Episode 34: Create Bolton
Welcome to the Loved Called Gifted Podcast. This is your place to come for musings about spirituality, identity, and purpose.
I’m your host, Catherine Cowell.
It is my absolute joy to be with Joy Kilpatrick in Bolton, at Create Bolton, which has been amazing. So Joy, do you want to talk a little bit about what Create Bolton is, and what it is that I’ve walked into today?
J: You came into Cafe Create, and Cafe Create is really the heartbeat of what Create Bolton is; it was also the very start of what Create Bolton is, it literally was just a meeting place, a gathering. So we have Create, the cafe, which is open on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and we also do other groups during the week. So at the cafe anybody is welcome, people can just walk in off the street. You just walked in off the street, through the little bell, which is quirky. Obviously we just have a hopefully creative menu, and a creative cafe where we sell things. But we also do other things when the cafe isn’t open to get to know people, and that is the bigger part of Create Bolton. It’s a place where relationship matters, it’s an opportunity for people to be very creative, we just hopefully – it’s a safe place too, that’s hopefully where you’ve come to.
C: It’s a really really beautiful space, so in your cafe – which does serve really good food, if anybody’s in Bolton
I would really recommend dropping in – but the walls are covered in all kinds of different pieces of art that people have made. I was really impressed with your loos, you’ve got what you’ve referred to as “doodle-loos”. There’s not an inch of wall that hasn’t got doodles and drawings and all sorts of beautiful things on it; you were telling me a bit about the help that you had creating those earlier.
J: I think it just epitomises what Create is all about, we had a young person who came in in a really, I would say, ‘struggling’ state. She’d come through Christians Against Poverty. I suppose in a way it’s just a good example, she came in just for coffee and cake and we just got talking. Our strapline at Create is “Creationships that make a difference.” So if we’re too busy to talk, it’s not working. It’s all about getting to know the person. This young person came in and she just started talking about what she loves to do. I’d started this epic journey of doodling in our toilet, which as you’ve seen, it’s quite a big space. I’m quite a person for detail. This young woman said she loved art so we encouraged her to take some clay away and have a play. But when she brought the stuff back to be fired in the kilns, she showed me her doodles. So I just said “Ohh, you’ve come, it’s brilliant!” I’d asked her if she would doodle in our loo, I would say that was probably about February, and she’s just on the verge of finishing them here in July. So that would have been one epic job for me, but this young person, she has just grown, in so many senses of the word, by just being given that responsibility. Her life was so chaotic and she just didn’t feel that worthwhile. She just felt as though she didn’t really have something to live for, so this young person has been coming in every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. She’s told me which pens she wants, she’s been empowered through the pen, and she’s just got on it and she’s got her own ideas, which is great. Because we really believe that we just want to give people the space to reach their own God-given potential, and I truly believe, and you’ve been a witness while you’ve been in there, there’s just some amazing imagery in that space.
C: It’s really, really beautiful, and I love that story of you seeing her doodles and then giving her space for that. Coz whoever does that, whoever looks at your doodles and says “Ahh, you are an artist, come and have this space to create”, that’s just amazing.
J: Just the fact that we gave her that responsibility. That we trusted her. What was absolutely amazing, which is my story from God, was, I didn’t have the time. Where I started and finished, and where she started, it was seamless, which is what God does, doesn’t He? He brings the right people in the right time. She was definitely at the right time because it was creating me so much stress, in hindsight, but the way it’s built her up, and now we’re working with her in a completely different way. Over those periods of when she’s had something to focus on, where she’s had to deal with other things in her life as well. What’s happened is she’s used it as a bit of space to come to terms with something she’s reeling from. A bit of healing. We got to know her, we’ve had conversations and now we’re able to start on her on a bit of a more journey, using the creative arts, and we’re looking at how we can empower her now, through God, because obviously He’s given us the gifts to listen and stuff, but really building her up so that she can become an artist in her own right, looking at where she goes from here, and it’s been such a privilege.
C: As I walked around and looked at things, that phrase that you’ve just used, “an artist in her own right”, this is not just a space where you have them and occupy them for a couple of hours doing a bit of craft. All of the stuff that you’ve got on sale and the exhibitions and the artwork that’s on the walls, what that really says to me is that you are saying to people “you are an artist, and so this is your workspace, your studio space, your space to create.” That’s for all different sorts of people, with all different kinds of bits of need, I guess. But they’re not coming as needy people, they are coming as people who are going to come and create and make something beautiful.
J: And it’s people that you wouldn’t expect. One of the things tis that we are open to everybody. Some people walk in here just expecting coffee and cake. Then they start looking. Every piece of work that we sell in this place, or show, has got a story. So if people say “I love this”, we are able to say “somebody’s story is behind that”. People start thinking. You might get somebody coming in, not realising “Oh, so you’ve done that here?” Then they say “What else do you do?” “Well, we do courses on this, and we do courses on that”, and they end up then going on a course. It’s almost like they get hooked. With the ceramics. We’ve had so many people who don’t realise that they’ve got a life until they start creating. It breaks down barriers for a start. We have people that are really struggling with mental health. We have people that are really going through abuse; all sorts. Once you get something in your hands and start being distracted by the doing, the saying then becomes a lot more easy, and the sharing. One of the things is, it’s amazing that God brings people at the right time. We had a lady who was really grieving from her husband. Little did I know, I put her on a course with somebody else who I didn’t know so well, and they both went through exactly the same thing together, but one was a little bit later stage. And “it will get easier”. I couldn’t have said that, but that person in the perfect timing. So there’s a lot of people here that will have problems because of what life is all about. It’s an amazing way of people becoming whole. We’ve got an amazing Creator God who created us, we are all creative, we’re all meant to be creative, and it’s not just through our hands, we do writing programs, people that cook, we encourage them to make cakes, just every part of the arts. We’ve got a band for musicians and if they can’t sing or dance or whatever, they come in and just beat the rhythm. So they belong. So we just look for what the need is and then pray for how we can help that person through that part of the journey. We’re trying to be creative in how we enable them. People come in and get hooked, that’s all we can say really.
C: There’s something about your care for the individuals who are coming through the door. Because it’s a space where people can be creative, I’ve noticed that one of the things from the stories you’ve told me is that your response to people is really creative. Above your balcony it says “And God said let there be…” (dot dot dot). And there is something about this space which simply allows people to be who they are, where they are in their journey, that enables you to create that space for them to just be. You were telling me about one of your potters earlier.
J: Yes. Somebody signed up to the pottery course. She’d signed and paid and realised she couldn’t do it. She was going through turmoil, she really did have a lot of mental health issues. She just didn’t like being with people, which going on a course can be quite daunting. I didn’t know this person very well and I just asked her to come into the cafe. We actually ended up having coffee alone in the space. I asked her to come in on the Tuesday to do some pottery in the Create community. We used to have another little room, it became like an ante-room and this person was literally just sitting there, she wouldn’t come out, I used to have to take her lunch up to her, just over the time giving her a safe space. But also putting the right people with her. People that weren’t expecting too much. Some people don’t like talking, so putting people that would silently work next to her. Over the time, she’s become such an accomplished potter. She dreamed that she’d be able to do what she’s doing now. I’ve known her 6 years now, and she’s just got her work into galleries now in her own right. She’s got her own studio setup at home. What I try to do now is to get her to come in to enable others. Now she’s a lot more confident, she’s got an amazing story to tell. She’s such an encourager now. To me that’s just literally about knowing where people are at. Not expecting anything. And just letting God to be the water, just to nurture the relationships. We don’t force anything. If we invite people in to do a course, they know exactly what we’re going to be doing, but we sometimes have people in there that are doing the course who are just like, pastoral creators and they just sit and listen. So we’re all the time just being the eyes and ears of God, I would like to think. But most of the stuff – well, all of the stuff in the Create Retail part has all got a story to tell, we’ve got some amazing people
C: The pottery that this woman has created is just incredible, isn’t it? It is very, very beautiful.
J: Well, she’s selling it. There are some amazing potters on the Isle of Skye, and she’s selling it in one of the best galleries on the Isle of Skye because they could just see her passion for that part of the world. She sketches and stuff and goes up there now and she comes back to Bolton to create. God knows her heart’s desire. I can honestly say she’s flourishing. There’s a scripture just behind you that says “He turns the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs”, and I just feel that’s what He’s done with this woman, what He’s done with her. She was parched, she was drained, and He’s watered her and nurtured her, and she’s now the flowing spring that are bringing life. “If she can do it,” – the people who have witnessed her – “I can do it.” She’s just such an encourager now, it’s just beautiful.
C: It is beautiful. It needed, though, that level of flexibility and sensitivity to her needs. The fact that it was alright for her to come on a course, but then to sit by herself, because that’s what she could cope with. So what you’re doing is just very, very sensitive to the people who are coming through the door.
J: I think it’s because it’s real. I think we’ve all had life problems. We’ve all been – when I look back – I’m quite a new Christian really – and when I look back, I’ve had things that have happened in my life, and when it’s been too much, you shy away, don’t you? So I think what God is doing is allowing us to use what He’s given to us, just in practice. It’s almost like just gentle, pastoral, and very much in His time. When I look at Create now, this was the vision, what you’ve seen today, but it started off just two hours a week, where people could bring their knitting over coffee. And I honestly say, you say “Let there be…”, God said “Let there be…” and it was. God said “let there be coffee, cake and creating. And relationships.” And it was as simple as that. It has just been building up and getting people to make their own choices. Rather than being ‘done to’, being ‘done with’.
C: Yes And what you’ve done for many people is created space for them to really express who they are, to express their voice. It’s completely the opposite of being done to. I was thinking that before you said that, that actually it’s very different creating a service for service users. You’re not. You’re creating a space where people can discover who they are and discover their creativity and find room to express that.
J: Very much so. I think having worked with social services for many years, you’re always trying to find little pockets where people fit in, sort of like luncheon clubs, day care. Then when you fit them in there, that’s good, you’ve found somewhere and you leave them to it. Actually you’re fitting them in boxes, but you’re also containing. One of my lessons as a social worker was “we do a lot of containing in this world. As long as we can keep people entertained or busy, but actually it’s completely irrelevant.” Totally irrelevant to what they are as a person. Especially all the people with dementia. You put them in and put some old music on and they’re sat there singing, but is it relevant? So that’s one of the things that we found, we had a group of gentlemen who are coming with their wives who were sitting in the cafe and they started congregating together. Six of the gentlemen had allotments, and we’d just been given an allotment. The most perfect thing was we’d just discussing allotments, these gentlemen although their short term memories were disappearing, their long term memory was incredible. They knew how to grow a carrot! They knew how to grow a leek and a cucumber, much better than we could. So we thought “right, that’s what we’ll do, we’ll use these gentlemen, these men who know it all.” So we created this group, we got them to write things on boards, so that when they came in the next week they’d recognise the handwriting, they’d know what they’d said about their ideas, and they then started to own this allotment. So now these gentlemen go off with a team to the allotment, giving their carers the break that they require, doing creative things back here at Create. It might just be listening and sitting reading a book or doing something in clay, whatever. But these gentlemen are not just being contained but they’re doing something that they’ve loved but they’re not able to do now, because they can’t be left on the allotment. But they come back and they’re like “look at these marrows we’ve grown!” and “look at this!” Then of course, when we’ve cooked them in the cafe, we bring them out and say “this is the marrow you cooked” or “this is the leek you cooked” – today’s leek and potato soup came from the allotment. So all the time it’s about things that are significant and relevant. Not containing, because I think there is a lot of containing today. Rather than giving people fruitful things, things that are relevant. Things that are going to make a difference. You get to a part of your life and you don’t think you can, but actually if you’re given the right soil and the right way to grow, you can. You can still make a difference no matter what your situation, your age, your condition. That’s what I truly believe, that God has empowered us to do here.
C: Yes, you still have the ability to make a difference to the world and something to contribute. Which is very different to being the recipient of a service.
J: Yes, and the social work training, getting people to write things down, getting people to own it, everybody recognises their own handwriting. “I wrote that” – it’s such a simple thing. But then when somebody can’t remember – “well actually, I must have written that”. And it’s a starting point for the next conversation. Coming from their mouth, not mine. Does that make sense?
C: Ohh, completely. Completely does, yeah. It sounds like there were things from when you were a social worker that you’d almost been given the vision for in your training. But actually the way that things work, there isn’t really space for it.
J: No. I worked in a management role in the local authority. I got quite frustrated. I loved my job, don’t get me wrong, but there was just lots of erosion of all the services that really mattered. The luncheon clubs, the social, whatever. I think most people were given a service that was everything to meet their needs, and I think a lot of people are getting more marginalised, the “gentle services” as I call them, that keep people in the community, were being eroded. So doors were being shut on these people. So 13 years ago I just felt that it was right not to be doing what I did. It just felt like God was calling me into using my social work skills in a completely different way. I’ve always been creative, I did a degree in art design. At the time when I made the decision to leave the authority I was quite a new Christian. I never imagined that I’d be able to use my ceramics degree working alongside my social work qualification, and as I said earlier, nothing goes to waste. All the knowledge about firings and glazes and stuff just comes into it’s own because, and the social work just gives me the insight. I hope, just to be there in the right capacity for people, but also give them self determination. Which is all your social work training. And just allowing people to reach their full potential really. That’s what Create is all about. I don’t see it as a social work model at all. It’s just a place to be, using the skills that God has given us.
C: So it’s not labelled, it’s just creating space for God to say “let there be”. And for us to say, for people to say, “let there be”.
C: And to dream
J: Anybody can come in. We do work a lot with people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. One of the things I do know for certain is part of the vision was Psalm 96, I think it says in there, until you know the love of God, until you know what your eternal destination is, we’re all potentially homeless. And Create, we are a Christian charity. If people ask us, we don’t preach, we just do, we just love people until they want to know where that love comes from.
C: So I’m hearing 2 passions that seem to be running through all that you’ve been talking about. One is this passion for creating things, and the other is a real passion for people and seeing them reach their potential. Seeing them actually experience personhood rather than being somebody’s label. I’m wondering when did you first experience the joy of creating? When was that spark lit for you?
J: I think if I look back, it was my relationship with my Mum. She just gave me the time to explore with her. She used to knit, we were short of money, so every cardigan used to be knitted, every dress I had was handmade. I just loved the fact that she just used to use her hands. Then Mum never through anything out, she’d put all the things that were going in the bin, the cornflake boxes and stuff, when it came to school holidays, “what can you make for me today, Joy?” But she was interested in it. “So what’s this going to be? What’s that going to be?” My Mum wasn’t a Christian. She was just a really. good. Mum.
J: Her God-given role. When I look back, she was the one that just inspired me. Just with the really homely crafts. She used to bake. Nothing was too much bother, put an apron on, get me on the stool making pastry beside her. I think I would say, that’s when it started. I suppose that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Get people as interested as how my Mum was with me. It’s something that I’d like to think other people would be interested in. Does that make sense?
C: Oh, it completely does. She was your first audience, she was the one you did your first exhibitions for, that kind of “what can you make for me?”
J: And then I used art as a way of getting away from home. My Dad was very protective, I wasn’t very academic, but I knew I was quite good at art, so I went to art school, then I went on to do my degree in ceramics, art & design with ceramics, it was really arty-farty *laughs* I don’t know if I can say that, sorry! But it was! I did all my art, did my degree show, had a gallery and all sorts of things, did my whatever, and then God brought it all around to working with people with learning disability. Did my art therapy and stuff like that. Literally went away from the creating and got very interested in the people.
C: Is there a moment or a period that drew you to that? To working with people?
J: At the time, all I can say is I was very much of the world and it was very much a means to an end. It was a nice little job.
C: Somebody was going to pay you to do it
J: Somebody was going to pay me to do it! Rather than be an on-the-breadline artist. So I started working but found I loved it. Found I loved, I think people with a learning disability just opened my world up to seeing my world in a different way. Just asking the questions that I would never ask.
C: Who would be one of the first people you fell in love with, with learning difficulties?
J: Let me think…it was a gentleman who – I used to live in Telford, near Ironbridge, it was a gentleman who took everything literal, I remember asking him to keep an eye on the cakes, and when I came back his eye was glued to the oven door, because I’d asked him to keep his eye on the cakes. So he was literally keeping his eyes on the cakes. I was so naive at the time. Nowadays it’s risk assessments, “oh my goodness he was touching the oven door” and all this sort of thing. But he was just, everything I said, he’d challenge me. Does that make sense?
J: I just loved him for his honesty. I remember he was looking through telescopes and I told him to turn the telescopes round because he had the wrong ends to his eyes, and instead of turning the lens around he turned the whole telescope around and looked in the opposite direction. I think because [with] the spoken word, we just assume how people are going to interpret things. It became very poignant at that time of my life that I had to stop and think and see how I was impacting others rather than just taking them literally. “Turn the telescope round” and he did, literally. But it’s giving a good instruction. It’s making yourself clear.
C: You’ve talked a bit about your faith, you’ve talked about how for much of your adult life you weren’t a Christian…when do you think you first were aware of the Divine?
J: It was when I fell pregnant. I wasn’t meant to be able to fall pregnant with my daughter, Hannah, and I just knew there must have been somebody much greater than me to be able to make that happen. Not greater than me, but somebody Divine to do that. She’s had a faith for a reason, we started going to church, just as a family, and I never ever imagined that God would use me. It was always these people in the church who were wearing the robes, there was a choir, but it was never me, I was just going to be a mum and a worker in the authority. I just remember thinking, “I’ve just been given the most precious gift of life” and when Hannah came along I started to take my spirituality more seriously. So that’s about 24 years ago. We went to a church, it was a busy church, it was a wonderful church, vibrant, but you had to do to belong. So I started doing youthwork and I started doing Sunday school and all these things. Yes I was out of my comfort zone, because I didn’t really know what I was talking about in bible school. I hadn’t lived my faith. If you see what I mean.
J: I was probably as young in my faith as the children I was trying to teach. But it was almost like, I’ve always been doing. So when I had this vision of Create, it’s been there quite a while about using the arts as a way of engaging, 13 years ago it was just “we’re going to have to do something about this.” It was a chaotic idea and I remember going to our vicar for the first time, he said “oh yeah, do it in the church” and it just didn’t seem right. It was almost to contain Joy. But the vision was bigger. Then I went to Urban Outreach, this other charity I was working with, and it didn’t feel right going there, because they work a lot with people who are out of reach, people who are homeless. I felt God say “I want you to do it, Joy”. I thought “ *gasp* I can’t do it! I can’t do this in the name of You!! I’m just Joy who’s coming along for the ride”, and it’s exactly how I felt. Honestly it has been a helter-skelter, but He’s always come up trumps. He’s put the framework together for Create, when we’ve prayed He’s given us finances, when we’ve been short in the kitchen He’s given us bodies to help with it. Quite a lot of them have come from the people He’s brought in the first place. Does that make sense?
C: It does, it does. I was just thinking you’re talking to people who’ve got boxes that you could go into, but going back to what you were saying earlier about what one of the issues is, which is that services will try and find the right box for people, and you were trying to find the right box but actually your mission is to work in a way that is not about putting people in boxes. So of course Create Bolton couldn’t be in somebody else’s box.
J: No. And it was such an amazing journey really right from the word go. Because I was looking for somewhere to have the cafe, that was the first thing, just for 2 hours, and I needed it right in the middle of Bolton so people getting off buses don’t have to get second buses and stuff like this, and I went to one place in Bolton where the rent was colossal plus a service cost and I just knew I couldn’t afford that. I just remember praying and this gentleman came along and said “come and have a look at this place at the back of our church” and he brought us to where the cafe is now, it was affordable, and it’s slowly gone up but it’s still affordable, God just knew where He wanted us to be. It was just incredible. So every little blessing has just been at the right stage at the right time. With the right growth. It started so small and just literally has just grown and grown and grown. At my pace, as a Christian as well.
C: So who is God to you?
J: Well, God to me was this guy who I went to now and again, but my God now is the God who orchestrates everything. To me, He’s the Creator God. He’s the God that makes the smelling flowers and you want people to smell those beautiful fragrances. God to me used to be this guy you go and see at church on a Sunday. But now I just really believe He empowers me, He’s my employer, to a certain degree. I would say that I wanted to please Him. I find it much easier now to pray to Jesus, the guy who put it into practice, to come down and show us how to feel, how to be loved and to share His love. But just recently, the Holy Spirit, God in 3 persons, and recognising that we have a God in 3 persons who comes to you in different forms, to me is just absolutely, it’s mind-blowing really. I just feel as though now I’m getting a real sense of belonging in the God that created me, His Son that shows me, and the Spirit that allows me to do what He’s called me to do. It’s taken this part of my journey to actually acknowledge that.
C: So the God whom you used to go and visit in church, almost, in what you’re doing here and in your journey, has become the God who is intimately close and involved in all of the details.
J: Exactly. Yes. We can all be kind, showing love on a daily basis, without having a relationship with God, but I think God turns things into such a beautiful thing that happens without your power but with His power. And He amazes you. Does that make sense?
C: It does, it does, yeah, and part of what I’m hearing is that you are seeing God intimately involved in the lives of these people who are walking through the door, and God intimately involved because they found their way here, before they walk through the door there’s that nudging, before they decide they want to become a Christian, if they ever do, you’re still seeing God’s intimate care for those people.
J: And people want that. People are more spiritual than we give credit for.
C: Oh gosh yeah
J: You expect everyone’s going to be turned away from the word Christian, but we’re not a church, we’re not part of any church, we’re blatantly saying we’re a Christian charity, but when people come into here they come into a Bolton cafe. And I do truly believe the Spirit is in this place, I do truly, truly sense that when they walk in it’s like a little cushion. That they walk into the cushion of God. And people come in and start questioning “well, why?” but I think it’s that sense of, there’s no expectation. We’re a charity that needs money, but not a charity that is business orientated. So if we are doing very well, if someone comes in and they need a coffee we’ll give them a coffee. Y’know what I mean? Money isn’t the first thing. Otherwise why don’t we just go to Costa. Even while you’ve been in today, there’s people downstairs where I don’t know where they’ve come from, just new opportunities that God brings in. We don’t pounce on people, but people come back and start asking questions and just want to know that little bit more. That’s not in our strength. That is definitely in the Spirit that is in this place.
C: But they’ll be welcome whether they never ask a question.
J: Exactly, exactly. And if they just come in and just want to buy a card. We’ve got a lot of people that we buy from now, what we do is we just ask them to look at this piece of scripture, see whether they can come up with a card with that, so people are creating and looking at scripture. We’re not expecting to turn people, to convert them, what the idea is is just to bring another richness in their life. So people are coming in here, they’ll find a beautiful card and on the back it might say who it’s made from, and they’ll take that away into their home, just looking at that scripture in their home or just the way something’s been written on their card. It’ll make a difference. It’s not always about what we do with people. It’s sometimes about what God can do with them. Sowing those seeds, isn’t it?
C: Yeah. And it’s beautiful
J: Thank you. One of the biggest things is, because it was very much by myself 13 years ago, it was just me, and then a friend came on to help me, and one of the things God said to me at the very beginning was, “Don’t strive”. Because I just can’t sit down. I have to be doing all the time. Just recently, we’ve employed 3 members of staff now, because we’ve grown. God obviously through somebody else just said, “Don’t strive, I’ve built up the teams.” So I do truly believe that it’s not the end of the journey for Create, it’s God reassuring me that all is good. So it’s really exciting. With those new members of the teams I just know that Create’s going to have a new breath of fresh air taking it for the next 10 years.
C: I’m really struck by that phrase, ‘don’t strive’. There’s something, isn't there, about trust and relationship, that kind of fits for me about your description of gradually in your journey sensing that God is not the God you visit but God is in the detail of everything and there is Jesus and the Holy Spirit and you describe that sense of coming home. When you’re at home you don’t need to strive, do you?
C: Home is not a place of striving it’s a place of being and loving.
J: And just being who you are.
J: Try not to be somebody else. We’ve had to do a lot of pruning, cutting back on things because we were run ragged, we used to go into schools, we used to do all sorts of things under the name of Create Bolton, but over the period of time, God has just got us to what we are now. Which is the Create community with the Create cafe and it just works beautifully together.
C: So are there relationships and things that you’ve still got from doing all that dashing about and doing all sorts of stuff in schools and things?
J: Yes, we have, we’ve got children who come and sing for us at Christmas, so the children come into Create and we give them things to do in the cafe and stuff, and that’s beautiful because it is a school that is predominantly Muslim in Bolton and the teachers really like to keep that connection. So they come every year. We have schools that support us fundraising, and see what we do on a bigger scale, we’ve had exhibitions here of children’s work, we put the red carpet down, we give them mocktails as they come in, so that every child feels like they are potentially an artist, and we exhibit their work and do that sort of thing. Rather than always go out to them, we’ve done that recently. We had this lady who came in who was probably in her late 70s. She had won Not The Turner Prize. She was the most amazing artist, she’d won Not The Turner Prize, and she showed me some of her work and it was amazing. I said “ooh, would you like an exhibition here?” She said “I’d love an exhibition here” She went to the loo and the person she’d come with said “you do realise she’s got early stage dementia?” I said “Oh right”. She said “It doesn’t stop her. Her heart’s desire is always to have a solo show.” She’d always been part of another exhibition, so we decided to put on this exhibition. But because of her memory recall, we decided we’d put a volunteer with her. Who worked with her, went out and collated all her work, got to know every piece of work intimately, so we collated it, and the story behind each piece of work. We had this wonderful exhibition. Her level of memory was maintained for 2 years, she had 2 exhibitions, and then eventually she died of a cancer which took her. But we managed to collate all her work, and she just died such a contented person and her family had all these wonderful images all collated, all written, and it was just the most wonderful privilege to have been part of that lady’s end of life care. It was just by that little offer, it was just incredible. We had another artist who comes in she was looking at an exhibition and she was quite prestigious in Bolton, and I remember I struggled with this because as she was going out I said “oh, would you like an exhibition here?” and all night I was rolling because I was thinking, “I’ve invited her because it’s the kudos, to have her exhibit here”, so I struggled, and she went “oh I’d love one!” So I got one of our volunteers work with her in terms of curating her exhibition, and then the first one went well, and then the second exhibition, this person found out that she was terminally ill, she’d got stage 4 cancer, so the person I put with her, they ended up becoming very close friends, and the second exhibition kept this person going and she was working towards this exhibition, 2½ years later this person ended up in end of life care in the hospice, 3 days before she died she asked if we’d go in and prayed and she gave her life to Christ.
J: And you just think, at the time, I just thought it was for me. But actually God had that plan. She became so involved in Creates at the end of life for 2½ years, instead of 9 months that she was given, she was able to be part of us, and now why we’ve got a room here called The Rudkin Room, and we’ve named it after her. Because we just know it’s just such a beautiful story. And it makes us realise anyone can find their Heavenly Father, the person whom Create’s all about.
C: Yes, there’s something in those stories about the co-creating that we do with the Divine, and the fact that actually, sometimes our motives are a little bit all over the place, like “we must go out and do many things!” But you’ve created relationships through that, and God has used that. And I love that picture of the young people coming to a proper exhibition, and having mocktails, and feeling like they could really be artists, I think that’s beautiful. And the woman for whom there is now the Rudkin room, that sort of slightly mixed motives, I really identify with that sense of “I’ve just done this, and I know I’ve done it because it’ll have kudos behind it and that’s not who I am”, and yet in that, God has been able to really bless that woman and her family.
J: And us at Create
C: Absolutely! Absolutely
J: She was just the most amazing creative person, she did workshops, she came into schools with us at the time, she was into spinning and wool and oh, she just brought so much, as well. Through Create she set her own little projects that she thought she could achieve.
J: And she had little journeys in her end of life care that she knew would help her.
C: So part of your partnering with the Creative God is that growing understanding that actually, whatever you do, God can use.
J: Exactly, and I think God works all things to the power of good, doesn’t He?
J: And even your mistakes He can use. We’ve made many mistakes. And we’re all human. I think that’s what Create’s all about, it’s just being human, in a God-environment. You’re so right, He can use everything in His way. Even, how can I put it? The person I’ve shared earlier, who had severe mental health issues, she’s now got a story to tell of her recovery. She didn’t want to go through that. It’s a horrendous situation. When you see it as a good-news story, to help somebody else who might be sitting in Create feeling as she did, 6 years ago, that’s what God gives us, doesn’t He? Our stories, to be able to share and tell people, and it’s just getting that confidence to be able to share them. It’s discovering how our mistakes, our life circumstances, the things that we don’t want to go through,
We can use to benefit others.
C: And there is something about the kind of dancing we do with the Divine, it doesn’t matter what steps we take, God will dance with us, and create something beautiful out of it.
In the same way actually Joy that you are so alive to spotting opportunities and spotting what somebody needs and how you might meet that need, so like that woman with early-onset dementia who had that desire to have an exhibition, that was your moment of opportunity and you really found a way of helping her to do that, which has been really precious.
J: But it’s a privilege. Sometimes I must admit I think “A closed mouth gathers no feet”, but sometimes *through laughter* God can use those open mouthed moments. As you said earlier about the artist and stuff, I just think it’s just being open, we don’t know who’s going to walk through the door. And it’s just being prepared. Every morning we pray, we don’t expect everybody to pray with us, even as volunteers, but we invite everybody. And it’s amazing how they all love joining in prayer because it’s something they’ve never experienced, they want to experience, and they always come back for more. The Creator-God starts to colour it in for you and that’s that relationship, and scripture becomes so colourful when God starts speaking to you through it. We were sat praying and this lady came and she was praying and she said “I just see colour.” She said “I now see life through a different eyes, I can now see the colour.” She said “It’s beautiful, and that’s my gift from God”. And it’s just literally being loved, we can’t do anything else, she still goes back to the same situation but she’s just sensing God’s love for her in a completely different way.
C: It’s been really beautiful speaking with you and hearing your stories.
J: Thank you
C: Thank you Joy
J: Thank you for coming all the way
C: Oh you’re very welcome, it’s a lovely, lovely place
J: Thank you
Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Loved Called Gifted podcast. If you’d like to get in touch, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org You can find a transcript of this podcast at lovedcalledgifted.com and that’s also the place to go if you’re interested in the Loved Called Gifted course or if you’d like to find out about spiritual direction or coaching.
Thank you for listening.