For almost two years now, Stellar Quines has been working with Stepping Stones, an organisation that aims to support young families living in North Edinburgh (the most socio-economically deprived area of Edinburgh) specialising in supporting young mothers.
When COVID-19 hit, original creative plans to develop and deliver co-created workshops with a group of young mothers became impossible, and we were left wondering where the partnership would lead to in such precarious times. Many of the young mothers who access Stepping Stones support services were becoming increasingly socially isolated due to digital deprivation. Furthermore, food shortages and reliance on access to food banks was becoming an increasing theme amongst many of the group. At this time, it was clear that Stellar Quines was unable to support the young mothers without radically re-thinking what we were going to deliver. Kerry, the group leader, met with Rosie, Stellar Quines’ Creative Learning Associate, and they discussed ways of working.
As winter approaches, the need to support resilient and robust mental health has become increasingly urgent. Stellar Quines has developed a ‘resilience pack’ in response to the young mothers’ increasing need for a mental health response, one which took into account the specific socio-economic needs of the group. A series of ‘activities’ have been created by six artists and focus on storytelling which does not always rely on writing but utilises mixed methods such as photography, collage, drawing and talking. Many of the activities involve food and, as such, Stellar Quines has provided a “food for thought” voucher which will allow the group to cook together, even whilst apart. Over three-months, a series of activities will be delivered online, which the group can engage with if they want to. Stepping Stones has ensured the group are equipped digitally to engage with online sessions – although this is not mandatory to have access to the resilience pack.
The resilience pack includes ideas and activities which the young mothers can use at any point, without needing to engage online with the artists. Every activity has been designed with multiple access points and several stages so that if they enjoy the activity then it can become easily embedded into their every day, for example through photo-journaling and letter-writing. The need to support resilience building during COVID with the group was what led every single element of this pack’s design. We were also kindly given support from Starcatchers who donated activity packs focusing on carers and children activities.
Stellar Quines hopes that the longitudinal nature of the project, but also the multi-artform and multi-dimensional nature of this project, will ensure that even just some of the young women will be able to utilise creative outputs to help support resilience building and robust mental health. Whilst we recognise that not all of the group may actively engage with online sessions, or even with the opportunities within the box itself, Stellar Quines fundamentally knows that at a time when many of the group are relying on food banks, if we want to have any hope of working creatively with them in the future, we need to help ensure they get through what is going to be an incredibly difficult winter.
Unlike most projects, we don’t know what will come of our resilience boxes: perhaps the group will go on to share their creative work and provide a unique insight into what living through COVID has been like for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young women; or perhaps Stellar Quines has just managed to provide a few meals when they’re needed the most. Whatever happens, we’ll be ready to work with the group, in person, the moment that we’re able to – and, until then, support them in any way that we can.