Award winners embark on well-being project

Savile Park Primary School children perform a dance at the Verd de gris event The Land Beneath my Feet - A Coming Together - at Halifax Acadamy.
Savile Park Primary School children perform a dance at the Verd de gris event The Land Beneath my Feet - A Coming Together - at Halifax Acadamy.

Creative arts company verd de gris is embarking on a well-being project to help improve the mental health of women in Calderdale.

The not-for-profit group, based in Hebden Bridge, recently won the Arts and Culture Award at the Courier’s Community Spirit Awards.

Natalie Speake with Savile Park Primary School children on stage at the Verd de gris event The Land Beneath my Feet - A Coming Together - at Halifax Acadamy.

Natalie Speake with Savile Park Primary School children on stage at the Verd de gris event The Land Beneath my Feet - A Coming Together - at Halifax Acadamy.

Partners Sharon Marsden and Jeff Turner, from verd de gris, are looking for around a dozen participants to take part in their health and well-being project, which aims to help women who may be suffering from low self-esteem or low confidence.

Behind The Mask follows on from their successful Land Beneath My Feet project, which involved a group of Muslim women using art, poetry, writing and dance to help increase their confidence and self-expression.

Sharon said: “On the back of the success of the Land Beneath My Feet project we got repeat funding from Calderdale Council’s Adult Health and Social Care Directorate to repeat it - this funding has now been matched by Big Lottery Awards For All.

“We thought about women in the wider community and thought it was really relevant for them too.

Halifax Courier Community Spirit Awards 2015 at Berties, Elland. Arts and Culture Award. From the left, host Clare Frisby, winners from Verd de Gris Sharod Marsden, Jeff Turner, Natalie Speake and sponsor from The New \Hobbit Chris Smith.

Halifax Courier Community Spirit Awards 2015 at Berties, Elland. Arts and Culture Award. From the left, host Clare Frisby, winners from Verd de Gris Sharod Marsden, Jeff Turner, Natalie Speake and sponsor from The New \Hobbit Chris Smith.

“No matter who you are, whatever age or background, that persona that women have to put on, the mask women have to wear, is incredibly powerful.

“Women are constantly having to put a mask on to their family, their husband or partner, their workplace, to wider society.

“And we felt that cuts across all communities. So we’re doing a project with Muslim women and another with the wider community.”

Participants for the Muslim women’s element will come from discussions with community outreach worker, but verd de gris are appealing for participants from the wider community for the second part of the project.

Photo by Paula Solloway/ Verd de Gris Ltd

Photo by Paula Solloway/ Verd de Gris Ltd

“We’re hoping to work with women who are struggling with self-esteem and low confidence and those issues will come up as we’re working,” said Sharon.

“Women have come so far but it’s still incredibly difficult for women to be all things. Hopefully we’ll get a mix of women from different backgrounds but who share common themes, which would be a positive because we like to look at what makes us the same and what we all share. We use a lot of coping strategies which can help people to learn to deal with any issues they have.

“We look at breathing techniques, positive thinking, ways of trying to help people take a different look at the situation they’re in and make changes.”

The project will run from September 11 until Christmas, with a weekly two-hour session at the Women’s Centre on Silver Street in Halifax town centre.

An artwork created during a previous verd de gris project. Photo by Paula Solloway/ Verd de Gris Ltd

An artwork created during a previous verd de gris project. Photo by Paula Solloway/ Verd de Gris Ltd

“Once the project finishes we’ll assess it and we may think about running a similar project in the New Year if there are more women interested,” said Sharon.

“We’re very interested in taking the debate to more women so we might look at going into High Schools.

“This is a massive issue with young girls so we’d be interested in doing creative debates where, if the women we work with were confident enough, could be part of creative workshops with schools.”

Sharon is keen to encourage participants from all walks of life to the project, and says women shouldn’t be discouraged if they are not creative.

She added: “We do creative art, poetry, creative writing, but everything starts with a simple starting point so that people who don’t feel they’re very creative or they’ve never been able to write are given the confidence that what they have to say is important.

“Some amazing things do come out of these projects. It might just be a phrase or a painting or an image.

“Everybody can respond creatively - that’s the basis of what we do.

“What’s important is what people have to say, not necessarily how the say it.

“There might be some women who have a mental health condition or others who constantly feel anxious or low in confidence. It’s open to anyone.”

If you are interested in taking part in the Behind The Mask project, email sharon@verddegris.org.