In 2020 a survey was undertaken by developmentplus with men recently leaving the criminal justice system who attended the Bridging the Gap project. This highlighted that peer support group work with opportunity to form meaningful friendships was helpful in rebuilding lives after trauma. Previous relationships may have been toxic, built on survival or addictions. It was hoped that a group would provide an opportunity to meet people in a safe environment, not solely focussing on the past but working on the present & building on their capacity. Participants would be able to develop social interactions and share hobbies in a more informal yet safe space.
As a result of the survey, developmentplus decided to seek funding for such a group and the People’s Postcode Lottery provided funding for one year. Andy Penny, a media and sound artist and professional musician, was recruited in September 2021 to lead the project. Andy has over 20 years’ experience of working on creative projects in education, local-authority, community and regeneration contexts.
Andy is supported by a volunteer, Vicki, who is there to welcome everybody and help with the admin, a good chat and a proper cuppa!
The group is aimed at men, primarily that have either been through or are leaving the criminal justice system. Partnerships have been formed with the Lincoln Prison, Probation Service and Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and they refer men who may be interested in joining the group.
The project focuses on film making, music, creative technology, art and apps with the aim of giving the men that participate choice, creativity, friendships and new connections.
“I aim to be inclusive and enthusiastic and believe everyone should have the opportunity, if they choose, to play, perform and create. I aim to bring the best out in people, give them confidence and encourage them feel empowered.”
Andy now runs a weekly session with individuals making/playing and creating music and writing. In particular, a Dropbox project has proved very popular and has enabled people to work with each other by uploading the music, words and beats they are creating and collaborate without being face to face in the same room. This has been a very useful tool during the pandemic when it has been hard for people to physically get together.
As people become comfortable in the group, they are able to reach out to Andy, Vicki, and their peers for support with problems they may be having with housing, benefits, paperwork and general queries.
All of this positively supports the men’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly through what has been a very challenging time due to the pandemic.
As Andy is also a barber, he has taken the Men’s Group out and about, providing free haircuts at various venues including Nomad. This has been a way of engaging people in the project and helped them to feel more comfortable about visiting the group.
If you think you would be interested or are working with someone that would benefit from the project, please contact Andy;
M: 0747003 9836