addiction . I like to listen now when they empty my bin , it ’ s not the nosiest , not the heaviest on the street anymore . This has aided my healing , to me forgiving myself .’
‘ The symbols on my flask , I initially described them very matter of factly , they ’ re just magnifying glasses with eyes ,’ adds Ben . ‘ Then someone said they ’ re quite surreal . And then I talked about how at the time I was under so much scrutiny with psychiatrists , and it links to being under that lens , stigmatised by society .’
JOURNEYS TRAVELLED Images from the exhibition will also be displayed on billboards across Sheffield , which Emilie links back to the original concept . ‘ Pennants would have once hung from Sheffield Castle ramparts , welcoming travellers home ,’ she says . ‘ The flags of journeys travelled today will hang across the city on advertising hoardings .’
‘ For me what ’ s important about the banners being detached from the exhibition ,’ says Lee , ‘ is if someone is driving past , they ’ ll be like “ what ’ s that ?”. It will reach a far bigger audience .’ The billboards will also feature QR codes , to encourage people to find out more . ‘ They ’ ll go on a journey with us – there ’ s a lot more to say ,’ he concludes .
GROWING CONFIDENCE I ask the group what difference they think the project has made to them . ‘ I ’ ve grown and made myself well through this process ,’ Ben says . ‘ Of course it ’ s been alongside therapy and other things I engage with , but this has helped no end .’
‘ I have a friend who has been supportive through my recovery ,’ Ruth says , ‘ but doesn ’ t get it , me taking part in a project like this . Why would she . I didn ’ t get it either , before I came . It ’ s made me
From left : Emilie Taylor at work , Lee unloads a flask from the kiln , Ben ’ s pilgrim flask finished .
braver , to try new things . My confidence has grown .’
Formally trained artists and those not formally trained coming together to share time , skills , knowledge and experiences to create something in collaboration , has a long tradition . It ’ s given many different names – social practice , community – but the kernel is how it can carve a new space for all of those involved . Exploring and exposing parts of your inner self through making art can be a challenging process , and this can contribute to personal development and healing . But in creating these works around their experiences of recovery , the group have also opened up new channels for others engaging with the artworks to reflect on their own lives .
‘ I ’ ve got hardened to the prejudice and the stigma – I can play out how it is going to go ,’ says Lee . ‘ It doesn ’ t define me as a person .’ Those dealing with addiction , like many with less power in society , so often have
their stories defined by others . Having access to your own forms of creative expression , being encouraged and given a platform for them , is essential in people being able to turn that around and speak directly of their own experiences to others . Doing this is a reclaiming of power . And it is partially because of how powerful this can be , that such access to creative expression is frequently denied and discouraged in people , one way or another .
CREATIVE PASSION The more you get used to expressing yourself , the more comfortable it can feel . Earlier steps though require bravery and often support . I ask the group if they plan to carry on their creativity after Landmark . There is a chorus of agreement . Two members of the group have recently enrolled in degrees , influenced by taking part in the project .
‘ It ’ s reawakened in me a passion I have always had for art ,’ Ben says enthusiastically . ‘ I will definitely be continuing the journey .’ Lee agrees . ‘ I ’ ve started to write poems again and I have carried that on . It ’ s a nice creative process for me and I don ’ t think I would have done that if it wasn ’ t for this project .’
Dave sums up . ‘ We ’ re waiting for the next one ,’ he says .
Landmark exhibition runs until 1 October at Persistence Works Gallery , Sheffield S1 2BS
Kenn Taylor is a writer and creative producer
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