The day we first met the team at Crossways Community was an odd one.
My parents were down to visit and I was rushing round the house to get out the door in time for the train to London when Billy - our littlest dog - got under my feet at the top of the stairs.
I’m not saying its his fault (entirely) but I lost my footing and ended up on my back somewhere around the fifth step from the bottom. This was the type of tumble that as an adult you take once very 10 years or so and it felt like a big one.
Billy ran off yelping to be replaced by concerned family faces. Long story short, besides a few cuts and bruises I’d thankfully only broken a bone in my toe. This meant the London commute was out of the question and for a few days I was staying local.
Billy May - You’d think that butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
Later that morning once the paracetamol had soaked in Jill took me out to cheer me up. We found ourselves at furniture restoration workshop in Tunbridge Wells that had been recommended to us by a friend. We discovered the place was connected to an organisation called Crossways Community who provide care and support facilities to people living with a range of mental health challenges.
The workshop was created to give their residents an opportunity to develop relevant skills for use in later life as they move away from the community, as well as to build confidence and a sense of achievement as items they’ve created are sold.
Wow, we thought, what a cracking idea. I wanted to find out more.
The facility is managed by Ginny and Vittoria who run the regular workshops with residents. As dilapidated furniture items are donated they work together as a team mixing exuberance and experience to breathe new life into products otherwise destined for the wood pile.
We talked at length about their operation and learned that they regard creative pursuits as a great therapy for their tenants.
Crossways Community home page.
I then explained a little bit about who we were - commercial interior designers with many years experience - and the new idea we’d hatched - to change lives through design.
As I talked and they listened the idea emerged between us that we could potentially trial our concept in collaboration with the team at Crossways subject to a positive response from everyone concerned.
Several meetings later having presented our credentials to the management team and talked with the residents during their regular weekly art session we left it a few weeks to let the idea soak in. I was quite anxious at this point, it seemed like such a great opportunity to begin to test ourselves and develop a process in a supportive and controlled environment that I really didn’t want the chance to slip.
One of the beautifully up cycled products created by the talented team at Crossways Community.
The days passed then I got the call.
Having had time to reflect on the idea the team had met and shared their thoughts. It was explained there was a small group willing to participate in the project subject to number of conditions being met but in principle we were on.
I cannot explain how elated I was at hearing this news. It seemed like what had been an idea on paper was about to take its first step into the real world and I was thrilled! I jumped up and punched the air in delight which was a big mistake as my still broken toe screamed in agony. Two more paracetamol and we started planning ahead for the next hobbling step.
A date was set, we engaged the services of an art therapist to join in with the group and within a few weeks we looked forward to staring our first creative session.