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Hampshire Cultural Trust, with the support of The Murray Parish Trust, is launching a new project to provide positive mental health support for young people across the county.

For six years Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) worked in partnership with Hampshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) on two projects that provided innovative, creative support for young people experiencing challenges managing their emotional and psychological health, ICE (Inspire, Create, Exchange) and ICE Heritage.

The successor to these two programmes is Stepping Stones, which is generously supported by The Murray Parish Trust and will build on learnings from the two ICE projects. Continuing HCT’s mission to enable young people to access high-quality arts and culture across the county, Stepping Stones will provide regular, long-term opportunities for young people to use creativity to build their emotional resilience.

One ICE Heritage project participant commented: “This project has massively improved my confidence. I find it so much easier to talk to new people now, having spent lots of time with people I’d never met before.”

Sarah Parish, Co-Founder of The Murray Parish Trust, commented: "We are absolutely delighted to be a part of the Stepping Stones project, an initiative that aligns seamlessly with our mission at The Murray Parish Trust. Supporting children's mental health through art is a cause close to our hearts, and the Stepping Stones project encapsulates the transformative impact that creative expression can have on young minds. The joy, growth and healing that art brings to these children and young people resonate deeply with our commitment to enhancing the wellbeing of the younger generation. We believe in the power of Stepping Stones to create a positive and lasting impact, and we are thrilled to contribute to a programme that paints a brighter future for the children we aim to serve."

Beginning in February 2024, Stepping Stones will engage vulnerable children and young people aged 11-17 in tailored, arts-based interventions led by skilled artists. These sessions, designed to foster a nurturing environment for emotional expression and personal growth, will be held in Hampshire Cultural Trust's museums as well as other community settings. The first phase is taking place at the Allen Gallery in Alton, with taster sessions on Wednesday 14 and Friday 16 February, and a ten-week programme beginning on Saturday 16 March. The second phase will take place at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke, with taster sessions on Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 April, and the ten-week programme beginning on 11 May. The project will also be delivered at Aldershot Military Museum, Gosport Museum and Art Gallery and Bursledon House in Southampton. There will also be an online programme to support young people who are unable to attend the project in person.

Deborah Neubauer, Director of Community and Impact at Hampshire Cultural Trust, commented: “Our new Stepping Stones programme will provide opportunities for local young people to engage in new artistic experiences, using art as an outlet to channel their energy and express their emotions, while giving them a chance to create something that provides a sense of achievement. We hope the sessions will help children and young people see learning and personal development as a positive experience whilst also developing transferable skills that support their recovery and longer-term life chances. The project hopes to continue to bring attention to what cultural engagement can do to positively support more young people and local services.”

The children and young people taking part will be referred through partners such as wellbeing centres, care providers, schools and social prescribing networks to attend courses which will include art journaling, ceramic making and gardening skills. Participants can also self-refer via an online form.

To be eligible to take part, participants need to be aged 11 – 17 years old and be able to commit to attending a full programme at one of the project locations.

For more information about Stepping Stones, please visit https://www.hampshireculture.org.uk/stepping-stones.

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