Swanscombe Social Art Groups with Marie Dodd

Marie Dodd recalls her fond childhood memories of growing up here in Swanscombe, telling CommunityAd she “was lucky to have attended Swanscombe High School for a couple of years before it was unfortunately demolished. The community was much smaller back then and everyone knew each other. You could walk down the road and know everyone you passed”.


It’s that friendly element of community life here that Marie is trying to emulate with her Social Art Groups; “I had previously worked within local Schools in Swanscombe, Dartford and Northfleet as a Teaching Assistant whilst also studying for an honours degree in childhood studies. At this time, I had aimed to become a primary teacher but life changes happened.

“Following the birth of my 4th and final child, I was unfortunately damaged during my C-section. After a 2-year battle with our local GPs I was finally granted a scan to investigate the area which had caused me so much suffering. After the worrying results, I spent a few more months having further tests and within a month of these results, I had one of my kidneys removed as it was damaged beyond repair. It seems following the trauma caused during the birth, I had experienced a ruptured kidney without medical assistance being administered. It caused me to experience chronic pain for 2 and half years, anxiety and panic attacks. After the removal of my kidney I was instantly out of pain and after my recovery period, started my much-loved Social Art Groups.

“The circumstances which made it possible to start my groups also happened during this 2 and half years. Sadly, my dear Auntie Janice Baker passed away from cervical cancer. She left a small inheritance to me and I wanted to put the money to good use. This is how I was able to finance the start of my groups. So, in 2015 I decided to consolidate all my knowledge of art, sculpture and floristry into a business plan then proudly registered as Stimul8-Activity Service Ltd. Unintentionally at the time but very apparent, my art groups allowed me to mentally and emotionally heal from the traumatic nightmare I had endured. As a result of this I have been able to promote and pass on the wellbeing qualities my groups offer to others.”


It must be lovely to see the benefits that the attendees get from the class and friendships being made?

My art groups have never just been about the application and learning of art (although some people do attend just for this purpose). They are also a place where the community comes together to befriend likeminded individuals in a relaxed environment and this has helped many people with anxiety and other health issues. When my students naturally give and receive peer support. I also have a few carers that attend my groups. Some people have attended as they have recently retired and want to take up new activities and find new friends. I will add that each of my groups have a different atmosphere as there are different characters and personalities who attend. However, I will say that there is a group that would suit everyone.


Why do you think doing something creative is so beneficial to the human soul?

There are so many studies on the mental health and therapeutic benefits art and creativity provide for those taking part in such activities. The mind can be cleared of stress and soul at peace when engaged in a painting, drawing or other creative act. It’s also physically good for you, as the partaking in art can exercise fine motor skills and improve hand eye coordination. The added benefit which my groups offer is the opportunity for chatting and having a nice cuppa too.


What would you say to a reader who is considering coming along?

My advice for anyone considering coming along would be to get in touch. You don’t need to have any equipment, materials or prior knowledge as I supply it all and am at hand to give demos, group/individual assistance. Although a couple of my students have been to adult education classes before, most who have joined have not been creative with art since leaving school.


How crucial are St Peter and St Paul Church to community groups such as your own but also the social lives of the members of our community? It’s a real community asset, isn’t it?

The community halls I hire in Northfleet, Meopham, Wilmington and including St Peter and St Paul Church Centre in Swanscombe are such an asset to local people and without access to such halls my groups, along with so many more clubs and activities on offer, wouldn’t exist. Due to the limited availability in local halls I have also started to offer online classes and am in the process of starting to offer a Social Art Group for teenagers too.


If you’ve been touched by Marie’s story and quite fancy expressing yourself creatively over a cuppa then get in touch for more info on the Stimul8 website to join Social Art Groups.

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