Innovation Fund Feedback from our friend Michelle at Fruit Cake Creatives Ltd
Michelle was awarded the Innovation Fund to The project will involve a group of 8 volunteer people, who will work on developing well-being walks lead by homeless people celebrating the history of the area. The project was based at St Mungo’s West London Recovery College, The Wellbeing Centre at Earls Court.
Michelle reported that the project undertook far more walks than originally intended. Altogether there were 38 meetings and walks from the centre where only 12 were initially planned. There were eight additional meetings at a specialist library in east London where the participants researched Artists walks.
From the centre they developed the following walks:
- Brompton Cemetery – This was the closest place the group walked to.
- Under the Westway – This walk was in two halves and included Little Venice, the Trellick Tower and a community garden.
- A Punk and Graffiti walk which was in Ladbroke Grove.
- A walk to and through Holland Park.
- Wander to the River in Chelsea and South Kensington.
- A Midnight Walk – London Bridge to Westminster summer solstice 2019
- A walk to the Royal Academy of Arts.
- Walks to and in the Chelsea Physic Garden who also gave the group free tickets and talks so we could learn about the plants
- A women’s walk from Westminster to the Southbank on 8th March 2020.
Michelle stated that the group also joined in with Gerry Daltons: ‘MARCH ALONG THE CANAL OPPOSITE GERRY’S GARDEN’ in November 2019 www.gerryspompeii.com, as well as linking up with a local community garden near the Trellick tower on the canal.
Michelle reported that there was a lot of prep work that went into ensuring the list of walks went ahead. This included planning and organising the walks, putting up large scale maps at the Centre and inviting people to add where they would like to go, where was interesting and where meant anything to them.
At every walk a number of people who came would do so with their homes i.e. big bags and/or even large suitcases, as well as rucksacks. Michelle was pleasantly surprised by how the groups connected and supported each other. One example of this was on some walks when people had a lot of bags as they were homeless and carrying all their belonging with them. Other group members who were on the walks but did not have any luggage would help those individuals and take turns in carrying each other’s bags.
One very disabled participant would drive to parts of the walks and meet us to do a short walk and then drive to our next point of interest. Michelle found that being flexible was very important in order to be able to accommodate everyone that wanted to be a part of these unique experiences. This included ensuring that walks would be dog friendly as some people who joined the project with their dogs.
The Under the Westway walk brought up lots of stories for people, about going to parties and previous use of drugs, one person admitted he was still using. The response from the other group participants was amazing they were all encouraging him to stop that type of behaviour. The attendees to the walks were predominately men. There were about 80% white and 20% BAME and mostly working class. The core volunteers were two women. Michelle said that people really enjoyed sharing memories and revisiting places which in some cases they use to go to, when they were younger.
In Holland Park one man spoke about his childhood and his Mum, as she used to really enjoy the park. This particular man was also quite disabled and had lots carrier bags, which the group all helped him to carry. He would also carry art work with him that he had made and often shared his art works with the group.
In total there were 30 people who directly benefitted from the wellbeing walks. Workshops were provided to up-skill the volunteers learning how to plan a guided walk, manage a group of people, crossing roads safely, how to work as a team, sharing different skills and taking on different roles and help each other, confidence and self-esteem building. Michelle also provided volunteer skills meetings.
Michelle fed back: “On the whole the project was a success it helped people improve their self-confidence and build friendships – even a year later one of the guys looked up to see if there were any walks still running anywhere. I am currently working on a project with the community in Bermondsey and with NSUN – a user run project for people with mental health issues to do similar work and I will take the learning with me”.