Newham based art organisation helps bring disabled together

The pop up poetry group at the hub with their artwork

The pop up poetry group at the hub with their artwork - Credit: Archant

“I feel that I am being judged, I feel intimidated indeed, I feel misunderstood.”

These are the words of Carla Aveleira, a woman who suffered a mental breakdown last year but found solace in Together! 2012 – a not-for-profit arts organisation based in Canning Town.

Carla, 34, of Stratford, expressed these words in a poem called Confusion which she wrote as part of a poetry project, one of the many arts-based initiatives organised by the social enterprise.

“It was Together that gave me the chance to express myself”, said Carla, whose poem was published in an anthology along with 20 others suffering from various disabilities who use the service.

Together is aimed at anyone suffering with either a mental or physical disability.

It was founded by Ju Gosling in the year of the Olympic and Paralympic Games here in London, following a surge in demand for an arts based project for disabled Newham residents.

Three years on, Together offers a number of clubs specialising in anything from poetry to music and two annual festival called the Disability Film Festival and the Disability History Month Festival

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All seven clubs take place across venues in the borough.

Julie Newman, 67, of Upton Park, said: “Together is a place people can come to and meet other like minded people.

“Disabled people really want to engage into society but there is such a limited opportunity for them and Together allows them to interact through an artistic environment.

“This boosts their confidence and allows them to excel in something they enjoy. Learning is embedded in everything we do. We are inclusive and never turn anybody away.”

The social enterprise supports disabled people to be able to access the arts industry on an equal basis and is passionate about boosting the self confidence of its members.

Ju said: “Some of the people who joined us in early 2013 now have jobs. We’re not an employment enterprise but our clubs help build the self esteem of many of our members and that is one of our aims.

“On the whole, Together is an organisation that was inspired by the late David Morris, he was a great writer and was also in a wheelchair.

“He really campaigned for equality and not only for those who were disabled but for everyone.”

Mr Morris, who died in 2010, was the former Mayor of London’s disability adviser before taking on a role at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Together welcomes people of any ages and all abilities and it is this that a lot of members said attractive.

Dawn Barber, 47, of Custom House, started attending the pop up poetry club in Star Lane, Canning Town, to find help for her depression.

She said: “The poetry club gives me a chance to express myself. I’ve found that I really enjoy reading and writing and Together! has really helped me with this,

“I can be myself, and my self confidence has really increased.”

Dawn and Carla both joined Together after suffering with mental illnesses and they now volunteer at events.

Carla added: “I play a part in organising the event. It’s about giving something back. Together! has really helped me and has become an important part of my life.”

The organisation is hoping to build a more permanent base in Newham in the coming years. It also welcomes new members and volunteers.

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