70 Stories: A Creative Age

Shrigley bird singing
David Shrigley, Sing Your Song

A story by Carole Fotheringham

This is a story about how cultural activities are contributing to healing and enriching my life after a life threatening illness.  How it seems culture, friendship and laughter have the ability to cure all.

We were living and working in Italy in 2010 when encephalitis with a virus infection left me with severe brain damage causing sporadic epileptic seizures.  Physically I appeared to be fine but my complete loss of confidence was worrying my family and friends.  The level of care I was getting was also a worry and then came the final straw, an earthquake in 2016, so my husband packed us up and took us back to Newcastle, his home town. 

However, left isolated at home in a strange new town while he was working wasn’t improving my health, that is, until the day I popped into the Baltic Contemporary Art Centre.  Out of curiosity I asked if they knew of any keep fit courses or something similar that I could attend so I could meet people.  They suggested I tried the Creative Age group held there every Monday but I was very dubious because I’d always been hopeless at art.  I needn’t have worried.  From the second I opened the door and joined the group my whole life has changed.  As well as finding friendship and lots and lots of laughter to fill my days, I’ve learnt so much developing skills I didn’t know I had.  

Carole Fotheringham

Then the group introduced me to Equal Arts and the Carers Cultural Adventures meeting every Wednesday where I’ve found even more friendship and laughter.  We certainly do have adventures.  We’ve made films, designed stage sets and even a shirt, plus had trips out to visit exhibitions and other places of artistic interest.  

All that was missing then was some sort of keep fit class to make the body as healthy as the mind and I didn’t have to look far.  I was further introduced to the socialising and movement group originally set up by Equal Arts and now called Grand Gestures.  We meet every Friday and it’s such fun.  We stretch every muscle possible to every kind of dance you can imagine.  It’s just great abandoning yourself to the music and not having to worry the grandchildren are going to take the mickey out of you 

Add the warmth and friendship shown to me dancing or knee deep in clay, paint, charcoal and all sorts of other materials along with the non-stop laughter from the minute I arrive and it’s easy to see why I haven’t had a single seizure in the 2 years since joining the groups.  

Like me, my family and friends are just so grateful that I found all 3 groups.  They have given me a whole new lease of life and wonderful new friends.  Sadly funds for the two art groups are depleted or running out but WE ARE NOT GIVING UP we are doing all we can to keep going.  That’s how much they mean not just to me but TO US ALL.

70 Stories for 70 Years

These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70thAnniversary of the NHS in 2018.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at info@culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk.

We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.