People Like Us – Fran Town

Fran has been getting online during lockdown to teach others how to get creative

Fran is one of the leaders of Foleshill Creates – pre lockdown they used to meet at Broad Street Meeting Hall every Tuesday. But the pandemic has seen them using different ways and skills so they could continue to connect and get creative online! 

Fran will be leading a session for Foleshill Creates at the online People Like Us Creative Health Festival on Tuesday 7th July at 10.30 am. Check out the event page for more details 

Fran has kindly agreed to share her thoughts with us in the form of a Q&A blog. We will be posting more creative health blogs over the next two weeks. All written by local artists who share our passion for creative health 

When did your creative journey begin?

I started creating as a young child with my grandmother. She could make anything from nothing. A handkerchief was made into a bunny with floppy ears, that would fit in my pocket. Sheets of newspaper became a sewing pattern. I learnt from watching and creating with her. I have now tried to pass those skills onto my grandaughter and goddaughters.

Tell Us about Foleshill Creates 

I belong to an art/craft group called Foleshill Creates.a group of mixed ages, ethnic background and ability. We share our skills as well as our materials and take turns in leading sessions under the guidance of our organiser.

What creative activity have you been doing to help you survive lockdown?

During the lockdown, we have kept in touch via zoom lunches or suppers and have also run weekly Facebook live sessions which have been watched and hopefully enjoyed by many people from other groups as well. They have been recorded as videos so people can watch as many times as they need to learn the skill being shown, or even if the time slot not convenient. It was a new experience for me. Although I had been a lecturer, I had never had to show skill to an audience I couldn’t see.  After a few technical problems, I hope they are improving. Other members are sharing their skills as well. We have tried to only do projects that require minimal materials and equipment so that everyone can join in.

I have been keeping something from each weeks session so that we will have a history of what we completed in lockdown.

What have you missed since being in lockdown?

The main thing I have missed in lockdown was being able to see and hug my family and friends

Has creativity had a positive impact on your health and well being? If so tell us more!

My creativity has helped me all through my adult life. Because of an injury in my early 20’s I have never been able to move or walk easily and have been a wheelchair user for the last 20 years. Having things I could sit and do were always helpful. Then 6 1/2 years ago I developed stage 3/4  breast cancer. I had 2 ops followed by 12  months of chemo and radiotherapy.  The diagnosis certainly affected my mental health and I turned to my creativity to help me through. 

I have now had my 5 years all clear, so hoping it remains that way. 

Following cancer, I had a hip replacement followed by 4 other operations connected with side effects from the chemo.  Other than hospital visits I was unable to go out for about 3 years. At least, unlike lockdown, I was able to have visitors. The support from them and my craft room saved my mental stability. I could shut myself away in the room for hours and ‘play’.  I had just started joining a few things, and going out, when lockdown struck.  I’m looking forward to seeing people again when it is safe to do so.

During my life, I have tried most crafts but never done a lot with drawing. I knew my problem was drawing what I knew was there rather than what I saw. I have been practising and can see my drawing and painting improving. I find I am looking at nature more as well and noticing that petals are not always even and immaculate and insects have amazing markings.

My main crafts in recent years are making memory albums, card making, cross-stitch and making items and dressing 1/12 the scale dolls for my houses and shops. Everything is ready for my miniature craft shop/tea rooms. I just need to decorate it ready for the new occupants.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.

At the age of almost 71, I decided to die my hair pink and loved it.

If you were going to be stranded on a desert island what one record, one book and one creative item would you take with you?

If going to a desert island my music would be Moonfleet by Chris de Burgh. My book would be the biggest puzzle book I could find and my craft item would have to be a huge paper stash! 

What are you hoping City Of Culture’s legacy will be?

I hope that the legacy of the City of Culture is that  Coventry can be known as a centre for creativity as it was back in the watchmaking and cycle making days.

The Festival is a great platform for a diverse section of the city to share and explore their creativity with others. In so doing they will realise the benefits to both their wellbeing and mental health. We all have mental health but only tend to talk about it, when there is a problem. Why not talk about it when doing good things? 

What are your top tips for people wanting to explore their creativity?

My tip for anybody wanting to explore their creativity is just ‘ go for it’. Grab paper and a  pencil or scissors,  paints or maybe fabric and sewing needle and threads and do whatever you fancy. The first attempt may not be perfect but it will improve with every attempt. Loads of videos and YouTube online for inspiration and instruction. 

What are your hopes/plans/dreams for your creative journey?

I hope to continue my arts and crafts journey for many years and would love to lead more craft sessions either to individuals or online, including encaustic art, which is painting, using wax on an iron. I also want to develop my drawing and painting skills.

Stay in the loop

As mentioned above we will be publishing a series of creative health blogs written by local artists. If you would like to be kept up to date then sign up to the mailing list or follow along on social media  

There are lots of events across this week so check them out and get your tickets!