The Pilot Summary.

DEAR FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS OF THE PEARL EXCHANGE

We’ve just taken a deep breath in. A moment to process the magic and the mayhem. The Pearl Exchange Pilot Program of May & June 2021 collected enough excitement and momentum to roll into July and August on a smaller scale…

We’d first off like to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to our events, workshops, classes, studio days, talks, beach cleans and celebrations. Thank you to those who got involved, helped, donated, filmed, designed, documented, turned things around at the last minute, came up with new ideas and made the past few months the memorable experience it has been for us all. We’ve really created something special here in Bude. The Pearl Exchange stands as the inclusive, warm, creative, collaborative community it is now because of your involvement, enthusiasm and generosity. Having attended the vast majority of the events and workshops during the Pilot Program, there are a few noticeable takeaways. The sense of community and genuine human connection felt like the most empowering part of the experience. The activity or new skill learned, whatever it was, acted as more of a catalyst to foster a sense of belonging, confidence and openness amongst others. This felt so essential after the UK’s long period of isolation. It’s been an incredible experience to witness this project develop, and see the gradual positive changes and ripple effect this Pilot had on every single person involved.

"The idea of an inclusive community began to take on it's own form"

We didn’t entirely know what to expect when the Pilot began. Initially scared about numbers, promotion, marketing, planning, organisation. Then it started. The days rolled on, and awareness grew. More signed up. More showed their excitement, passion, told their friends, offered to help, wanted to spend as much time in the Pitch and Putt building as they could. Relationships developed. Friendship seedlings began to grow. Every person who walked through the door seemed to take on the energy of the place. We saw people become more open, more kind to one another. Their outlook and perspective shifting as the weeks went on. The idea of an inclusive community began to take on its own form, in ways we didn’t expect to see. The hosts were hospitable no matter what, often preferring the intimacy and personalised approach of smaller groups. The attendees came away sharing the appreciation for the one-to-one impact. It became clear: making a huge difference wasn’t necessarily correlated with numbers. It was about quality over quantity.

"Every person who walked through the door seemed to take on the energy of the place."

Overall, there was more of a desire to take part in anything chill, fun and creative. Film screening nights, yoga, poetry, creative writing, zine making, music jam nights and everything which took place on a Friday – ‘Art, Make and Create’ day proved to be the stuff our community was craving the most! These workshops gave our attendees the confidence to experiment, be expressive and surrounded by like-minded people. With this said; all who took part in our life skills, and business-related workshops were keen learners, and came away with a great deal of inspiration and knowledge. We’d like to take a moment to say a huge thank you to all our hosts. You’ve been absolutely amazing, flexible, adaptable, supportive, warm- hearted, knowledgeable and inspiring in more ways we could have hoped for! This Pilot Program would not have happened without your involvement.

Testimonials

As part of our final exhibition and end of Pilot celebration, we collected some testimonials from attendees of our workshops and events, which we thought would be great to share here:

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health.”

We believe this Pilot Program changed people’s outlook on mental health. The creative aspect played a huge part in this. Especially throughout this pandemic, young people are becoming increasingly aware it’s something we all struggle with to some degree at some stage in our lives. It’s not a sign of weakness, or something we should feel the need to hide. This sense of compassion for one another, understanding and non-judgmental attitudes, has been a highlight of the Pilot Program. This quote by Bessel Van Der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, felt relevant to share: “Safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives. Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love.”

Creativity allows the brain to enter into a flow state, a place of relaxed focus and concentration which can help to increase positive emotions and lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety. It was great to see the confidence gained and the connections made whilst painting, drawing, sculpting, printing or learning how to use a sewing machine. The creative activity provided a safe bubble for guards to come down, allowing people to open up, be themselves, with hands busy and part of the brain distracted by the peaceful flow state in the room. Our next step is to work on the evaluation process: which will give us good indicators of where to go next and what the community is most in need of. We would like to invite your ideas in where possible – we welcome any feedback via email, phone, or social media messages. Stay tuned! Peace and love.

Rosie and The Pearl Exchange Team x