During 2020-2021, many of our regular members were very isolated due to CVID restrictions. Around a third of our members identify as disabled or chronically ill, so it became very important for us to change from in-person workshops to other ways to keep our creative community together.
As well as switching over to Zoom as soon as possible, we put together the following measures:
Inclusion and access
While writing workshops took place on Zoom, we developed a two-facilitator approach to allow ‘simultaneous translation’ of exercises and chat over to a Facebook thread. This was in order to accommodate participants whose mental health, neurodiversity, hearing impairments, or chronic fatigue prevented them from Zooming. Remember how tiring it was at first, how strange, and how useless the captioning was?
Women-only Social Walks
Our members also stepped forward as volunteers to lead open-air social walks all across the Tees Valley, so we could stay connected and give each other emotional support. Along the way we ended up learning lots of local history and doing a lot of writing too. Thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, we were able to cover expenses and give our members a cuppa in a park once a month. Some of our members consider themselves to be living in poverty, and with the financial uncertainty of lockdown affecting most of us it was good to offer a small treat.
For those of us who were completely housebound by clinical vulnerability and social anxiety, we used our Community Fund grant to purchase stamps and set up a penpals project. Twelve people gained some pleasure in their lockdown from receiving letters, poems, cards, artwork, and even flower seeds!
Many TWP members testified that our lockdown projects were a critical part of what kept them feeling mentally and emotionally well. We were shortlisted for a national Creative Lives Award in recognition of our work.