Create: transforming lives through the arts

Nicky Goulder smiling

Create works with some of society’s most vulnerable groups.

Nicky Goulder smilingNicky Goulder is Co-Founder and Chief Executive of creative arts charity Create. The charity uses the power of the creative arts to transform the lives of society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people. In 2013, Nicky was recognised as Clarins Most Dynamisante Woman of the Year and Create was shortlisted for the Charity Times Charity of the Year: with an income of less than £1million award. Here, she talks about Create and some of the participants who drive her passion and commitment.

“Create was born from the vision I had in December 2002 of a charity that would use the power of the arts to transform lives. I was motivated by my longing for a fairer, more caring, more inclusive society in which every individual can fulfil their potential. It barely seems possible that over a decade has passed since my original vision for the charity and its early beginnings from my dining room – we are now a team of 12 and work from offices in the City.

Create designs and delivers projects that enable those who are excluded through disability, disadvantage, ill-health, imprisonment, poverty or social isolation to participate in high quality creative arts experiences. Our work focuses on seven priority groups: young patients; disabled children and adults; young and adult carers; schoolchildren (and their teachers) in areas of deprivation; vulnerable older people; young and adult offenders (and their families); and marginalised children and adults (eg: sex workers, homeless people, refugees). All projects enable participants to develop creativity, learning, social skills and self-esteem. Some bring different groups of people together to break down barriers and develop shared understanding; others enable them to explore social concerns. Every project helps to create a society that is fairer, more caring and more inclusive. To date, more than 26,700 people have benefited from 4,590 workshops run by our professional musicians, dancers, drama artists, writers and visual artists.

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kids in masks at workshopMany of the children and adults with whom we work have exceptionally challenging lives, such as the vulnerable women who take part in creative:u~turn. Thanks to funding and volunteer support from global law firm Reed Smith LLP, we run this multi-artform project with U-Turn Women’s Project in Bethnal Green, a centre for women of all ages who have been trapped in cycles of prostitution, drug addiction, physical abuse and homelessness from a young age.

Each woman has her own story to tell and takes something slightly different from working with Create. Marie*, for example, one of three daughters, was chosen by her mother to be sold to men from an early age. After revealing that she liked women, she was forced into a marriage by her family. The marriage was to ‘cure’ her of being a lesbian – but it became physically and emotionally abusive. When her husband abandoned her and her daughter, Marie became a sex worker. Her daughter and second child were taken away from her by her family. She is now addicted to gambling, finds it difficult to trust and has extremely low self-esteem. Taking part in our drama, music and art workshops has enabled Marie to explore her feelings, develop new skills, build trusting relationships and feel a sense of pride, confidence and self-worth. Working alongside our male artist has also allowed her to “realise that there are nice men. He made me believe that not every man will harm you. I’m now able to see my male doctor on my own.”

Our adult carers project in Lewisham, funded by an anonymous donor, is another good example:  there we delivered a project that enabled women carers to write and illustrate original stories for their children. These were then collated in an anthology, which we had professionally printed, so they had a unique gift to give to their children. Elisabeth* and Jane* worked together on a story called Joshua’s Secret Super Shadow. Jane has two autistic sons, aged 16 and 17:

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“My two boys were diagnosed at two and two and a half. To have them both with autism I went to hell and back with them, but at least it got easier as they got older. They have got difficulties with communication – that’s the first indication that there’s a problem, usually. And because they don’t have communication they find it much more difficult to understand the world and their surroundings.  They prefer a routine and when you move away from that routine they go into a major panic. My 16 year old has never had a proper solid meal. He lives on soft things like yoghurt – everything that is solid in the mouth he won’t touch. There was a psychologist who managed to get him to start eating apples. It took months. I need to think about hard problems every second of every day, and to come in here and do something like this and be with other women – it is nothing to do with anything going on in my life, it removes me from that and gives me this other world with other women creating, with energy. It can’t help but be positive.

Everyone here has a child with special needs. It is lovely to come here and create something with other women. We can talk about our children during the session. At first I thought there was no way I would have time for something like this. This project has made me understand that I can take some time out to do something for … well, I think this is for myself, actually. We are doing a children’s story. But it is for us.

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workshop for adultsThis story we’ve written is about a child who feels isolated and different and like he doesn’t have any friends.  We have put in that he has got super strength and can be courageous.  We want to inspire our children that they might at times be lonely but they have an inner strength.  The shadow tells him to stand up to the bullies in the park, and tells him: “You can do it, you can do it! I’m always with you.” Quotes like that, to inspire a child.  I knew I wanted to do a story about a superhero as we knew it would appeal to our sons.  It just came together.  It’s amazing how much you can get done in three hours.  Everyone encourages you and praises your ideas.”

It is stories like these that drive everything we do. Every day we offer our participants the opportunity to take part in life-changing experiences, and the feedback we get proves again and again that our approach works: our participants tell us; the community organisations with which we partner tell us (during 2012/13, 99% of them rated our projects successful); and we have recently won a series of awards for our work with young carers, young offenders and vulnerable women.

I have so many ambitions for Create. These can perhaps best be summed up in my vision for the future – to involve as many children and adults as possible in our programmes and to transform as many lives as possible.”

Find out more about Create by visiting, follow us on Twitter @nickygoulder @createcharity or like us on Facebook
•    Names changed to protect anonymity

About Nicky Goulder

I am the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of award-winning charity Create. Create uses the power of the arts to transform the lives of society's most disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Create was born from our longing for a fairer, more caring, more inclusive society in which every individual can fulfil their potential. In 2013, I was recognised as Clarins Most Dynamisante Woman of the Year.