People Like Us – Hayley Harman

Where there is creativity there is hope

Hayley Harman is a Coventry based artist that hosted a session at the People Like Us Festival. Everyone who joined us on zoom loved the session and it proved a perfect way to start a Saturday morning! Hayley’s idea was to co-create a tree of hope for Coventry

Hayley has a strong passion for community and creativity read on to find out why Hayley wants to get people involved in creative activities and what she has been up to in lockdown. Hayley has definitely been busy! 

When did your creative journey begin?

I’ve always had a keen interest in art though I never believed it was something that I’d be able to do. However, in 2016, I started attending groups with Arty Folks and began to explore my creativity. I rediscovered my long-lost love of art, something which I hadn’t done since leaving school. I was surprised at how capable I was, especially at painting, and I’ve never looked back


Has creativity had a positive impact on your health and wellbeing?

Absolutely. I had no confidence before and didn’t think I’d ever be good at anything. Being creative has helped me see that I have value as a human being. The process of being creative reduces my stress and anxiety. Seeing my progress has improved my confidence and I now believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Being around other creatives helps me feel like I’m a part of a community

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

I’ve been practising drawing and painting, you can see some of my work on my Instagram

I’ve written a few poems for Underground Lights – one is about Coventry 

I’ve also been working with City of Culture, Belgrade Theatre, Underground Lights, Crisis, Grapevine, Arty Folks, With One Voice, and Coventry Arts and Homelessness Forum to help keep vulnerable people connected during the lockdown.

I developed creative packs to send out to our communities. They were well received. There is a blog post about the project

Creative packs have moved into phase 2. In these packs, I invite our participants to join our ‘Smile Tribe’ and create their own smile mask. I’ve been looking into the role of masks as a therapeutic device in a theatre setting. I believe the ‘smile’ is the most universal mask that we all wear, sometimes because we are happy, but not always. Hopefully, the smile masks will bring genuine joy to our participants and keep us all connected while apart. The packs should be received this week. 

I also created a ‘send a Smile’ postcard project, along with Beth from Underground Lights. Postcards were sent out to homeless people experiencing deep isolation in hotels and hostels. The thought behind this project was to encourage smiling in the hope that participants would feel good. The project has been delivered in Coventry, London and Osaka (Japan). The project will also be delivered to recipients of Creative Packs, too. Please check my insta for updates on the progression of this project. 

I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to help keep people connected and creative during the lockdown. The feedback has been very encouraging, and I hope I can continue to make a difference in future. I should also add that being a part of these projects has been extremely beneficial to me, too, so everyone’s a winner 😊

I also took part in a creative project with Belgrade Theatre exploring stories around migrants and refugees. We created a digital storybook

As you can see, I’ve been very busy and very happy to be so!

Random fact about yourself 

I am the Bollywood Brolly Dolly 😊

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?

I’d take ‘Move On Up’ by Curtis Mayfield as my record as it’s such an uplifting song, I’d dance and sing all over the island.

The book I’d take would be ‘The Adventures of Don Quixote’ by Miguel De Cervantes. It’s a big book, so that would keep me entertained for a while. But the book also gives a powerful lesson on the power of imagination. Imagination is what turns space into place, what gives meaning and colour to our lives. To give up your imagination is to give up your life. The book would remind me of that and, with my imagination, I’d never be alone.

The creative item I’d take would be my harmonica. I’d like to think that I’d source materials from the island to create art, so taking my harmonica would give me the chance to learn how to play it, seems as I’ve had it for nearly twenty years!

What have you missed since being in lockdown?

Going to my drama group. Hugging people.

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

I hope that everyone will realise that they, too, have a creative talent. Everyone has – fact!

How can we get more people involved with creative health activities in the City?

By showing the different types of people who are involved in creative health activities, I hope people will be able to see how accessible it is. And to also make it simple for people to get involved. Art is inclusive, not exclusive

Who or what inspires your creativity?

Other artists, books, images, films, people, thoughts and ideas, so many different things! I guess my main inspiration comes from pushing myself further to see what I’m capable of

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

There’s a misconception that creativity is an innate talent that people have either got or not. I don’t believe that to be true. Anybody can be creative, it’s a part of being human. It’s also a skill that can be developed through practise. There is no right or wrong way of being creative, it’s an individual expression. So, my advice would be to just have a go! You most likely will be pleasantly surprised at what you can do and the benefits to wellbeing are well documented, so what have you got to lose? 😊

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

I’d like to continue improving, especially in my painting. I’d also like to continue developing projects that bring communities together and improve their wellbeing. I get a huge sense of satisfaction from that and it gives my life meaning.

Share the love – Is there anyone in Coventry who you would like to shout out about? Who should our readers be looking out for?

Fridays Coventry is a youth initiative to prevent knife crime and gang violence in Coventry. Give them a follow on Instagram


People Like Us

What is the People Like Us Festival?

Coventry’s own online creative health festival – It ran from Monday 6th – Sunday 12th July 2020

Designed and made for the people by the people. Celebrating the power of arts and creativity.

People Likes Us can come together to create opportunities, to dream, to co-create, to do things, to make things, to think about things, to rebel against things, to change things. But most of all to explore our creativity and connect with new people.

Although the festival is over for this year we have lots more in store! We have interviews, podcasts and guest blogs by local and international creatives. If you want to keep in touch follow along on our socials….


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