VOS Collaborates with The Soldiers’ Arts Academy for Veterans of Modern Conflicts

Art is an incredibly powerful wellbeing tool!

We at Veterans Outreach Support work hard to bring wellbeing activities to our local ex-Forces community. If you’re a veteran (or partner, spouse, or carer to a veteran) we welcome you to explore the events and activities we have on offer. Now our community has access to more creative opportunities than ever, thanks to a six month long collaboration we’ve begun with London-based charity, The Soldiers’ Arts Academy.

The Soldiers’ Arts Academy (SAA) is an award winning not-for-profit organisation which gives serving and former military personnel and their families a route into the arts. It may be part of a recovery process, training for a step into a new industry, or simply a way to support the transition into civilian life. By working closely with actors, directors, producers, dancers, writers, poets, and artists, the SAA creates opportunities for participants to fulfil their artistic potential and to create long-term connections.

By collaborating with VOS, the SAA is able to provide additional arts opportunities to veterans in our local community and beyond.

From Amanda Faber, Founder and CEO of Soldiers’ Arts Academy: “SAA are delighted to partner with VOS to offer arts access to their arts programmes to veterans in the South of England. Thanks to the wonderful support from VOS we are able to expand our programmes and the number of veterans we reach. We are very proud to be associated with them.”

VOS’ own CEO, Ian Millen, shares similar sentiments: “We are thrilled to be able to help fund their excellent work through one of our Armed Forces Covenant programmes, and to collaborate with the aim of improving the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of veterans and their families both here in the South East and across the UK.”

Participation Criteria: To join in on SAA activities, you must be a veteran from a modern (post 2000) conflict, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, or a family member (spouse or partner) to one. If you or someone you know fits that description, reach out! As Amanda puts it, ”If anyone would like to join us, they should contact us via the website at info@soldiersartsacademy.” 

How Does Art Support Veterans’ Mental Health?

The Soldier's Arts Academy London performance of 'Soldier On'
Image via soldiersartsacademy.org

As reported by the Journal for Military and Veterans’ Health, ‘art therapy’ as we know it was actually a product of WWII veterans. Soldiers returning home from combat were struggling with PTSD that was resistant to “traditional forms of medical and therapeutic intervention.” Because their trauma was very difficult to articulate with words, art became a widely accepted solution for relaxing the mind and improving veteran mental health. 

British soldier and artist Adrian Hill is the person responsible for coining the term ‘art therapy.’ He once claimed that “The art germ, once it becomes firmly planted in the mind and the heart, is far more difficult to dislodge than another germ with which you are all more familiar. Indeed the former germ can help enormously in banishing the latter bug.”

These days it’s well known that artistic expression can help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, build healthy new neural pathways in our brains, and give rise to significant reductions in anxiety, depression and stress.

“Empirical evidence shows that the arts can bring about recovery for veterans who have been impacted by service,” explains Amanda from the SAA. “With their new skills, veterans can also enter into new work and join the wider arts community.”

Big Plans at Soldiers’ Arts Academy

Soldier's Arts Academy 'Little Manfred' Poster
Image via soldiersartsacademy.org

Over the coming months, the SAA’s expanded services will include a very wide range of opportunities for artistic expression. While we at VOS are able to support local veterans in and around Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant, Isle of Wight, and the Solent area, the SAA’s opportunities extend to veterans across the country! Many of their projects and resources are fully virtual, meaning veterans nationwide need only a web connection to take part.

“We are offering multiple online workshops in guitar, art, poetry, screenwriting, creative writing and singing,” Amanda shares.In person programmes involve free theatre tickets to ‘Papercut,’ a new play at the Park Theatre (a residential theatre development in Alnwick, Northumberland), in-person art workshops in London which result in an art exhibition, an art show for our art group for a week, a residential art workshop in Suffolk, and our International Veterans Arts Festival with programmes in poetry, art, film and theatre.”

Read More: The Soldiers’ Arts Academy Website: Home

Get Started with the SAA & VOS

Veterans Outreach Support Wellbeing Activities Arts
Images via Veterans Outreach Support Isle of Wight (at Fired Arts Studio, left) and VOS (at the Royal Maritime Hotel, right).

For this particular project, all veterans from modern conflicts can participate online or in-person by contacting the SAA for more info.

Additionally, if you are a veteran from outside of this period (This includes VOS and VPPP service users) and would like to develop a new artistic skill (or just get creative and have some fun), you are more than welcome to approach the SAA for participation in their wider catalogue of support.

You can learn about each of the SAA projects/opportunities in detail by exploring the ‘Projects’ drop-down menu on the SAA website, or by exploring their calendar of events.

Not a veteran of modern conflicts? If you are a VOS service user and you feel motivated to perform, you may also be interested to hear about our new singing group. We’d love to have you! Contact Wendy at wellbeing@vosuk.org to let her know you’d like to join in.

Our service users are also always welcome to join in our creative wellbeing activities, including book binding, painting, lino printing, and more. You can see our full schedule of upcoming wellbeing activities here.

If you’re a veteran from the UK Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy (from any time of service) or a partner to one, VOS would love for you to join our community. We are here to offer our support: call us on 02392 731 767, visit an upcoming drop-in, or email wellbeing@vosuk.org.

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