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We’ve been to visit Northern Butterflies to find out about the fantastic wellbeing support it offers as part of the VCSE Mental Health Alliance.  

Northern Butterflies is a small creative charity established in 2013 by Sam Goodlet, a practicing artist and former art teacher.

The programme supports people in Northumberland who have a learning disability or are experiencing mental ill-health, by using artistic practices to boost their wellbeing and confidence.

Northern Butterflies is based in Cramlington with activities taking place across two sites, the studio and a community garden space. The programme is run with the help of volunteers and supports between 15-25 people each session.

Northern Butterflies runs a variety of arts-based wellbeing sessions and workshops each week. This includes fine art painting, crafts, music, dance, performing arts, horticulture, yoga and mindfulness sessions.

The team often collaborates with sessional artists who run specialist workshops, such as Gary Bowden, who runs monthly music sessions.

Students in the group also have an opportunity to host their own sessions to share their talents and interests with the wider group.

Sam explains:

“We have students who were initially very shy and quiet, who are now much more confident.

We’re encouraging those students to run their own workshops with whatever level of support they feel they need. It’s about letting students have a voice in the programme, so we can tailor what we offer to suit their interests.”

As well as building confidence, Sam is keen to support students to achieve qualifications in english, maths and art.

Sam explains:

“We’re looking to run accredited qualifications that students can complete at their own pace. We hope this will create small stepping stones for the students, to help them continue to build their skills and confidence.”

“We’re also supporting some of our students to complete volunteering training, so they can continue to attend the group as students but are also able to get involved as volunteers should they wish to take that next step.”

Community garden

Sessions and workshops are also held in the Northern Butterflies community garden space.

Sam explains:

“When we first acquired the garden site it was a blank canvas. With the help of volunteers, transformed the site into an outdoor space for yoga, mindfulness, art and music. We secured funding through Bitfood for raised beds now donate the produce we grow to the Cramlington Hope Centre.”

The group work with light artist Mick Stephenson in a soundscape inspired by the garden, which has since won an award at the 2021 Northeast BRILLIANT Lumiere in Durham. This fantastic display will be part of The Alnwick Garden Christmas Light Trail!

Digital showcase

Northern Butterflies will be running a digital showcase event on 19 November which will be held in the Community Hub in Cramlington.

During which, the group will be sharing some of their work and one student will be performing a 15-minute solo!

Northumberland VCSE Mental Health Alliance

Northern Butterflies is funded through the VCSE Mental Health Alliance as part of the community mental health transformation for Northumberland.

We’re proud to be the lead partner for the VCSE Mental Health Alliance and look forward to sharing more about the fantastic programmes being offered, such as DigitalMe and project Aasha.

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