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!”

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

Arty-Folks at Coventry Recovery & Wellbeing Academy

The Coventry Recovery & Wellbeing Academy offers a huge range of courses and workshops to promote personal development and self-management of health conditions.  Arty-Folks is one of the many delivery partners and we will be running our popular 3 week course Fine Art to Well-being during 2019.

Relaxation through Art is aimed at anyone looking for alternative coping strategies to improve mental well-being for themselves or to help others. In this course you will explore how being creative can benefit your sense of well-being and you will become more confident using creative techniques that help to relax.

You don’t need any previous experience of art or crafts and all materials and equipment are provided free.

Course Dates 2019

January 2019:    7th, 14th, 21st,  1pm – 3pm
April 2019:          1st,  8th, 15th,   1pm – 3pm
September:       16th, 23rd, 30th, 1pm – 3pm

To enrol

Participants’ Feedback:
“The course had a positive impact on me continuing in the week and it provided me with techniques to use going forward.”
“How art links to mental well-being is very interesting and I feel now much more able to join a general art class.”
“It has enabled me to be more in the moment and to let go of negative thoughts.”
“It has helped me process some of my issues and helped me access feelings I didn’t realise I had.”
“It helped me focus on art with a therapeutic basis in a step-by-step approach.”
“I got into my flow during the art. Focusing on art rather than a washing machine of thoughts is great!”

Course Facilitators

Lorella, Practitioner – It doesn’t matter whether you are experienced or a complete beginner. The focus of this course is not on teaching traditional art skills, but on relieving mental stress and finding alternative ways to de-stress. Even in such a short course, there is a magic that happens when people learn and create together. It’s fantastic to see how quickly people get to grips with using art for the benefit of their well-being. This course will give you a starting point to embed creativity in your life.

Simone, Co-Facilitator – I enrolled on this course January 2018 when I was looking for something that would help me get through my anxiety of being in groups. And it was just what I needed! I learnt to relax and let go of thoughts that didn’t serve a purpose and it got me away from all my usual worries. I have since joined Arty-Folks’ service and attend my weekly art class regularly because I recognised that art was helping me to communicate and connect to others.  Even if you are not sure if it’s for your it’s worth trying because the art is not intimidating in any way.  Just give it a go and I will be there to help you through!



Arty-Folks is recruiting new Trustees

Arty-Folks is now looking to appoint new Trustees to the Board who will assist us in delivering our strategic plan, and ensure that we continue to be a distinctive and successful charity.   The mission of Arty-Folks is to be a leader in driving social change by tackling the root causes to mental ill health through the transformational power of the visual arts and peer support.

We are looking for highly skilled individuals who think outside the box and will enjoy working with us towards Coventry City of Culture 2021.  We are keen to hear from candidates who can offer particular expertise in one or more of the following areas: finance, IT, HR, mental health and well-being, corporate sponsorship, and fundraising.

We are also specifically looking for a new Chair of the Board and a Treasurer. Candidates will support the Arty-Folks values and have an understanding of governance, and the skills, intellect and outlook to contribute effectively as members of a high caliber board.

Commitment required:
– attend four x 2hr 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 three years with the Board

As a Trustee 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
– be innovative and think outside the box
– have an honest and open approach and take decisions for the good of Arty Folks
– have in-depth understanding and acceptance of the legal duties of Trustees.
– have a good sense of humour

Please note that Trustees 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:



World Mental Health Day 2018 focus on Young People

World Mental Health Day 10th October 2018
puts the spotlight on Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.

Members’ acrylic paintings map out places and people that are important in their lives. With this exhibition we want to raise awareness that feeling part of a community is the best ‘medicine’ to maintaining good mental health.

A survey released this October 2018 by BBC Radio 4 found that 16-24 year olds are the loneliest age group in the UK.  Young people have to face a world where human rights are violated wherever they look including cyber crimes, cyber bullying, and violent video games.  Additionally, young people face a huge range of pressures from achieving in education, fitting in socially, conforming to gender roles, portraying a certain image online, as well as dealing with family breakdowns.

Youth loneliness is not taken seriously by society and so it can feel like a personal failing.  By putting children and young people’s feelings down as ‘typically teen moodiness’ we silence and disempower them and we are putting their mental well-being at risk.

Most young people will come through challenging life events without serious harm.  However, the NHS reports 24.3% of people registered with mental health services are aged under 19, and that the number of girls and boys self-harming is increasing at an alarming rate.  In the UK suicide is the leading cause of death in young people and over half of those who die by suicide have a history of self-harm.

Framing young people’s experience of loneliness in medical terms such as depression or anxiety is not useful and will only reinforce the sense of shame and stigma many of them feel.   Instead of keeping their feelings bottled up, we need to encourage young people to talk about how they feel, help them understand loneliness as a normal experience and legitimate feelings for them to express.

What does it take to grow up healthy, happy and resilient?

Human beings are by nature very sociable and we need to take time to listen and exchange experiences, have fun, and connect to our peers.  The BBC survey shows that 61% of young people say that taking part in group activities is the best solution to tackle loneliness because sharing an interest is the simplest way to make new friends.

Arty-Folks received £75,000 from the Heart of England Community Foundation
to run a 3 year programme for young people 18-28 year old who are struggling to find their own way forward.  Weekly “Making Headway” group offers art for self-development combined with 1:1 life skills coaching, and inter-generational mentoring.  The project is in its second year and it has helped our young people to push through their fears and start Foundation in Art and Design at University, college courses towards and employment.

Feedback from a young service user: “Arty-Folks is a safe place for me where I made my first friends after 4years of being in Coventry, where I feel comfortable being myself. The group has helped me become mentally stronger and I am now back at Uni.

Arty-Folks “Making Headway” group provides young people with opportunities to meet with other like-minded people and and promotes a sense of belonging to a community.
To join Arty-Folks therapeutic art programme:  every Wednesday 12.30-2.30 at Holyhead Studios (formerly known as Artspace), 16 Lower Holyhead Road, CV1 3AU.

Lloyds Bank Foundation supporting Arty-Folks for second time!

Lloyds Bank Foundation recognises that small charities can make a vital difference and have granted Arty-Folks £14,982 to improve digital capabilities so we can reach more people struggling with mental ill health in Coventry.

The report “The Value of Small” commissioned by Lloyds Bank Foundation shows that small to medium sized charities are making a huge difference to individuals and communities with their work on tackling social issues such as mental ill health.  It finds that small charities such as Arty-Folks have a distinctive impact locally because we act as the glue that holds services and communities together and we are able to reach the most marginalised in society.  However, 84% of local government funding is going to larger charities with more than half of funding going to a small number of very large charities.

Lorella Medici who has led Arty-Folks’ work in the city for the past 23 years comments: “More people than ever before slip through the net because they don’t score highly enough to qualify for mental health support even though they are clearly in need.  Many also become more ill while they are waiting to see specialist services which can take up to a year even if people are in crisis. But small charities like Arty-Folks can be accessed anytime and people can also self-refer without formalities and waiting lists. 

Pictured: At the Arty Folks group in Coventry is art leader Lorella Medici in the art studio.
Pictures by Adam Fradgley

We may be small, but our programme of therapeutic art groups combined with 1:1 mentoring and coaching helps people regain their self-belief to move on in life.  Through therapeutic learning and with the support of peers our members achieve a robust level of mental stability.

This is the second time Lloyds Bank Foundation has funded our development ambitions and we are extremely grateful.  It is boosting our determination to become more visible in Coventry so we can support more people to stay safe, better manage their mental health, and make positive choices.”

Feedback from a current member: “It is difficult to admit that you have fallen out of line with what society expects and others may not be able to understand how ill it is possible to become.  Arty-Folks is a really good anchor where I can relate to people who have been in the same boat and where I am not judged as weak. I feel probably for the first time at home, safe and a part of the community, with friends to call on, and with interests and hobbies that make me feel my life is worth living.”

Arty-Folks runs a therapeutic art group every Wednesday 12.30-2.30 at Holyhead Studios, 16 Lower Holyhead Road, CV1 3AU.  For more information visit or facebook/ArtyFolks

Pictured: At the Arty Folks group in Coventry is art leader Lorella Medici in the art studio.
Pictures by Adam Fradgley

Heritage Open Days, September 15/16 2018

Saturday 15 September: 11am – 5pm
Sunday 16 September: 12noon – 4.30pm
at Holyhead Studios (formerly known as Artspace), 16 Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry CV1 3AU

What’s On
Arty-Folks members are exhibiting fantasy film creations in the community room
Artist studios will be open and artists will be present to talk about their work.
Children’s activities – colouring, collage, heritage trails.
A range of community groups will be exhibiting artwork.
Exhibition of plans and photographs documenting the history of the building.

The building historically served as a Quaker Friend’s meeting house, Police social club, youth centre and one-time rehearsal space for the Specials, Selector and other 2-tone bands. Since the early 1990s the building has been an arts facility offering artists’ studios, community space hire, workshops, events and specialist ceramic facilities. The building retains a wealth of original features and artefacts which illustrate its varied history and uses.

Heritage tours available of the building to include the artist studios, basement used by the Specials and Selector for rehearsals, classroom gallery, and members office and community room (former friends meeting room). Tours will take place on the half hour throughout opening times. No need to pre-book but tours are limited to 8 people per tour. Meet in the main entrance hall. Visitors can wait in the community room till the tour starts.

To download the Heritage week-end brochure

AJ Gallagher Gives Award £5,000 to Arty-Folks

Arty-Folks was nominated for this award by an AJG employee who benefited from our creative self-development program. During our sessions, she realised that self-expression in a community of peers helped improve her well-being and that such therapeutic opportunities are not available to those in work. Currently Arty-Folks workshops run in the daytime so are not accessible to the majority of people who are in employment.

AJ Gallagher is a global insurance broker with more than 4,500 employees specialising in risk management and insurance solutions for corporate, commercial and personal customers. Gallagher Gives is part of their global Corporate Social Responsibility program and provides opportunities for their employees to get involved in local projects.

People in work are not immune to stress: over a 9 month period Coventry City Council reported 14,000 work days lost through stress, depression and anxiety. With 1 in 6 employees currently experiencing mental health problems, mental health is an essential business concern. There is a strong relationship between levels of staff well-being and motivation and performance and by taking a positive approach to mental health, like
AJ Gallagher, businesses can help their staff grow.

Statutory services focus on people who have become so unwell that they are not able to function in society anymore and we recognise the opportunities to address mental stress at early stages are limited. We all have mental health and we will all experience periods of good and poor mental health, just as we do physical health.


With this award Arty-Folks will be able to pilot a new service that will equip people in employment who are struggling with stress or who care for a loved one or friend with mental health needs with creative techniques to recalibrate mental energies.

We are very grateful to AJG employees at the Coventry branch for allowing us to test our ideas on them during Mental Health Awareness Week May 2018 and for supporting us with a wide range of tasks that will strengthen our charity.

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