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Showcase celebrating university and mental health service provider’s convergence of interests

A pioneering project which offers high quality arts educational opportunities for mental health service users and work experience for university students is being celebrated in a showcase of events at York St John University and York Theatre Royal.

‘Converge’ is a social enterprise which works with adults aged 18 years and over. It seeks to raise aspirations and provide educational opportunities to people with mental health problems on a sustained basis. Over the past fours years, working with the local mental health service provider, Converge has offered courses in theatre, dance, creative writing and music within the University community.

To celebrate the success of Converge, staff and students involved in the project hosted an evening of dance, creating writing and music performances by Converge students on Wednesday 9 May. Stakeholders from Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust joined other VIP guests to hear from course participants and students about their experiences working with Converge and the impact it has had on their aspirations for the future.

The project is the brainchild of Dr Nick Rowe, a Senior Lecturer at York St John University, and Gemma Alldred, a former student. Nick, whose work spans arts and health, recognised a collaboration opportunity with the UK’s longest running psychiatric hospital, Bootham Park, which is located in the centre of York. Seeing the potential in the project for shared learning, the NHS funded Gemma’s post of Education Support Worker to develop and lead Converge.

Dr Nick Rowe explained:

“Through Converge, mental health service users are given opportunities which raise their aspirations and open doors into education and employment; and students gain valuable work experience in an increasingly competitive market place. Over 70 people with mental health problems completed our courses last year alone, with 25 students working on the project.”

Following the success of the theatre course a professional theatre company called ‘Out of Character’ has developed, comprised of people who use mental health services. After performing Tales from Kafka to a sell-out audience at York Theatre Royal in 2010, they are returning there to perform Pirandello’s Henry IV from 15 – 18 May. The play is in repertoire with the award-winning blue/orange at York Theatre Royal, another play specifically about mental health. For more details and to book tickets, visit http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/shows/henry_iv.php

Further performances by all Converge courses will take place during York St John University’s annual graduate arts’ showcase Create, held from 14 May – 2 June at York St John and selected venues across York. For information about these performances and full details of the Create programme, visit www.yorksj.ac.uk/create

To find out more about the work of Converge, go to www.convergeyork.co.uk or follow on Twitter @ConvergeYork

Picture shows: Out of Character theatre company

For further press information please contact Amy Hall, PR & Communications Officer on T: 01904 876466 or E: a.hall@yorksj.ac.uk