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October 30, 2019

The power of creativity

In the many community groups I’ve worked in over the years I’m constantly in awe of the power of creativity. It’s free, it’s in everyone, it overcomes language, culture and age barriers, and it needs the merest nudge to help it come pouring out.

In our groups and events at ToastLoveCoffee this bubbles to the top of every theme. When we were given our Ipads by 100% Digital Leeds I was thinking I’m one of the least tech confident people to be inspiring others to feel digitally included! But as soon as we took them out in our weekly walking group, everyone was putting them to good use, and just a few months later we’re about to have a whole exhibition based on the results!

Moments like watching a volunteer move past an initial “no thanks” from an 80+ participant, continue encouraging him to have a go with the Ipad, seeing him overcome his fears about his muscle control to reaching out and pressing the button and getting a great shot; seeing a 5 year old using an Ipad for the first time, gazing in wonder at a ladybird in the woods taking its picture and announcing “I never knew I could be a photographer“, really bring to life some of the ways creativity can open doors and build connections. Having creative fun with the Ipads gets us talking to each other, makes them feel less intimidating, and from that we all get inspired to learn other skills.

At the International Day of Older People (IDOP) we reached a whole new 50+ customer base, who materialised to take up invitations to perform music, poetry and take photos. Many semi-retired, several feeling weighed down by caring responsibilities and lack of opportunity to share their creative talents, I’ve been bowled over with what their music and art added to the event. A couple of people I’d met on holiday turned up unexpectedly during IDOP and sat down for lunch – within the hour they were listening to a jazz set and diving into a writing workshop: “This is some cafe” was their parting comment.

These events have inspired customers to join groups they would never have known about. K, aged 70+, has gone from calling in for a cuppa, to having fun dressing up for a photo shoot, to joining an ICT and Creative Writing group, to performing at a celebration event in another venue! (One of the musicians has joined the writing group too!)

I’ve noticed that creativity provides a fast track focus to naturally having fun, relieving anxiety, and feeling closer to each other. With nearly every group you pretty much always hear roars of laughter and lost of chattering as people start to connect with each other. Creativity and being together does its own kind of magic. So many times I’ve heard people say: “I’m so glad I came – I feel more human again” or “I nearly didn’t make it today – I was feeling down”- but they leave saying they feel loads better.

We’ve seen time and again that people do not need to be ‘given a voice’, just a space, warmth and encouragement to let the voice that is already there be heard. And a creative theme really helps that happen.

We’re currently looking for more volunteers for a variety of exciting and creative roles, so please step this way!

Natalie Tharraleos
Volunteer Co-ordinator and Outreach Worker, ToastLoveCoffee Cafe
0779 309 7215