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Talking shop for men celebrates with exhibition at Lyth


By David G Scott

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A group session for men hosted by Lyth Arts Centre (LAC) and its Artist in Residence showed how a collaborative arts project can help with mental health issues.

The John O'Groat Journal was invited to come and witness the benefits of the Join in More (JiM) group on Sunday afternoon and see the results of a creative collaboration on the wall of the arts venue.

Keisha Sutherland, far left, provided music for the group and Lisa Poulsen, second from right, hosted the exhibition by members of the Join in More group. Picture: DGS
Keisha Sutherland, far left, provided music for the group and Lisa Poulsen, second from right, hosted the exhibition by members of the Join in More group. Picture: DGS

Digital artist Lisa Poulsen led the creative collaboration saying: "I'm here today to open an exhibition on the journey of an art project I've been working on with a local men's group [Join in More] set up by Listening Ear Caithness. It's an open day with other people coming along to see what we've been up to and celebrate the project with us."

Local artist Lisa Poulsen led the group as Artist in Residence at Lyth Arts Centre. Picture: DGS
Local artist Lisa Poulsen led the group as Artist in Residence at Lyth Arts Centre. Picture: DGS

A collection of photography, poetry, and artwork by the JiM group formed an exhibition called 'Kirk, or no Kirk?'. The array of images and written word "celebrates a journey towards the legend of St Coomb's Kirk at Dunnet beach and the ways in which deeper connections with place can support mental wellbeing". St Coomb's Kirk is firmly embedded in local legend as the site of a church and manse that were overwhelmed by shifting sands during a storm centuries ago.

"The story of St Coomb's Kirk really captured their imagination – they became inquisitive and wanted to focus the art project on the legend," said Lisa. The project initially came about after Lisa had taken the group on an outing to Castlehill Heritage Centre to see an exhibition. "The Coomb's Kirk story was mentioned while we there there. It captured their imagination and we rolled with it. It's ended up with this celebration of Coomb's Kirk."

A church and manse are believed to be buried under the sand dunes at Dunnet beach. Picture: DGS
A church and manse are believed to be buried under the sand dunes at Dunnet beach. Picture: DGS

Davey Snashall is a project officer with Listening Ear Caithness and said after the event: "Through lockdown we identified there was a need to set up a men's group. We devised 'go down to the JiM' to encourage people to come along as it doesn't flag up any stereotypical views. We're trying to open as many doors as we possibly can."

Davey said the group initially met at the Community Café in Thurso before moving on to Stepping Stones where they meet on a Monday in Thurso and Wednesdays at The Haven in Wick.

"People can come along and have a bit of a blether, get the craic, and do bits and pieces like pool and darts and there are special meal nights too." Davey said that as LAC's artist in residence for Thurso, Lisa was "pivotal" for the project. "She was amazing and told the guys 'this is your project and what do you want to do with it?'. That was how it all evolved."

Musician Keisha Sutherland provided music for Sunday afternoon's event and a good number of visitors came to view and celebrate the group's artistic endeavours with a free refreshment to boot.

JiM is a weekly group for men of all ages and backgrounds in Wick and Thurso, facilitated by Listening Ear Caithness, which offers emotional support to people in the county. The event is hosted in partnership with digital artist, Lisa Poulsen, and Lyth Arts Centre’s CAIR project.

More info on Listening Ear Caithness can be found at: listeningearcaithness.org/

The group's Facebook page is also at: www.facebook.com/ListeningEarCaithness

Here For Caithness is a digital guide to resources and services "which improve the mental health of our community" and is at: hereforcaithness.org/ There is also a Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/hereforcaithness

Artist Lisa Poulsen has a Facebook page called Inspired By Caithness at: www.facebook.com/inspiredbycaithness


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