Volunteer and participant [Ryan] from New Parks tells his story about how Soft Touch Arts has helped him
A week in the life of Soft Touch
A short film capturing what a normal week in the life of Soft Touch is like, and hearing what participants think of Soft Touch.
Inside Outside - Prison Art Exhibition
An insight to the exhibition of our groundbreaking Inside Outside prison art exhibition, working with the TDAS team and LPT at Glen Parva Young Offenders Institute, working with at-risk young offenders that suffer with mental health or substance misuse.
Art and bipolar disorder
My name is [Arthur]. I live in Syston, Leicetsershire [and] work in my local fish and chip shop. I am currently a participant of the Soft Touch Arts STart session on a Thursday evening.
I have had bipolar for 9 years now and I have been coming to Soft Touch on and off through out these 9 years.
Soft Touch have helped me get over barriers in my life like talking to people and gaining confidence to help and work with other people.
I was with a mental health group called the Pier team and my support worker from the organisation got me involved with Soft Touch.
I have been playing drums for 9 years all thanks to Soft Touch, I had a few lessons off Jim Jackson and then I progressed on my own. And I also have learnt a great skill in the form of graffiti art (stencilling and free hand).
My favourite memory from being at Soft Touch has to be doing a gig at a local bar in Leicester where I played the drums on my own for 2 or 3 minutes.
My perspective has changed in a few ways since I have been here. For example realising a lot of people understand mental health, more now than ever and everyone is open to talk about it and help
Soft-touch arts got me involved with the mentoring scheme. This is where I had a one to one meeting once a week with a guy from a local business. This has helped me reach a goal in my life of gaining money management skills and being able to write my CV which has helped me get the job I have now.
I believe that every one should get involved with a local not-for-profit sector group because it is very beneficial for learning new skills and being able to interact with other people from similar backgrounds.
Finally I’d like to thank soft-touch for helping me through out the years and I am so happy with how the STart exhibition went and well done to everyone that got involved.
[Eddy] attended the BUNP Positive Vibes sessions at New Parks Centre for Young People. Eddy is on the autistic spectrum and is supported by a worker.
Eddy was a lot older than the other young people who came to these sessions.
He sometimes liked to call himself a helper. Jim noticed he struggled to settle to any activity and seemed unsure of his role. Gradually, Eddy began to talk to Jim about his interests. He loved cartooning and gaming and had made a number of characters, which he would post online.
Jim made sure Eddy had a laptop to work on and encouraged him to begin learning Photoshop. This was difficult at first for Eddy as he was building his characters from shapes in Power Point. This meant that he was constrained by a very specific process whilst making his characters. Eddy had difficulty in coping with the freedom offered by Photoshop. Jim also realised that the session at NPCYP did not allow him time to work more closely with Eddy. Jim suggested to Eddy that he consider signing up to another Soft Touch project based at Soft Touch called STart.
This session contained young people who were closer in age and interests to him. Eddy also had the support of his care worker in getting to this session. It took several months in 2015 to allow Eddy time to consider this offer. Eventually, he signed up for STart in October 2015. This was a turning point for Eddy. He took a few weeks to get used to the different and more mature atmosphere of the Start sessions and spent the first few weeks sketching and working on ideas to make in Photoshop. He also met a lot of young people who shared his interest in cartooning and character making. Jim observed him having conversations with a number of young people about his interests. Previously, he had not been around other young people whom he could have these conversations with.
Since attending STart, he has produced a number of Photoshop pieces based on self-portrait photographs dressed in various outfits he wears to comic and gaming conventions. The portraits were edited into new backgrounds as part of Eddy’s progression in Photoshop. One such portrait was shown in an exhibition of work by the STart group during March and April 2016. Eddy was very pleased when it proved to be the only piece of work sold during that show. It is a measure of Eddy’s progress that he was initially reluctant to sell the piece as he considered it wasn’t finished to his satisfaction. Jim and his worker, Clive, took time to explain to Eddy that the person wanting to buy the work liked it as it was and that Eddy could still finish the work and show a new version in a future exhibition. Eventually, Eddy took this point on board and sold the print for £30.
He has also made props for different character costumes and is currently making a cut out life size Danger Mouse, which is his favourite cartoon character. Eddy is now more able to interact with his peers and able to both experiment with his ideas and accept occasional failures as part of the learning process. Eddy has made excellent progress in the last year.
Gaining confidence at work
My name is [Megan], I am 18 years old and I live in Coalville with my family.
I’m involved with the not-for-profit sector as I work as a marketing assistant for a charity called Soft Touch Arts Ltd, who use arts, media and music as a tool to reach out to, inspire and educate Leicester’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people. I first started working at Soft Touch in 2015 as an Apprentice, and through the support and guidance from Soft Touch, I have now qualified and work alongside my director on our marketing and PR side.
Although I work for Soft Touch and I wasn’t involved with them as a participant, my involvement with them still impacted my personal development. I was very shy and always felt like I needed approval of my work but Soft Touch gave me the foundations to build my confidence and to not doubt the work I created.
The longer I worked there, the more confidence I had in my work as Soft Touch would give me more responsibility. This may only look like a small impact, but to me it was massive. Working for Soft Touch offers endless opportunities, as well as my college course, Soft Touch sent me on extra courses such as video editing and content creation, towards the end of my first year, my Director nominated me for the Leicester Mercury Women in Business Awards for Apprentice of the Year, and I went on to win it and soon I’m off to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Garden Party! Things I may not have got the opportunity to do if I started my apprenticeship elsewhere.
I first got inspired to get involved when I researched about them, seeing the work they do with people not too far from my age and how much of an impact it had on those people’s lives.
My favourite memory so far from working at Soft Touch, has to be when the STart group held the ‘Bleeding HeART Exhibition’ at the Queen of Bradgate pub. We all got to dress up as zombies, dead dolls, crazy doctors etc. and lure people in to the building and creep them out! On the build up to the exhibition, another favourite memory was one of our participants actually teaching me something! He taught me how to cut out stencils and how to line the stencils up to spray them!
My involvement has changed my perspective massively, I am very privileged and have always been supported heavily by my family in everything I do. Working with Soft Touch has opened my eyes, making me realise in fact how lucky I am, but also seeing how what some people may class as “a bit of painting and sticking” actually is so much more than that, the artwork that is created is fantastic, and has huge impacts on the young people’s lives, allowing them to use art as an outlet for emotions and expression, but also giving them the confidence to try new things and making education and qualifications accessible.
One thing I wish everyone knew about being involved in the local not-for-profit sector is the sense of reward you feel after just a day, knowing that the work you do is contributing to changing someone else’s life. You might not be doing it yourself, but anything you do contributes to helping those people in need, and that’s a feeling that is priceless.
If someone was considering joining their local not-for-profit, I would definitely encourage them to go ahead. You don’t have to give up every single bit of your spare time, but that one hour here, one day there, has remarkable effects on the lives of the people the not-for-profit works with.
Soft Touch has been changing the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable young people since 1986, giving young people a voice and helping them develop skills and achieve things that they maybe would not have achieve in mainstream education. I was one of those people.
“I am in full time education at Leicester College, and also do voluntary work with Soft Touch Arts. I volunteer in the café, invigilating exhibitions, New Parks Library and New Parks New York (involuntary paintings). Soft Touch has given me one–to-one support through mentoring and I have achieved my Silver Arts Award.
The café is run by young volunteers and it has given me the experience of serving customers and preparing the food. In the Library I’ve gained confidence talking to new people.
I have a mentor that I meet fortnightly he helps me with college course work, career problems and they’re someone I can open up to.
Jim from Soft Touch Arts came to my secondary school to do some craft projects and inspired me to get involved. I thought it would be good to get involved instead of isolating myself.
I volunteer on projects and sessions which get me out the house, away from all the domestics and to give me a bit of independence. Taking part in the sessions was helpful for me as I got the opportunity to enjoy myself and interact with other people around my own age, and learn new skills such as how to use a craft knife when I was cutting out stencils or how to use Photoshop, and how to take good quality photographs.
The best thing about my involvement was that I was not isolating myself from others and staying in. I was interacting with other people and having a bit more of a social life. I didn’t think it would be possible to have a social life, but obviously I can and now I have.
My best memory from my involvement is when we went to London, Members of Parliament came to see the sort of work we do. My highlight was meeting Liz Kendall and telling her about the work I have been doing with Soft Touch Arts.