The UP Creative Community is a grassroots organisation with the aims of encouraging wellbeing through creative collaboration, providing a safe place for anyone to learn new skills or develop existing ones, and sharing knowledge of textile waste management and commitment to caring for our environment. UP grew from a sewing group of mums meeting after the school run to a network of volunteers, artists and partner organisations. This spirit – of creating a community built on an ambition for positive social change and support for one another – lends itself to UP’s involvement in the Early Help Partnership Sutton Coldfield (EHPSC). Early Help is a new city-wide approach, connecting families with local community services. In connecting organisations across Sutton Coldfield, promoting collaborative work and active communication, Early Help aims to ensure every family has easy access to the support that they need, when they need it.
UP got involved with Early Help during their work responding to the demands of the pandemic, providing key workers with three layer face coverings and uniform bags to wash their scrubs in. UP asked EHPSC for small funding to support this outreach; as a result UP was able to insert metal nose clips in masks for glasses-wearers and pay for the petrol of volunteers who were distributing protective supplies to hospitals and food banks.
EHPSC also enabled Helen and UP to engage with local organisations. “Listen[ing] to their beneficiaries’ needs and react[ing] creatively to make resources for the isolated children in Sutton” helped develop the work of UP into a more coordinated, network-led approach. It also meant that questions of purchasing and consumption could spark a necessary conversation about what is needed and what is not. Helen maintains a passion and seriousness in continuing that conversation “to expand consciousness and maybe even bulk buying as a partnership”.
UP have linked with a variety of community partners to support their service delivery. This includes Cherished, creating ‘no more worry’ dolls, sloth sewing kits, period purses, rainbow cross stitch, mentor journal covers and cover up face masks. This work supports girls in the community, using sewing and fashion as an engagement tool. Helen has also collaborated with Our Place’s Mentoring scheme, using a sloth sewing kit design and ‘unboxing hope explosion boxes’ as a fun way to encourage mental wellbeing and manage anxieties by understanding that it’s ok to ‘slow down and just be’ sometimes. Working with Beacon Family Services, UP have also made over 100 lighthouse-shaped beanbags from repurposed fabrics, to remind young people that they carry a beacon of light and have the power to stand up to their challenges and traumas.
The idea “that collective power is stronger and that joint collaboration means everyone can play to their strengths” was the inspiration behind the Early Help logo. Helen describes the triangle as a strong shape, with each side dependent on the next. The triangle purposefully points to the sky, with the grounding element at the bottom, expressing the ability to rise from a solid foundation. During an often uncertain and unsteady time, the necessity of supporting and lifting each other up became increasingly apparent to journey through lockdowns and all other challenges the pandemic brought. Hope underpinned this journey: holding onto and shining a light on it – as represented through the beams of light in the logo – are key pillars of Early Help’s foundation. Early Help, and the organisations that form it, are putting forward a strong message that they are here to renew hope through easy and timely access to whatever support a family may need.