Meath’s Skills Centre is a busy hive of activity, with popular sessions in a broad range of creative, life skills, educational, wellbeing and fitness skills taking place every Monday to Friday for residents, Supported Living and day clients. There’s a lot going on and there’s a lot in the mix. Tara, Senior Activity Leader at the Skills Centre, has a broad role in running Creativity sessions, working with the team to deliver regular sessions in the community such as Playhouse and the Photography Group, and is currently leading with the delivery of a forthcoming exhibition.
With so many exciting sessions and projects on the go, it seems like a timely opportunity to find out more about how Tara’s role supports the activities of the Skills Centre, and how her work enables us to ‘Recognise Ability’.
Tara enjoys the variety of her role; members of her Creativity sessions have produced some impressive individual and collaborative work which often proudly adorn the walls of the Skills Centre. She also enjoys sparking inspiration by taking the Photography Group to new places and seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we support as they interact with young children and parents at Playhouse sessions.
Her degree in Fine Art and experience of working with some big names in interior design has undoubtedly given her firm grounding for her Creativity Sessions. She explained “I worked for some great companies and focused on colour schemes and pattern which I loved. As well utilising the creative experience I have in my role I also find the commercial side useful with the organisational side of things. Sessions may look chaotic at times, and we do have to go with the flow when supporting the clients, but we carefully plan our schedules both individually and more broadly across the Skills Centre.”
While Tara’s background holds her in good stead, crucially she’s just as capable as an educator and enabler as she is a designer. While projects are planned to take inspiration from artists, movements, world events or seasonal themes, Tara manages to provide balance between a focus on the end result and the process itself. “The sessions need to be fun and fulfilling for the group. We learn a lot together as we go along, and I try to find ways to build in lots of different layers to a project which suits the broad range of abilities and interests we have in the groups. People often think that background collage work is ‘easy’ for many of the people we support, but in many cases, individuals have made huge progress in this area. When I first started my sessions, I found that many of the people we support were reluctant to ‘get messy’ or disliked the sensation of glue on their fingers, but through gentle encouragement, they are now far more willing to try a variety of techniques and media. There are also lots of hidden benefits to the sessions, the techniques used help with fine motor skills and through working together the group also develop their social skills”
Inclusion is indeed an art, and the many levels to her projects are evidently suited to the varying different abilities and tastes of the group. While some people work collaboratively on a background, others work in pairs or individually on research, drawings, or paintings, which are all then pulled together for the final result. “The final product is also important! The group get a real sense of satisfaction from having their work on display.”
Last year the Skill Centre held an exhibition of creative works at Godalming Museum and following the enthusiasm from the people they support and the success of the exhibition, they are currently working towards ‘Meath Midwinter’, a multimedia exhibition at Cranleigh Arts Centre in December. Tara is leading on the organisation of the exhibition which will include work from Backstage, Famous Artists, Photography, Pottery and her own sessions. The Skills Centre team look forward to showcasing some of the work created in sessions. It is fantastic to show the community that a wealth of talent and ability exists within The Meath. Tara explains “The exhibition will be valuable for the people we support, but also for members of the community. We want to show the quality of work the people we support are capable of, and that everyone has something to contribute. It’s also a good opportunity to showcase The Meath as a whole and to reach out to new supporters.”
Exhibitions aside, lots of the regular activities from the Skills Centre also occur in the local community. While we have fantastic on-site facilities, there is so much value for both the people we support and locals in working in the community. The Walking Group and Photography Group make use of local beauty spots and kind invitations for talks and tours to private gardens. Often these sessions offer the members of the group an opportunity to expand their experiences while also providing great value to the community. Without The Meath, Godalming and surrounding areas would have less representation from people who live with epilepsy and disabilities. The chance to attend a toddler group with people who are supported by The Meath or to welcome the Photography Group for a visit is of benefit to both The Meath and the local community, by providing interaction and developing a greater understanding of one another.
Tara explains that this has been evident at the regular Playhouse sessions which take place at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Godalming. “So many parents love the fact that their young children are able to enjoy playtime, singing and reading with the people we support. Through early interaction with people who have disabilities, the children learn that disability is a normal part of life and see that people who have disabilities are able to enjoy the things that they enjoy. We’ve also seen lots of benefits from the sessions for the people we support. One resident was very anxious about her level of literacy but was too nervous to improve through reading out loud. However, her love for the young children at Playhouse gave her the courage she needed to read aloud to them at story times, and her reading and confidence have since improved considerably.”
How wonderful that members of the community, no matter how young, have a role to play in ‘recognising ability’.
Don’t miss the Skills Centre’s free exhibition ‘Meath Midwinter’ at Cranleigh Arts Centre from 6th December-24th December.