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Drawing the Kessock Bridge: Inverness art class plan exhibition to ‘de-stigmatise’ troubled spot

Members of the Go With the Flow class told the Press and Journal how being creative has helped improve their lives.

Angela Ellis working on her art at Cafe 1668. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson
Angela Ellis working on her art at Cafe 1668. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

They might just look like pencils and paint brushes but to Anne Hunter, they have special powers.

Less than a year ago, Anne started with nothing but some supplies she’d bought herself and the desire to help people battling their demons.

A single student turned up to her first art class. But it helped them.

Word of mouth spread and now a group of up to 20 descend on Cafe 1668 in Inverness every week.

They draw, they paint, they write poetry.

But most importantly, they talk.

How has the class helped?

The class is called Go With the Flow.

It’s the brainchild of Anne, a project development officer with mental health charity Centred.

Previously known as Birchwood Highland, it has been helping people across the north for 37 years.

“This is inclusion in action,” Anne said.

“Most people who attend don’t like being in groups. Or they have never been in one.

Anne Hunter loves working with the group. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“They’ve never done art. They come in saying that and then they produce something amazing.

“The confidence boost they get from that is incredible.”

The links between creativity and mental health have been extensively studied for centuries.

Several studies have shown that creative hobbies can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

And that’s no surprise to the people who have benefited from going to Go With the Flow.

‘It’s brought out the best in me’

Lainey Anderson is a regular here.

The 53-year-old from Inverness has been in and out of institutions for her whole life.

After growing up in care, she ran into problems with drugs and alcohol.

Spells in and out of hospital followed until she managed to get her life under control with help from Centred’s recovery centre.

Now she’s living independently and holding down a job in Cafe 1668.

“I felt like a failure,” Lainey said. “I was in a really bad place and it was a vicious circle.

Lainey Anderson’s life has improved a lot in recent years and she wants to help others. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“The main thing for me was accepting that I was unwell. Accepting support and wanting to get better.

“This group has really helped. I feel more confident, more relaxed, it’s brought out the best in me.”

Anne and her students want to do what they can to help other people who are struggling with their mental health.

And that’s when the idea of hosting an exhibition of their work – with all proceeds going towards funding groups that promote mental health and wellbeing – came to light.

It’s called Bridge Over Troubled Water, a nod to the issues that have been highlighted by repeated closures of the Kessock Bridge.

The Kessock Bridge exhibition

The bridge is a sensitive subject locally.

Major disruption is caused when it has to close – and it often prompts a discussion about what should be done.

The police, Highland Council and a number of other agencies have been meeting regularly to discuss how to improve things there.

The Go With the Flow group don’t want to ignore what’s happening. And they hope that the exhibition can help paint the bridge in a more positive light.


Natalie Wilson working on her artwork. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

The centrepiece features the Kessock Bridge on a bright background and numerous other artworks have been inspired by it.

Anne said: “We decided to look at the issue head on. We know it’s about what happens before someone gets to the bridge.

“So we want to de-stigmatise it. Anyone I have spoken to about this is telling me this needs to be done.

“We need action. Let’s deal with this.”

The exhibition will take place at Cafe 1668 on May 17, between 3pm and 6pm.

The group’s aim is to start more conversations about mental health and the services available to people in the city.

Messages of positivity

Anne loves her work.

Helping people, giving back to the community and doing art at the same time, she calls this her dream job.

She started doing fluid art – a form of abstract art that uses acrylic paints with a runny consistency – five years ago.

And shortly after, she had an experience that changed her life.

Anne was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

“I have found doing this very healing in my own journey,” said Anne. “Creativity is such a great medium for finding peace.

“A few months after I started doing it I was working on this huge canvas.

Mary K May with one of her drawings. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“I actually painted an exact diagram of where my cancer was in my body before I even knew I had it.

“I’m a great believer in synchronicity. That’s not an accident.”

Fortunately, Anne’s cancer was discovered in time for her to have a successful operation.

The art classes currently run twice a week, at the Petty Church on the eastern outskirts of Inverness on Monday and at Cafe 1668 on Wednesdays.

All are welcome.

A third class for prisoners at HMP Inverness is due to begin later this month.

Within the groups, people are encouraged to chat, listen and support each other.

That is the most powerful part of the process.

Lainey said: “We want to people to know that the way they feel, it won’t last forever.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. Things can get better and we want to help.”

How to get help

It is so important that if you are having thoughts of suicide, you reach out to someone.

There are a number of local and national groups offering support in time of crisis or mental distress.

If you are concerned about someone else don’t be afraid to ask, “are you OK?” and help them to get help.

  • Samaritans: 116 123 (calls are free and do not show on a phone bill)
  • Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87 (Monday to Thursday 6pm – 2am; Friday 6pm to Monday 6am)
  • Mikeysline: 07786 207755 (Sunday to Thursday 6pm – 10pm, Friday to Saturday 7pm – 7am)
  • James Support group: 07563 572 471 (24-hour helpline)