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Saturday, March 5, 2022

Running for (creative) therapy

I am once again putting rubber to the tarmac and running the Hastings Half-Marathon on March 20th. I am doing it for two reasons: exercise obsession and to raise money for an important new therapy project being set up by two friends of mine. 

I have vowed to hang up my running shoes after I complete this event. In fact I am giving up my neuro-sports obsessionalism in general. However, before I go cold turkey on this particular (non) coping mechanism, I will seek to go out with a modest bang.

My fastest half-marathon was fractionally over 1 hour and 35 minutes, a performance conducted six years ago at the 2016 Hastings Half. I got to within 32 seconds of that in 2019. I'm now approaching 58, but have stated that I want, this year, to run the Hastings Half-Marathon in under 1:30. That said, if I can at least improve on my PB, however modestly, I'll be totally delighted.

The last Hastings Half, back in 2019; author far left

More importantly, but relevantly, I am raising money for GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES. This charity is about to launch from the Langney (East Sussex) home of Amy Syrad-Hardy and Adam Llewellyn-Smith, and will offer creative therapy for adults, and a recreational space solely for men. I can personally vouch for how effective Amy Syrad-Hardy's creative therapy classes are. 

If you would like to sponsor my run, I will transfer all monies raised directly to GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES. (Please message me accordingly and I will send you my bank details).

GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES will be a totally inclusive charity offering safe spaces for conversation and creativity. Based in Pevensey, East Sussex, it combines two elements: creative therapy for adults, and a recreational space solely for men. ‘Your Creative Self’, run by Amy Syrad-Hardy (38), will provide both group and 1:1 therapy for anyone who needs it, whether they realise it or not. Amy is experienced and trained in providing creative therapies focused on the whole self: mind and body. She is also a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Consequently, she is both professionally and  intuitively aware of how trauma affects people. Her creative therapy is focused on adults who may be struggling with the manifestations of trauma, whether due to CSA or to more recent domestic sexual or physical violence. Amy encourages people to use paint, paper, words, or just about anything, to express how they feel and to connect with the whole self.  

‘You do not have to think of yourself as ‘artistic’,’ she stresses. ‘It’s all about using different methods to tap into repressed emotion: anger, fear, shame, whatever it is that you might be feeling,’ says Amy. ‘Or if it feels like you’re not feeling anything at all.’  This Amy will do in a group setting, or via 1:1 therapy for those with specific trauma-related symptoms such as an eating disorder, suicidal ideation, addiction, chronic illness etc. 

Amy’s husband Adam Llewellyn-Smith (38) has lived experience of trauma and is bi-polar. He has actively supported Amy in her fight for justice against a former abuser. Adam is a videographer, photographer, producer and editor. From personal experience he understands how much men who’ve survived trauma need to communicate, whether with themselves or with others. Adam is setting up ‘MENT’ (Mental Health Emotions Narrative & Times) so that men can have a dedicated space where they can allow themselves to talk, or to explore. Exploration could be creative, with paint or words or by simply sharing an enjoyment of music. Or it could literally be exploring by walking or exercising, or it might be engaging in sports. MENT will provide men who perhaps aren’t used to expressing themselves, in any form, with an opportunity to gather and to just see where the conversation, or the activity, takes them.

GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES will be based out of Amy and Adam’s home studio space (‘ALS Studios’). They have also booked three other facilities in the Pevensey and Westham area, including Montague Farm in Hankham. Over the next couple of months they will host exhibitions of creative work by trauma survivors at these locations; one such 'pop-up' event in being lined up for the end of March. 

Adam and Amy’s charitable project aims to support anyone who’s feeling isolated, anyone who’s struggling with depression, anyone who’s had trauma. Whatever your story, it’s likely that you will find someone, or something, that you can connect with via GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES. As the work of the charity grows, it will draw on a network of trauma therapists and counsellors. Fees for  counselling and other forms of support will be set low to help ensure maximum inclusiveness.

If you want to find out more about GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES, contact Amy and Adam via email on or via their individual Facebook pages:  Amy and Adam.

Self-portrait (by me)

Postscript: I am very pleased to say that I raised £770 for GROWING CREATIVE COMMUNITIES and am very appreciative to all those who donated money and/or expressed their support. I sadly didn't make it home in less than my PB, but my finish time of just under 1:39 wasn't bad. The key thing is the taking part and the cause, and the cause is a very good one for sure. A launch photography exhibition has already been held by Adam in a Pevensey pub, and he has three more planned in the Pevensey and Westham area over the Spring and Summer of 2022. Amy will be hosting an exhibition of her art and of those who've benefitted from her creative therapy (including me) during the same period.  

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