Blog: Graham’s volunteering story

Graham is one of our peer volunteers for Creative Directions. Assisting with the running of sessions, he provides general support for participants and acts as a point of contact for anyone needing a little extra help.

Graham chatted to us about progressing from participant to volunteer and what he enjoys about this role.

‘I started off as a participant in a programme of work run by darts nearly 6 years ago. I’d been referred to The Point with the hope that engaging in creative arts workshops would prove beneficial in overcoming the mental health difficulties I was experiencing.

After a number of sessions my confidence had increased and I was invited to research the barriers participants can face in engaging in these programmes, along with identifying places or programmes they could go to next. This led to me becoming part of a focus group who contributed ideas towards the design of the funding bid for Creative Directions. 

I went onto college, studying an Adult Access course for Art, followed by a Fine Art Degree. In September 2017, having finished my degree, I started to volunteer at The Point, providing support to Creative Directions. It was good to return in a volunteer capacity to the place that encouraged, and supported, my interest in visual arts.

The skills I have developed enable me to lead mini-workshops, which are usually related to the current exhibition on display in The Point’s gallery. In May, I worked with Creative Directions participants using mark-making exercises, with images from the International Images for Science exhibition as inspiration. I enjoy encouraging people to experiment, to find the joy in whatever they are doing. Mark-making was very satisfying in that sense, because it’s not about following rules or doing things in a certain way. It’s about letting go and just seeing what happens.

The structure of volunteering gives me purpose; it also encourages me to think creatively. It allows you to develop a good sense of the group, a balance of knowing when to push people to try something new or when people just need a bit of encouragement to finish a piece. Creative Directions is growing in popularity and being part of a supportive, encouraging team of volunteers really helps the sessions run smoothly.

Volunteering in Creative Directions isn’t about the fact that I’ve got a Fine Arts Degree – it’s a way to put that knowledge to use and hopefully help people succeed, and if participants are interested in the things I’ve learned and want to discuss it with me, then I’m happy to chat about it. It’s not about me, it’s about how the participants can benefit. Seeing participants grow from being nervous about something new to feeling confidence and pleasure in their achievements is incredibly rewarding – knowing that you’ve helped in some small way or just observed that change.’