What does the word ‘culture’ mean to you? Art galleries? Museums? To me, it has always sounded a bit posh, and something that I’m not part of.
At last year’s Love Arts Festival, I was involved in some research with the University of Leeds which aimed to look at culture and what it means to us. It got me thinking.
Maybe culture wasn’t something high-brow and elitist. Maybe it was something I was involved in already. At the time I was taking art classes, joining in with the Central Library’s creative writing group annual collection of short stories, in a choir, and making beaded jewellery. That’s all culture, right? And I’d be going to the cinema, had a museum visit with the writers’ group, an art gallery visit with my painting class, as well as all the visits and events with Love Arts.
Talking to the researchers made me realise how central culture and the arts are to my life, and have been to my recovery. Being creative helps keep me well. Going to galleries and museums, watching films, being part of art classes and writing groups all stimulates my creativty. It’s all linked.
Earlier this year the Arts and Minds network asked if anyone was interested in a group that might go to the theatre, exhibitions, concerts, the opera. I was certainly interested. The group is now called the Culture Club, and a big part of what we do is getting together and discussing things that are coming up in Leeds, and deciding what we might be interested in.
So far we’ve seen West Side Story at the Carriageworks, The Crucible at West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Bartered Bride performed by Opera North at Leeds Grand. We’ve been on Art Walks and looked at the latest exhibitions, and visited Light Night in October. And that’s only part of the list. In December we’re going to see White Christmas at the Playhouse.
We keep choosing different venues to meet in for our planning sessions, like The Tetley and the Tiled Hall Cafe, and then discussing different places to visit. I don’t know about you, but mental health issues can be a barrier when it comes to going to things like this. Lack of wellness, lack of confidence, lack of people to go with, lack of money.
With the Culture Club there is always a group to go with. Some people bring a friend or relative. Some things are free, some are discounted, but we always take money into consideration when we’re planning things. And the rest of the group understand about feeling anxious or withdrawn, or just a bit wobbly.
I look back at the last few months and see how much I’ve enjoyed going to these different events and performances, including a few things I wasn’t sure I’d like. A little bit of culture has done me good, filled up my calendar quite a bit, and gives me something to look forward to. Culture really is good for wellbeing.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Culture Club, check out the Arts and Minds Network website.