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Our history

Information about the history and development of Converge.

Converge was established in 2008 by Dr Nick Rowe MBE, Associate Professor in Theatre.

It came from a simple idea to offer educational opportunities to people with mental health problems. High quality courses, in a university setting, taught by staff and students: this key principle remains at the heart of Converge today.

Converge was born of a unique collaboration between the NHS and York St John University. We have since helped over 1,000 people and seen a reduction in dependence on local mental health services.

We continue to deliver educational opportunities to local mental health service users. As a leader in the field, we work in partnerships across the globe to develop access to similar opportunities.

Expanding the Converge model

Converge at Northumbria

In 2015, we began work to develop the Converge model at Northumbria University. The project brought together representatives from Converge at York St John, Northumbria University, Newcastle Gateshead CCG, voluntary and community groups, local authorities and NTW NHS Foundation Trust.

A pilot course was developed during 2016. Following a taster day in November 2016, 11 people enrolled on an 8 week Theatre Skills course. This was the first cohort of Converge students in Newcastle and Gateshead. The course ran from February to March 2017 at Northumbria University. It was followed by an in-depth evaluation, capturing the perspectives of students, staff and the steering group.

Following the success of the pilot courses, Converge Northumbria was established in 2018, offering courses in Drama, Art and Design and Fashion. 

Converge at Pacific University, Oregon

In 2019 Converge Oregon provided their first full pilot course. The pilot course aims to show the feasibility of the Converge approach in the US education system. This is in order to seek funding for a larger multi-year demonstration project in the future.

The pilot course brief was as follows:

An introductory course titled Theatre in Social Content will be held in July 2019. It will run in partnership between Pacific University and Portland Community College. The course will be taught by a theatre tutor from PCC and an occupational therapy tutor from Pacific University. Two occupational therapy interns and two undergraduate theatre interns, all from Pacific University, will support the course. They will also act as teaching assistants.

Converge Oregon aims to recruit 8 mental health service users and 8 PCC students. A total of 16 students will work together to learn theatre and produce a short piece of work. The first 3 weeks will be held in the theatre space at PCC. The final week will take place in the Tom Miles Theatre at Pacific University. The course will culminate in a public performance.

“Converge develops projects and partnerships which are driven by innovation and best practice. The result is twofold: a rich and exciting educational opportunity for people with mental health problems alongside authentic and practical work experience for university students.”
 Dr Nick Rowe, Director of Converge

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