Report On A Visit To 'Oakleaf Enterprise' - July 4th 2019

I have been connected with Oakleaf since their original application to the Trust and the award of a grant, specifically towards the support of their Art Project.

This was my 3rd visit to the Charity, a small, well established therapeutic community in Guildford, providing vocational training and wider assistance to disadvantaged adults suffering from mental illness and my focus was on the art class, which was proving to have a positive impact on the ever-increasing number of clients wishing to join the course and for which the Charity was applying for funding to sustain and maintain its continuation.

I was particularly interested in this aspect of art as a means of energising and healing, having observed the transformative effect on Dominic of his self-taught practice of painting, that illuminated the two years of enforced retirement before his death.

Also, a close friend of mine, an art therapist, had commented with astonishing insight and acuity without knowledge of its provenance, on seeing an example of his work. Hence it was with keen expectation that I set out on my initial visit, which had been seamlessly organised by Moyra Matravers, their Fundraiser and Co-ordinator. (See photo of Moyra and myself).

From the outset, I gained the impression of a nurturing and effective working environment and this has been confirmed and amplified on each successive visit.

Initially I was shown around several departments, introduced to people working on various projects and made welcome in the art class, where I was invited to spend time observing the on-going work, speak with the tutor and invited to see and discuss their work with some of the students, which proved an unexpected and gratifying bonus.

Subsequent visits followed the same pattern and were made all the more worthwhile and enjoyable through the warm welcome and response from tutor and students, some of whom I met again on successive visits.

On my recent visit, this was further enhanced by the ease and familiarity that had been established on previous occasions, and which led to a highly revealing hour spent with the art class, a generous amount of time having been made for an informative conversation with Andrew the tutor, during which I gained detailed information about the materials he was able to choose, which thanks to the support of our Trust were of the high quality he considered worthy of his class and it was gratifying to see them being used to great effect in the work, the process of which, as on the previous occasions, I was able to observe (see a beautiful example of artwork below)

At first hand I could gauge that Andrew was a consummate artist in his own right and clearly a dedicated and inspiring teacher, which was further amplified in conversation with Moyra, who described him as seeing his role as bringing out the best in each student, ensuring that each individual should feel they were working in a safe environment and encouraging them to be open and communicate if they so wished.

I was much moved by the obvious pride and joy in the creative process engendered by the nature of the therapy, the conducive atmosphere of the environment, and the insight and understanding of Andrew of the needs of his students who, as Moyra joyfully commented, 'have produced some fantastic pieces, which Andrew has, if so wished by the artist, framed and displayed throughout the building' adding that in time they would love to stage an exhibition of the work 'to cement and further the pride and sense of achievement', which my visits have revealed as being the fulfilment of the aims of this inspiring and energising therapeutic community.

In conclusion I must add that I have been greatly honoured to have received the gift of a beautiful painting (see attached) by one of Andrew's students which, I was told, was specially selected by Andrew and the class 'based on the colours', which in an animated interchange during my latest visit had led to the question of our 'favourite colours'!

Written by Susanna Beer, trustee

* Read more about Oakleaf here.

The Beer-Harris Memorial Trust (formerly The Dominic Beer Memorial Trust) is a registered charity in England (1155652)