Art Therapy and Tim Wright

Written by on May 5, 2021

Q&A with Tim Wright – 26.04.21


Today I had the great pleasure of interviewing Tim Wright. Tim currently manages the arts therapies service at West London Mental Health NHS Trust and is a practising art therapist. He has been keenly collaborating with WeCoproduce helping to birth and nurture our latest creation Gaga Radio.


Q: How did you begin working with us WeCoproduce?


My work began at the West London forum many years back. A mutual colleague of the Trust invited me and from there I regularly got involved in the meetings. It was there that I met Jane McGrath (CEO of WCP) who held the meetings back when it was called West London Collaborative.


Q: How did the work with Gaga Radio come about?


Gaga Radio started as an idea in the forum many years ago. During a forum meeting, a music therapist and I led some workshop exercises which inspired some ideas and it was in that discussion that the idea came up for a radio station. Everyone seemed to think it would be a flexible and versatile project. Everyone thought ‘great’ but I don’t think anyone had a clear idea of how to go about it and it not much more was said until a couple of years later after dreaming it up, Jane came back to the idea and decided it should become a reality and asked me to be part of the team making this happen. Gaga Radio has been a long time in the making.


Initially, I was part of the team making pilot programmes, working up and engaging stake holder including the council, service users and charities some five years ago. Pre-Covid, we held face to face meetings behind Charing Cross Hospital which was the WeCoproduce office at the time. Then, Guy Hornsby got involved who was the director of the Waterside Centre that was being rebuilt who had enormous experience with radio stations.


The year before the lockdown, we worked on pilot programmes and funding. But then with the advent of the lockdown, Jane decided that WeCoproduce could run the station directly to get it through its initial stages, with the idea of it developing its own structures once it had a chance to get up and running. This meant that we moved to action much more quickly and reach out to people who were isolated due to Covid. From March 2020 to the launch in December 2020, we have made pretty good progress.


I’ve been connecting the Trust with Gaga Radio and running a show called Creative Connections, bridging topics between arts and mental health. I’ve been developing ideas for the shows to become a vehicle for patients of the Trust and beyond to have a voice.


Q: What is your background in art therapy?


As is the case with most art therapists, I was an artist first. I studied Fine Art at university then got into art therapy through appreciating how much of an expressive form art was for me and then going to talking therapy later. Then, I did some part time work with people with mental health issues. Art therapy made sense in combining those three influences.


I studied Art Therapy at Goldsmiths, a post graduate diploma in the 90’s then after that, got a job in adult mental health in Basildon. Since then, I have worked in various parts of London and have been with the Trust since 2002. A long time. I still run art therapy groups. It’s important to me to keep working with clients as well as managing the service.


Q: What wakes you up in the morning?


Coffee! Haha. Well, most of the time I really look forward to going to work. I still work face to face with people. The work motivates me. Feeling that people need you is a great motivator.


Q: Why is creativity such a potent part of healing to you?


Because there is a lot more to how to express ourselves than words can offer. We need more embodied ways of expressing ourselves and in turn how to understand ourselves. When working with people with long term mental health issues, it’s very important that they have something creative in their lives and experience themselves as creative individuals. This can counterbalance things if they are not experiencing the mental health system as helpful or if they find their issues are having an impact on their life choices.


Q: What would you say has been the most important ways of keeping sane during lockdown?


The work itself that I do has helped largely. Particularly not working from home all of the time has been good for me, though I have also appreciated some of the benefits of working at home. Family and faith have been important and my own artwork and music practices are invaluable to me. I also have an allotment. Working with the earth has been a great resource.


Q: How do you envisage creativity becoming more integrated in our society today?


That is quite the question. In many ways, there have been positive changes with the lockdown. Many people have turned to creativity as an outlet which has been great to see. In a formal sense, schools need to make space for the arts more, they have been squeezed out of the curriculum too much. Workplaces could be more open as to how the arts can make people more mindful. Getting people into a creative state of mind and working together like group drumming can help a team lessen inhibitions and work together. There are many ways in which this can be done.


Q: What would you tell your younger self if you had a chance to impart some wisdom?


It’ll be alright! Focus on one thing at a time! Maybe that is something I should tell my adult self now?



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