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Veterans' Sculpture Workshops, Llanelli

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

A group of veterans on a mountainside take photographs of their surroundings

At Radiate Arts, we deliver creative workshops to people experiencing mental health problems, to help create positive change in people's lives. We are currently a partner organisation in a collaboration of Armed Forces veteran support organisations in Wales, funded by The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust Veterans' Places, Pathways and People programme.

Our part in this programme delivers creative and outdoor activities to veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress, isolation, and poor mental health, providing them with the opportunity to learn new artistic skills, to develop self-worth, and relax amongst their peers in a safe environment.

Involving peer mentors, workshop leaders and volunteers with lived experience is key to an improved sense of hope, empowerment, and social inclusion for those accessing our creative workshops. It is this connection that benefits interpersonal relationships and contributes to a sense of positive culture and belonging - trusting someone who has overcome similar experiences can provide a living example of hope to those currently facing challenges.

The artist Joe Wilson stands next to a figurative ceramic sculpture
Joe Wilson and one of his ceramic sculptures

Joe Wilson, formerly a Royal Marine, has attended our creative workshops and retreats for 4 years. In that time, he has achieved a distinction at Aberystwyth Art College and a first-class BA(Hons) degree in ceramics at Carmarthen School of Art. Joe is now a sculptural ceramicist and visual artist, leading creative workshops for veterans with Radiate Arts.

I have spoken to Joe regarding his journey with Radiate Arts, and felt it was appropriate to write this from Joe’s own perspective:

“I first came to Radiate Arts through a veterans’ charity called Change Step about four years ago when I joined a photography and hill walking course. The effect of that one meeting was quite incredible. First, I managed to mix with other veterans in a safe environment and secondly it was great to get out for a walk as well, a proper walk with like-minded people. Walking or any kind of activity like that is a really good way of opening up so you tend to talk, and you tend to enjoy each other’s company.”

Joe recently attended our residentials as a representative of Radiate Arts, sharing his experience with newcomers."

“It's so lovely when people finish a residential, and they don't want it to finish, if that makes sense. I can remember when I first came along if anything was more than one night or two nights it would be too much for me because it felt almost like an entrapment. So, I wouldn’t have volunteered for it if it wasn’t for Change Step. This first step can never be underestimated because it means travelling, it means meeting new people, being in different venues and situations, under pressure at times with deadlines. I was becoming more confident, and this is life changing. And now I'm coming in as a helper with Radiate Arts, not only am I passionate about veterans but I think I get where they're coming from and it's a very fine balance between being supportive but also giving space.”

“Now I’m delivering a sculpture course which has been co-designed and led by the veterans who are taking part. Having fun, making things that are good quality is important because this is about people showing what they make to their friends and family and being proud of it. I'm going to be using all my skills that I’ve built up over the years so we can produce something that everybody will find quite interesting and rewarding.”

“It's about the safe environment. I don't necessarily want to go into Tesco’s and talk to somebody about my military career and I don't particularly want to go in there and talk about things that are personal, so if you're in a safe environment, i.e., with other veterans, male or female, and you trust each other, these things can be very constructive, where you kind of ‘get’ each other. So, once you've got over the initial guarded responses and when people start to realise that you’re all in the same boat, it's the time then to open up. Of course, we are all reactive to our surroundings and the beauty of things which should be accentuated by veterans because to some degree if you’ve seen some horrible things, the beautiful things will stand out even brighter.”

“The mindfulness benefits of art are wrapped in the bringing of people together, in a project which takes your attention enough to stop you thinking too much, but also has enough in it to occupy yourself. With the stone carvings workshops that Radiate Arts delivers, it’s absolutely brilliant the effect that stone carving has on everyone, it's just very important how that works for positive mental health. It works mindfully, which a lot of art does. Once you taste it, once you look at your sculpture, once you start sketching and realise that your sketches are quite similar to your sculpture, then you see the process of making art, and you think about how you can formulate your work and how it becomes applicable.”

We are continuing to deliver mindful and supportive creative experiences for Veterans in Cheshire and Wales. You can read more about Joe and our creative workshops here.

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