Coventry University showcasing Arty-Folks Sketchbooks

  • Coventry University are running a community art project called Coventry Sketchbook Project and Arty-Folks members are some of the first to use them!
  • The first completed Arty-Folks sketchbooks will be showcased at Coventry University Gala Dinner on 5th December 2019
  • 2021 sketchbooks will be distributed across Coventry in the run up to Coventry City of Culture 2021 and you can pick up your own free sketchbook from The Inkwell, Whitefriars Street, Coventry.

How to fill a Coventry Sketchbook

The sketchbooks invite you to look at our everyday Coventry in a different way and notice things that you may not have noticed before. You can draw, paint, collage, and use any medium that suits you to create images of Your Coventry and what is important about this city to you, your experiences of living in your area. At Arty-Folks we used markers, pencils, and we experimented with washi-tape that you can buy from the Inkwell.

Get creative with friends!

Bring your sketchbooks along the next time you visit your friends and help, encourage, motivate and reassure each other, chat about ideas, find inspiration, make suggestions and most of all remind each other that a sketchbook is a place for play and experimentation! At Arty-Folks we use art to improve our mental well-being and being part of this project is exciting because our artwork will contribute to something bigger and become a part of Coventry’s heritage.

What happens when I hand in my completed sketchbook?

When you have filled your sketchbook hand it back to the Inkwell. Coventry University is looking to exhibit and tour the sketchbooks over the next 3 years to showcase the essence of Coventry and its people. And so your artwork will inspire people up and down the country to get creative.

To find out more                   

visit their Facebook page: Coventry Sketchbook Project or follow #CovSketchbook and #ArtyFolksCov

Arty-Folks is recruiting new Trustees and Advisers


Arty-Folks is now looking to appoint new Trustees to the Board and Advisers to the Operations Group. We are seeking highly skilled individuals who think outside the box and are passionate about mental well-being through art.

We would like to hear from candidates who can offer particular expertise in areas such as finance, legal, NHS/CCG, local authority, IT, HR, Health and Social Care, and income generation.

Download the information pack here: Trustees&Advisers 2019

We are specifically looking for a new Chair of the Board with a strong understanding of governance, and the skills, experience and outlook to contribute to the strategic direction of the charity.

We are also looking for expert Advisers to support our staff team with more hands-on operational matters.

We would like Trustees and Advisers to commit to
– attend four meetings per year including the Annual General Meeting
– occasionally meet with staff or volunteers depending on your skill set and availability
– commit to serving a minimum of four years

As a Trustee or Adviser we expect you to
– be passionate about improving the mental well-being of working age adults
– have an understanding of the challenges small charities like Arty-Folks face
– demonstrate integrity in all your dealings and have good, independent judgement
– bring a fresh perspective and ability think outside the box
– have an honest and open approach to decision making
– have in-depth understanding and acceptance of the legal duties of Trustees.
– have a good sense of humour

Please note that Trustees and Advisers are volunteers and receive no payment except for agreed out-of-pocket expenses.

To apply, please email your CV with a brief covering letter describing your specific skills to the Chair of Arty-Folks using email:

Unseen Stories book launch!

We are immensely proud to launch our very first book
Unseen Stories today 10th October World Mental Health Day.

Unseen Stories‘ charts the journey to recovery of nine young adults aged between 18 and 30 years old who attended our young adults group Making Headway during 2017. Through their artwork they explored personal experiences that had thrown them off course and unhelpful life patterns and that were holding their dreams hostage.

You can clearly ‘see what they mean’ through the rawness and turmoil expressed in their artwork and personal stories that were written during 1:1 mentoring sessions.

World Mental Health Day 2019 wants to highlight that every 40 seconds a life is lost to suicide. We hope Unseen Stories will encourage people who may have reached the point where they feel that life is not worth living to reach out for help.

Unseen Stories is available on Amazon for £14.50 and the £2.50 profit per book will be reinvested in art materials for the four weekly groups we run.

Click on the image below to be taken to Unseen Stories on Amazon.

Off The Beaten Path

To mark World Mental Health Day on the 10th October 2019 we are exhibiting our members artwork at Coventry Central Library and in a yet secret location outdoors in the city center.  So watch this space!

Coventry Central Library 7-20 October, normal opening times

These past few months members have used wax on canvas, inks and collage to explore the creative process inspired by the documentary ‘The creative brain’ by David Eagleman, you can find it on Netflix.  

Stepping out of their comfort zone, our members explored the transformative power of art for personal growth and change. Creativity is innately human and yet, with our busy lives we become so disconnected from our ability to imagine something new and that we can bring into existence.

“Arty-Folks is more than an art group; we are a community who support each other. Being involved with the project helped me to get through a very difficult time in my life when I was struggling with my mental health. Making artwork enabled me to connect with others in the group with similar experiences and to better understand my emotions. It has given me a sense of purpose, building my confidence and social skills.”

The last Jigsaw

Inspired by the American artist Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures our members have transformed single use plastics into colourful flowers that grow out of the last piece of a jigsaw. 

Everyone has a different story, however, certain feelings, like lack of self-worth and anxiety are universal, and can be shared through the discussions sparked by our artwork.

Coventry City Center 9-11 October, #offthebeatenpath to be announced on the 9th

Members’ exotic translucent flowers will light up a derelict and unused landscape in the city centre on two nights.   Our beautiful green planet is drowning in plastic but for once plastic will bring colour and beauty to a wasteland. Don’t miss it!

10th October, World Mental Health Day Focus: Suicide Prevention

Our life circumstances and experiences affect our mental well-being and
Arty-Folks offers a safe haven of peer-support when people need it most. Members come together in the group sessions, not just physically but emotionally, building strong and meaningful relationships.

There is not enough provision in the local community in Coventry for people who are living with mental health issues. If you know someone who is struggling please help them to access groups like Arty-Folks. 

You might just save their life. #artyfolks #offthebeatenpath

Investing in volunteers is a winner!

Arty-Folks are awarded the quality mark ‘Investors in Volunteering’ by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations after demonstrating best practice in all aspects of working with our volunteers.   We are so proud of our team of amazing volunteers who worked with us to achieve this award for excellent volunteer management. 

Arty-Folks volunteers past and present who support us as Trustees, Advisors, and Peer Volunteers and we were also joined by representatives of our funders Lloyds Bank Foundation, Heart of England Foundation, and People’s Health Trust.

Peter Smith, assessor NCVO: “Arty-Folks commitment to volunteering being a two way process was brought out in my interviews with all volunteers.  Staff and volunteers have a shared understanding and there is a strong sense throughout the charity that you’re moving forward as a team for the benefit of your service users.“

Dan Sharkey, Digital Coach, Lloyds Bank Foundation: ” I am proud to be a part of Arty-Folks’ journey. The charity does so much for mental health in Coventry and this award is very much deserved.”

Lorella with Beryl Van Wijgerden who was Arty-Folks’ very first volunteer and who went on to complete an Art Foundation course in her 70’s. Now nearing 90, she is still volunteering in the community.

Clef King (left) peer volunteer at Making Headway, our young people group. Anisha Sidhu (middle) is leaving her volunteering and is starting Art Foundation at Coventry University. Mel Calliste-Ozen (right) used to volunteer in the office and now enjoys working as a barista. Through Volunteering our service users are able to recognise that their illness does not define them – they have skills, personal qualities, and life experiences through which they can help others.

Four members of our hugely supportive Board of Trustees, from left to right:
John Gough, Chair since 2013
Ian MacFarlane-Toms, Treasurer
Barnie Giltrap, IT specialist
David Howitt, Company Secretary

Many of our volunteers have completed Improving Lives, an 8 week course with Voluntary Action Coventry that prepared them well for their role. Above, Lorella and Francesca, Supported Volunteering Officer at Voluntary Action Coventry working together and getting stuck in!

Francesca: “Improving Lives really seeks to increase the confidence, self-esteem and prospects of those who take part. We raise awareness of all of the amazing opportunities there are in Coventry for personal and professional development and to make a difference in the community for those willing to give their time to local charities. Volunteers coming through the course are reporting marked increases in motivation and self-belief, and are ready to offer their commitment in a meaningful way, both for themselves and for the benefit of third sector organisations.”

Lorella Medici, manager and founding member: “After all these years and more ups and downs and twists and turns that I could possibly remember, I am still in awe and admiration of everyone who has pulled through and are soldiering on like our Mel and Bally. Yes, I will always call them ‘ours’ because even though they have moved on our door remains open and they will always be members of our Arty-Folks family.”

Lorella being emosh with Mel (left) and a bit freaky with Bally (right).

Lorella: “The Investors in Volunteering Award is a recognition of the enormous contribution our volunteers have made with their time, commitment, passion, and expertise that has enabled Arty-Folks to offer an uninterrupted service since 1996 on a shoestring budget.

On behalf of our staff team Liz, Laura, Karen and myself – THANK YOU!”

This project is funded by the Lloyds Bank Foundation

Arty-Folks receives £20k European Social Funds Community Grant to develop New Perspectives

At Arty-Folks we believe that everyone, irrespective of circumstance, deserves to be given the best chance of leading a fulfilled, healthy, economically active life, and to be empowered to reach their potential.  We are delighted Groundwork in Coventry & Warwickshire awarded us £20,000 ESF funds to run New Perspectives, a 6 months project to help our most vulnerable and socially excluded members move closer to their chosen goals.

Many of our members are struggling with significant health needs that place them furthest from the labour market and as a result they suffer social exclusion, poverty and discrimination.  Sadly, the employment rate of people with common mental health problems has continued to be far lower than the general population (43% compared to 74%).  We know that economic inactivity also has a huge impact on self-esteem, general health and well-being, and on the persons’ hope for a better future! 

Our New Perspectives staff team is best placed to understand the often unique and complex barriers which deter and prevent our members from engaging in employment focused programmes.

Liz Harvey, art workshops, supports members to increase social confidence and skills for studying and employment, and to build a personal art portfolio to access further creative education.  “Art allows us to connect to other people in a positive and personal way.  It helps us recognise our uniqueness whilst also enabling us to bond with like-minded people.  That’s when healing begins.”

Lorella Medici, mentor, supports members to explore what is hindering their success and to identify realistic and achievable plans moving forward.  “Sometimes we need a bit of help to break down what seems an insurmountable barrier into manageable and removable chunks.  There is always a way forward but sometimes we get so frustrated we can’t see the wood for the trees.”

Laura Wilde, support worker, helps members into education.  She offers 1:1 support to apply and enrol on their chosen courses, to ensure all requirements for entry are met, prepares them for entry exams and interviews, and supports them to get used to studying, how to take notes and write essays, etc.  “Studying should be exciting and enjoyable but I know from personal experience how taxing academia can be and how important it is to maintain a good balance between studying and personal life.”

Karen Lewis, support worker, helps members into employment.  She offers 1:1 support to write CV’s, access employment training, online searches, job applications, interviews, etc. and continues to support them until they feel confident in their new role.  Karen also organises group outings and helps people to try other opportunities to increase health and well-being and feel more confident being out and about in the community.  “I absolutely love being a mum but I am also a person in my own right. I know what it’s like to struggle with a lack of self-confidence and self-worth and how quickly it can mean you retreat from the outside world and stop engaging with the wonderful things happening around you.”

New Perspectives offers a safe space where a circle of supportive peers, staff and volunteers will help members ‘normalise’ and make sense of their experiences.  Our team will go the extra mile to help members regain self-belief, take control of their personal journey to recovery, and take steps towards chosen career paths.  New Perspectives will have a significant positive impact on members’ emotional, physical, social and economic situation, and will restore their self-belief and confidence to succeed in life.

ESF Community Grants are funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and are being managed by Groundwork in Coventry & Warwickshire with support from local Groundwork Trusts.  ESF Community Grants up to £20,000 are for local initiatives such as Arty-Folks that can help disadvantaged people towards employment, training or education.   

Pour and Flow – Exhibition

We have not exhibited for a while and we are so excited to show these amazing acrylic paintings by our members for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.

The theme set by the Mental Health Foundation this year is body image, how we feel and think about our bodies. At Arty-Folks we have explored this in a positive way by using paints in an organic way and that helps us connect body and mind.

We added different mediums to acrylics to create chance effects when pouring onto canvas and to enable more flow. This process required a body and mind alignment which we experienced as energising and uplifting, and yes the results were stunning and surprising.

We then took a small section as inspiration for a second painting that tapped into our childhood imagination. But to see those you need to visit the exhibition!

Arty-Folks working towards Investing in Volunteers accreditation

We have just started to work towards the quality standard Investing in Volunteers (IiV) that will improve the effectiveness of our work with volunteers and will assure them of our ability to provide an outstanding volunteer experience.

Over 300 people have volunteered their time for Arty-Folks since we started our first art group in April 1996. We are most grateful for their unpaid time, commitment, passion, and invaluable expertise that has helped Arty-Folks grow into a unique charity that provides an evidence-based approach to mental well-being through the visual arts.

Investing in Volunteers has been designed to be an effective and rigorous process to ensure a win-win: our volunteers receive the best possible management support and Arty-Folks receives maximum benefit from our volunteers’ involvement.

Today, volunteers serve on the Board of Trustees where strategic decisions are made, and advisers on the Operations Group assists our small staff team to realise our ambitious plans for the future. We are always looking for advisers with specific skills and expertise and if you are interested in volunteering with us please email your CV to

Peer Volunteers work alongside our staff team and undertake a huge range of tasks at art workshops such as meeting and greeting new service users, serving refreshments, assisting staff with the delivery of activities, supporting staff with the induction process of new service users and helping newcomers to relax and enjoy the process of being creative.

Arty-Folks Peer Volunteers who have grown through the service become role models to recovery as they inspire others by sharing their own journey and by being open about their experiences they instil hope for a better future.

At art workshops with service users Arty-Folks offers volunteering opportunities only to our own service users who have grown through the service and to Coventry University art students.

We offer placements to 2nd year Fine Art students at Coventry University with a wide range of creative skills and who wish to explore working in a community setting.  Art students can boost their employability and gain invaluable insight into how the visual arts can support people to rebuild their lives.  We only consider applications received through CUSU

Eilish Lenihan, 2nd year Fine Art student at Coventry University, and a wonderful volunteer.
Arty-Folks Investors in Volunteering accreditation is funded by the Lloyds Bank Foundation

“My thoughts about Arty-Folks” by K.L.

I have been a member of Making Way group for 2 months now and the process of creating in this most advanced group is very different. The way these sessions are structured ensures you pay dedicated, focused, constructive attention to your worries (and have the confidence to do so) and also provides respite from them, in the right balance.

Given deep seated complex feelings that are hard to voice, a tangible form that I can experience outside of my body; a form of release. This has shown me that it is possible to view and observe these feelings without the disabling grip of negative physical sensation and thought. Over time they have become clearer and easier to face, communicate and understand.

anger expressed by K.L., colour pencils and markers

The variety of projects and materials and the method and nature in which they are used, has reinforced the message and mindset that there is more than one approach or solution to tackling your situation. It has helped me break free from stuck thought patterns and see from new perspectives. Easing the fear of trying something new has built confidence, encouraging me out of comfort zones.

Arty-Folks has given me the determination and motivation to move myself forward, by providing great insight and knowledge on the subject of mental health. Each week has focused on a different aspect. This in hand with the accompanying art exercise then helps you to feel more comfortable in holding the reins, steering on your own personal journey; making choices, problem solving, gaining control, learning to let go; at a pace that is right for you. You are literally, shaping things for yourself. It’s very rewarding to see your own progress in such a visual way.

The discussion element at the start of each session followed by a ‘creative action’ gave me a sense that I could take real steps to doing something about the way I feel; how I react. Engagement in a practical activity helped free my flow of thought and was incredibly cathartic.

work in progress by K.L., mixed media

The open discussion of each others work also hits home ‘you are not alone’, brings awareness and understanding of how we each experience things and that whatever your situation you can make a difference and be of great support to someone else. Learning to interpret the work we produced helped me explore my inner self in a non-judgmental way and analyze my own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It was empowering.

The Workshops provide a supportive, safe, inviting space where you can comfortably and freely open up and share experiences and information with peers, but still maintain privacy. This is a great connection when you feel isolated. Arty-Folks have also been good at providing information on additional local groups/ classes and resources that might help and by introducing activities such as yoga and meditation to the group to try.

follow your heart by K.L. ceramics

Arty-Folks provided me with a toolkit, that I could take with me and apply independently to my everyday. It has proven to me that we can find comfort in ways that are healthy; that in time you can find the resilience within you to lean into overwhelming problems, face them, with the right resources tread the path to overcoming them and find healing.

C.K. “A typical NEETS”

I am lazy, obese, uncooperative, irresponsible, a typical workshy NEETS (Not in Employment Education Training or Studying).  I am sure that’s what my GP thinks.  He won’t consider looking at my mental health until I comply and take medication for an underactive thyroid.   Like most adults he doesn’t listen and I don’t trust the medical profession anyway because I believe they are to blame I became orphaned at 18.

I will always remember the night before saying to her “you want me to be a girly girl like Hannah Montana but I am more a tomboy like Lily” and she smiled, she looked happy.  My mum was funny.  She smoked a fair bit but drank rarely.  She always wanted me to tickle and massage her feet.  My dad always blamed me if something went wrong and she wouldn’t argue with him, she would just calmly stick up for me. I think she had been a grave digger at one point.  She loved the Bay City Rollers and Priscilla Queen of the desert.

I woke up to the sound of my half-brother screaming my mums’ name.  She had complained to the doctors that she had pins and needles down one side and they did lots of test and scans but I don’t think they took it seriously.  She had a brain haemorrhage at 5am in the morning in the bathroom in front of the sink.  We waited for the ambulance and for dad to return from work, and we just knew that nothing was ever going to be OK.  I don’t really know what happened after that.  Mum was my safety and now it was all gone one November day.

All these people coming round saying I am so sorry, staying for a bit and then leaving again.  I was in a terrible state, everything bubbled up.   I just remember sitting there numb, staring into empty space.  I remember constantly having these vivid dreams my mum coming back to live again, then not knowing where she worry when she would die again. It’s been nearly 10 years now and not much has changed.

My dad was a lot different afterwards.  We all were. He pottered on but drank a lot more.  He already had an operation for throat cancer but then it came back with other cancers.  He died within a couple of weeks of diagnosis and I don’t know who was there when he died.  I went to see him but I couldn’t say goodbye to him.  Later I went into my bedroom and I scraped my wrist for ages, it was just a way of bringing me back to reality and help me deal with my anger and sadness. The scar reminds me that whatever I am going through now can’t possibly be as bad as then.

To me, life is an endless stream of dealing with loss.  Yes, endless: I had a 50/50 chance of surviving at birth, then my jealous half-sister put a pillow over my face when I was a few months old, my step-brother sexually molested me when I was 3 until my early teens, my mother died when I was 15 and my dad four years later but it didn’t stop there, my auntie, my cat.  I know it sounds silly but the reason why I got the cat was to help me cope, and it died too of anti-freeze poisoning.

Shortly after that I started to attend Arty-Folks with a friend.  I was living at the YMCA and I had made some good friends by then.  Since then, I think I have been doing alright-ish, considering.  I might have to get used to living with these feelings but I can’t.  I hate it.  I want it all to go back to normal.  I am still not over losing mum, let alone losing my dad.  I have tried different counselling but I struggled to find the right words.  I can’t just chat about the past, I need some direction.

Sometimes I can still have a laugh and joke but as soon as it’s gone it’s back to feeling crap, nothing stays.  I had the support from so many agencies and so many opportunities put my way but nothing seems to warm my soul, not even God.  I am trying to let him in but I also need some answers!

I always had an interest in art and I used to like watching the crafty shopping channel.  I quite like to learn how to do things.  At Arty-Folks I got so disheartened and frustrated because I just couldn’t ever finish a project.   My mentor explained to me that it’s not my lack of abilities or willpower.  I feel so low and it’s draining me.  And I am so angry with GP’s, with God, and I can’t quite accept that things just happen for no rhyme or reason.  I am scared when something good happens or when I am happy because I am convinced something bad will follow.

I don’t self-harm, I don’t take drugs, I don’t drink or get drunk very often, I am not addicted to social media, gambling, or gaming, and I am looking for a job working with animals.  That’s why my GP thinks I am fine and doesn’t take how I feel seriously.  It’s all down to my thyroid and medication will sort it out.  So I put on a fake mask and I get on with it.