"Connect & Do has always reached out to people from all backgrounds - regardless of labels or diagnosis."
Before lockdown, Connect & Do operated in physical spaces, centred on vibrant community spaces in Brixton and Bromley. They were hubs for arts, music and relaxation activities for people brought together by their interests, rather than any labels or diagnoses.
Since lockdown, under the direction of the Community Development team, the Connect & Do programme has transformed into an energetic online creative community, which connects people from all over London.
At the heart of Connect & Do are the peer facilitators who have lived experience of mental health support needs and who host the activities and events. More easily connected online than if they had to travel across London, the Connect & Do team have encouraged a growing number of peer facilitators to get involved with workshops and activities.
Evolving the online programme
Jake Meyer, Community Development Manager, explains: “We began by posting videos and worksheets on our website and social media to encourage people to keep being creative and producing art. However, we soon realised that if we could train enough people on Zoom, we could begin offering live workshops.”
Connect & Do peer mentor, Jade added: “We have been able to engage peer facilitators with many skills from across Certitude and Yarrow, including from the ARC, Astley Centre, MySpace and The Gate. They are helping us deliver a wide range of live Zoom sessions, offering arts and crafts, choirs, relaxation therapies, laughter yoga and virtual discos.”
Throughout the summer these sessions were delivered to people supported by Certitude and Yarrow, but from September 2020 ‘The Big Connect’ will see the programme launch to a broader external community audience.
Theatre goes to the movies
At the start of the year, Connect & Do were offered an exciting opportunity to partner with the Young Vic Theatre Company for a project called TWENTYTWENTY.
Professional directors, actors, set designers and script writers began working with people who attend Connect & Do to write and develop a play to be performed in November. The pandemic put paid to the play, but the team quickly adapted their plan and are now making a movie which will be filmed throughout the autumn and screened before Christmas.
Lockdown has highlighted the importance of access to up–to–date digital devices and super–fast broadband for both supporting staff and people who want to participate in online activities. In an agile response to the pandemic, the Connect & Do team have requested that funds (kindly provided by The City Bridge Trust) be moved into Zoom training for peer facilitators and for the purchase of new tablets and laptops, which facilitators can borrow to deliver their sessions.
Jake says: “Connect & Do has always reached out to people from all backgrounds – regardless of labels or diagnosis. From the autumn, more courses and drop-in sessions will be accessible from the Connect & Do pages of the Certitude website so that anyone can get involved.
“Although the lockdown has limited our opportunities for face–to–face contact, being online means we can reach more people. As a team we are excited to be developing this opportunity to grow our active and inclusive online creative community.”