A landscape view of the bothy space at CIRCLE

People in recovery from addiction are being empowered into more positive pathways through a unique collaboration with artists at a Paisley-based mental health and addiction recovery service.

The group of around 18 participants on an addiction and mental health recovery journey, have been using a range of creative activities to help regain their autonomy, build their skillset and self-confidence, by working with an artist in residence at CIRCLE in Paisley to plan and create a space to aid recovery.

CIRCLE Recovery Hub provides enhanced support to people who have experienced issues with alcohol, drugs and mental health. In 2021 the hub received funding from the Renfrewshire Council-led Future Paisley programme, which aims to use the power of arts, heritage and culture to impact social and economic change, to create a client owned space in collaboration with an artist in residence.

Artist Meadhbh Corrigan was brought on board to work with the participants and teach them a range of creative skills using textiles, painting and woodwork to produce a Bothy art-installation at CIRCLE. The participants took ownership to plan out exactly how they wanted the space to look and feel and each element of the installation was decided and delivered by the group with support from the artist.

The project started off with a series of workshops lead by Meadhbh to create a collaborative quilt with the fabric choice inspired by one of the group member’s childhood memories. The group then went on to devise concepts for the benches and shelves, created cushions using their new-found sewing skills and worked with another artist, Rosa Gally to create a funky floor in vinyl that would be durable but also bright and inviting.

The group then went on to work with an artist to design and then paint the wall mural inspired by nature to help create a calm environment and produced a night-sky ceiling mural before teaching themselves how to make pom-poms to create a textured moss-inspired rug for the space.

One participant commented: “I feel like with the Bothy I’m contributing to something, so that helps to overcome my anxious feelings.”

While for other participants the process of making the pom-poms became a very therapeutic practice.

“All those wee pockets of time that you need to distract yourself – the poms are literally a lifesaver,” said one of the Bothy group members. While another said: “When I can’t sleep in the night, I make the poms.”

The shared ownership of the project has resulted in increased levels of involvement and participation from CIRCLE members. By giving clients creative control, staff at CIRCLE have noticed a marked improvement in their confidence and recovery.

Team Leader at CIRCLE, Derek Kennedy, said: “We based this programme around the idea of ‘how do we make people feel better about themselves,’ that’s because people who feel better about themselves make better choices and become more productive citizens.”

“There is a stigma to mental health and addiction recovery. By giving the group ownership of a project like this, it gives them an opportunity to express themselves and provides a space where their voice isn’t ignored but is valued. That can be a really liberating experience for people.

“We are seeing some tangible positive developments in the lives of the group participants. One has come off medication altogether, another has secured a job and for others it’s simply the improvement in how they feel about themselves – which is a hugely important when it comes to recovery and overall wellbeing.”

In addition to the autonomy some members have gained through their involvement in The Bothy project, others have taken a more active role in supporting the recovery service. Some members have been involved with interviewing staff for prospective employment with Renfrewshire’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery service, while others have volunteered at the hub and planned events including the 2022 Recovery Walk.

Lead Cultural Officer for Future Paisley at Renfrewshire Council, Katie Nicoll, said: “We know creativity can play a transformative role in a person’s recovery. By integrating different forms of creative expression into recovery programmes it allows individuals to access tools that promote healing and growth, nurtures a sense of accomplishment, and provides a valuable outlet for stress. The work undertaken by The Bothy group in collaboration with Meadhbh and the CIRCLE team is a perfect example of this in practice.

“The Bothy participants took real ownership over the creation of a space they felt would best support their own and others recovery journey. It can’t be overstated how important it is for people in recovery to feel their voices and opinions have weight and merit and that their point of view is valued.”

Artist in residence, Meadhbh Corrigan, specialises in community arts projects linked to improving people’s mental health. On working with the group to deliver The Bothy project she said: “It’s natural for us to be creative – but it’s easy to lose connection with it. It can be such a helpful tool for people in recovery as it offers a great opportunity to escape. Once you get into a creative task you can lose yourself in a positive therapeutic experience.

“I love working with people in recovery – they are really down to earth and are more open to trying something new which helps them connect better. It can be easy for people in recovery to feel isolated. The group involved in delivering The Bothy all worked together as a team and gave them a real sense of collective purpose. From my point of view, it was a really rewarding project to be part of.”

Following the successful delivery of The Bothy project earlier this year CIRCLE is eager to look at ways to continue to adapt and grow the project in the future.

The Bothy project was funded by Future Paisley and delivered in partnership with OneRen and CIRCLE Recovery Hub.


Photo: Derek Kennedy opening the bothy at CIRCLE

Photo:Bothy at circle hub night sky mural

Photo:Emotional first aid kit at the bothy
Photo: A landscape view of the bothy space at CIRCLE
Photo: Bothy nature mural

Photo:People visit the Bothy at CIRCLE

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News

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