Sam Delaney is a true honorary Grimbarian. Since moving to Grimsby in 2012, he has made an undeniable impact on the community, supporting those going through the recovery process in order to live a life free of addiction with his Community Interest Company, CREATIVE START.

CREATIVE START uses the power of art and creativity to provide support to people in abstinence-based recovery and their families. In 2017, over 30 people and volunteers from CREATIVE START got together to create the Grimsby Town Mural, found on Chantry Lane Underpass. Since 2018, the CIC has been supporting local Veterans of the Armed Forces experiencing mental health issues, designing and creating a mural to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

How did CREATIVE START begin?

CREATIVE START has been running for over 8 years, initially in Wigan and was set up as a Community Interest Company when I moved to Grimsby in 2012. I set up CREATIVE START CIC to provide support to people in abstinence-based recovery and their families, using peer support and art as tools to aid their recovery. At the point of setting up CREATIVE START I had been abstinent myself for 7 years and had been involved in a Wigan based Addiction support group ‘BRAG’ with my mentor, who was also my cousin and in recovery himself. During this time I had used art, specifically painting to help fill the void that addiction can leave and became aware of the importance of creativity in the recovery process. From the evidence of my own experience in Addiction and recovery, I wanted to provide a service that would create a safe, non-judgemental creative environment, that was peer led and where recovery was possible.

The work I do today is worlds apart from what I used to do before I made a choice to stop drinking and went into abstinence-based recovery back in 2005. My first job after leaving school was in futures broking at LIFFE the London International Financial Futures Exchange. This was an open outcry trading floor and the Largest futures trading floor in Europe. I also spent many years in recruitment including seven years in Sydney Australia. After a year in recovery, I made a choice to leave the office, city-based work and commit my life to helping other people in recovery. I had to make financial sacrifices to follow this path, with years of voluntary work but it gave my life purpose and is the reason CREATIVE START exists today.

It has always been my aim for CREATIVE START to inspire other people to set up similar peer support groups and community projects. When we began, we started as a painting group. The programme now includes merchandise design, mural painting, community art projects, wood work, regeneration projects, photography sessions, public talks, walking groups and more recently Bushcraft camps and survival sessions with Armed forces Veterans. We believe in using everything you can to aid recovery from addiction and aim to provide alternative support not just for people affected by addiction but all people in the community.   

 

Tell us about the programme.

CREATIVE START prides itself on its quality of service and its hands-on approach to recovery. The programme aims to change lives long term. In regards to addiction recovery, only a small percentage of people will recover long term. Our focus is on providing ongoing support for these people and their families.

Although the programme was initially set up to help people affected by addiction, we have also helped provide support for many people with various mental health issues including depression, eating disorders, social isolation, PTSD and anxiety disorder. In 2018, we focused on helping and supporting Armed Forces veterans. We worked together on a mural in remembrance of WW1 100 years. We helped them in setting up their own peer support group for Veterans with mental health issues primarily PTSD and Addiction. With alcoholism being such a big problem with Armed Forces veterans we have opened up the recovery programme to focus on this area and I am personally their go to person regarding addiction recovery locally.

Our community art projects are open to all the community and people come for different reasons, some come for the support, some to volunteer and others because of their interest in art. We also have art students from the Grimsby institute on work placements with us, it gives them valuable experience with working on large scale art projects. When one person finds recovery and changes their life completely the ripple effect can change many lives for the better, especially for family and loved ones. This make it very difficult to estimate how many people the programme has helped and that doesn’t take into account the benefit to the wider community. However, I have personally spoke to hundreds if not thousands of people affected by addiction and I can estimate that since inception CREATIVE START has helped well over 500 people.

 

What have been your highlights since starting the project?

The most rewarding part of the work is seeing the change in people during the recovery process. It is not easy work because many people will go back to it and I have lost many friends now to addiction whilst doing this work but seeing someone completely change their life around is very rewarding. 

In regards to the projects we have worked on, we are always looking for the next challenge and everyone on the projects we have worked on has given the group a huge sense of achievement and has helped benefit the wider community. We aim to paint things that the community would want rather than what we would want and hold consultations before each job to find out the best way to approach each project

It was an honour for us to be asked to paint the Grimsby mural. it was a big challenge for us and we wanted to give the people of Grimsby something they could take ownership of and be proud of. Art is not meant to please everyone but if people are talking about it you know that you have done something right. The Grimsby community really got behind us whilst we were painting it and the positive comments really helped encourage us. We were all really proud of what we achieved with the mural and it was a game changer for us all.

We have held two exhibitions now that have featured more than 150 artworks from people that have participated in the Creative Start workshops. The other mural projects that stood out for us include two murals for North East Lincolnshire Fire Service, one at Cromwell Road Fire Station to help promote Fire Safety and the other at Cleethorpes Fire station that celebrates the history of the station.

 We recently painted an underwater themed mural for the children of St Andrews Hospice. The work the hospice does with children and their families is exceptional and to be part of that was quite an emotional and rewarding experience for us. Seeing the smiles on the children faces and knowing that we were painting something that would be enjoyed by the children staying at the hospice for many years to come was fantastic for us and is exactly the kind of project we aim to be involved in.

A very proud moment this year for us was painting a mural in remembrance of WW1 100 years. We worked with a group of Armed Forces Veterans and mentored them so that they could play a big part in designing and painting the mural. Their families also got involved. With the help of the veterans we painted this very quickly, I think 17 hours in total. It played a part in the Immingham Remembrance Day parade and the feedback we got from the community was extremely positive. It was an honour for us to be part of this and a very proud moment for CREATIVE START in 2018.

I was also invited to London this year to represent Grimsby and CREATIVE START CIC at the Addiction & Marsh Christian Trust awards where CREATIVE START won the ‘exceptional group in the field of recovery’ award. This was another proud moment for us.

 

How long did it take to paint the Grimsby Town Mural, and how many people were involved?

Over 30 people were involved in painting the Grimsby mural. This included people in recovery, their affected others, and volunteers from the community. Because we were following a very detailed design and using paint and brushes rather than spray paint, the murals did take a long time to paint, I think over four months from start to finish. All our art projects are group based, they are designed so that anyone can get involved no matter what their level of experience or confidence is. There are no superstars at CREATIVE START, although we have had qualified artists volunteer with us, most of us including myself are self-taught and it’s a real privilege for us to be involved in such high-profile art projects. We find it much more rewarding to work with people that have very little confidence and experience in art and we teach simple techniques that anyone can use. The key thing for us is the process and how it builds the self-esteem of all involved. Working on these projects brings us all closer together and creates an amazing sense of achievement for all involved.

 

Why is a programme like this important to the people of Grimsby?

Addiction does not discriminate, it can often be viewed as a poverty problem but you only have to look at all the people in the public eye that are in a recovery programme to know that it can affect anyone, no matter what your background or status is. Whilst doing this work I have come across every kind of person, from all different professions and backgrounds. Everyone is different but addiction is the same. It is one of the most stigmatised health conditions on the planet and there is a lack of education and awareness in regards to addiction and the recovery process. It is a progressive condition that only gets worse and it’s the only health condition you have to admit that you have. Everyone knows someone that has or has had a serious addiction problem, often it can be a loved one which is why we also provide the same support for families.

Our community projects are designed to benefit and include the community. Anyone can get involved with our projects with no pressure to commit. We want as many people as possible from the local area to get involved no matter what their ability. All our projects are designed to be inclusive. We provide a safe and non-judgmental environment, where all people are welcome.

You mention culture in Grimsby and many people immediately think that doesn’t include them. These are the people we aim to target, we much prefer to work with hard to reach people and teach them simple techniques that they can use for the rest of their lives. CREATIVE START promotes art as a tool to help wellbeing and build self-esteem. We are about the creative process of art and how it can help as a way of dealing with life’s issues. All of our workshops are free to access and run on donation. We aim to bring art to everyone especially those that maybe vulnerable or those that feel socially excluded.

CREATIVE START is the first and only organisation that is delivering this kind of peer support programme in the local area. What makes it different to other services is that people in abstinence based recovery are involved in the running of the organisation. We are all very passionate about the issues we aim to tackle because we have all been directly affected by them. There is a big problem with addiction in the area and also the stigma attached to it. It’s important for the community to see that people can recover and completely change their lives. We aim to act as an example not only to people affected by addiction but to the community as a whole. To show them what can be done if you put your mind to it.

It is very easy to point the finger at people that are stuck in the destructive cycle of addiction. Addicts are not easy people to work with when they are using, CREATIVE START works with a niche group of people who are ready to change and that can be identified because those running the organisation know what it is like to have serious addiction problems and how to recover from it. We also know when people are not ready for recovery. We work on attraction rather than promotion. We never tell people what to do, we can only make suggestions and offer people the benefit of our own experience in addiction and recovery. Recovery has very little to do with alcohol and drugs, it is to do with behaviour. It is a way of living your life on life’s terms, where you do not need to turn to substances or certain destructive behaviours in order to cope with what life throws at you.

Without organisations like CREATIVE START there is very little evidence that recovery from addiction is possible. Without giving people a reason to get out of addictive behaviour and showing that recovery is possible, people have nothing to compare it against. We exist to offer hope to those that maybe struggling and their families and to show that with the right support, it is possible to change your life completely around and become free of addiction in whatever form it’s in.