Doodling therapy at old Norwich hospital chapel
Norwich artist Ben Bell is launching a new group in the old Norwich and Norfolk Hospital chapel encouraging people from the surrounding area to doodle and use art as a way of expressing themselves. Jenny Seal reports.
In 2016, St Stephen’s Church in Norwich’s city centre was asked to run the redundant chapel that had once served the old Norwich and Norfolk Hospital. The Chapel has a long history as a place of hope for people at critical times in their lives. St Stephen’s is now turning it into a place of community for people living in the surrounding Fellowes Plain housing development and beyond.
As well as a twice-weekly parent and toddler group, an evening of board games, a community choir and film club, The Chapel is also a place where people can discover new ways to express themselves through art. In September this will be boosted by the launch of a therapeutic art group, Create, led by artist and mental health professional Ben Bell.
Ben (38) has a degree in Fine Art and additional training in Art Therapy. He is an active member of Norwich’s art scene participating in solo and group exhibitions with his own spontaneous form of abstract art painted in acrylics. Ben is also a member of St Stephen’s Church and works on a mental health team in Great Yarmouth.
Having run a similar therapeutic art group for Norwich MIND, Ben has seen its value and is excited about the prospect of leading the group at The Chapel. “The idea is to encourage people to express themselves creatively through art, through different styles and techniques,” he said. “I find that the more people come the more relaxed they get. Then they usually find it therapeutic and calming.”
One of the ways Ben likes to start a group off is by doodling. “The idea behind that,” Ben explains, “is that not everyone is confident with art so something like doodling and drawing their names helps people loosen up a bit. It’s a good way to start. Most people doodle so it’s an encouragement to do art in a non-threatening way. It’s also often unconscious or spontaneous so it’s interesting to see what comes out.”
The group will also offer participants the chance to experiment with abstract art, collage, still life, poetry and other techniques. “There is like a loose structure,” Ben said. “But from previous experience, things just kind of happen. Some people like to do their own thing, some people prefer to have a bit of a task to do and a bit of conversation and you can help them to do something. Some people are more confident so can enlarge the scale and do something a bit more adventurous.”
Ben was encouraged to start the new group by Rev Dr Alex Irving, the Curate of St Stephen’s, who has been developing The Chapel as a community resource. Alex said: “Create is an important part of what we are trying to do in The Chapel. We are running groups and events to serve the local community and provide a space for people to belong.”
The Chapel can also be booked by community groups separate from the Church.
The Create group will meet on alternative Mondays at 2pm-4pm starting on September 24 and is open to anyone.
To find out more contact Alex on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chapel, Fellowes Plain Wessex Street, Norwich, NR2 2TJ
Pictured above is Ben Bell outside St Stephen’s Church in Norwich.