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Inverness arts project could improve lives

By Ian Duncan

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Inverness Creative Academy.
Inverness Creative Academy.

Drug addicts, alcoholics and people with mental health issues will get help to transform their lives if an Inverness art centre’s ambitious plans take shape.

Officials at the Inverness Creative Academy are hoping to set up an outreach project aimed at helping residents living in the Merkinch, Hilton and central areas of the city.

The three-year pilot programme – which is still in its infancy and fully dependent on securing sufficient grant funding – will aim to engage with people who have long-term physical and mental health issues, addiction problems and unemployment.

It is hoped that a series of arts projects will provide creative activity to improve health, wellbeing, soft skills and routes back to employment.

Funding for the £60,000 project, set to help 60 people per year, has been sought from the Inverness Common Good Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, as well as other sources.

Although its short-term plans are up in the air due to the pandemic, this remains in the creative academy’s long-term plan.

Dr Nicola Urquhart, a consultant clinical psychologist, welcomed the project.

“There is good scientific evidence that the arts are not only just nice things to experience and be involved in, but participation in the arts can actually have a very real impact on a range of psychological difficulties,” she said.

“We know from research that such involvement can reduce levels of anxiety and also improve mood and concentration. These are all affected in a range of mental health problems.”

She warned people with mental health problems could become isolated in their communities, adding: “Such [arts] activities encourage re-engagement with the wider community. Being part of a group and communicating with others in an artistic way is very beneficial for mental health.”

The creative academy is run by Workshop and Artists Studio Provision Scotland (Wasps), a charity providing affordable studios to support artists, arts organisations, and creative businesses.

Claire English, a funding and partnership manager with Wasps, said it was hoped the project could run next year.

“If funding can be secured, Wasps’ long-term ambition, when phase two [of building redevelopment] is complete, is to deliver regular drop-in art sessions at local community venues and Inverness Creative Academy,” she added.

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