The creative work of injured and sick Scots veterans is being showcased in an exhibition at Craiglockhart.
Creative Force, organised by forces charity Help for Heroes, includes paintings, woodwork, engraving, pottery, photography, poetry, music and drama; all displayed close to some of the greatest war poetry ever written in the War Poets Collection.
Guests at Tuesday night’s launch heard how the veterans’ creative activities have helped their recovery journey. They were also treated to a performance by Stand Easy Productions, who use drama to support sick and injured veterans in their recovery.
All 50 exhibitors are members of Help for Heroes peer support networks Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters, which have more than 800 members in Scotland. Many created their exhibits at a series of Help for Heroes activities, including pottery workshops, craft days and bushcraft sessions across Scotland.
Gerry McGregor, Help for Heroes’ Band of Brothers/Sisters Coordinator for Scotland, put together the exhibition, which runs until Friday, 10am-8pm.
She said: “Those who have served our country and their families experience struggles that some of us will never understand. Recovery from physical or psychological injury takes time and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
“Some may benefit from a physical programme, such as sports recovery, while others find creativity eases the daily struggle of living with pain, depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to meet some of the artists, hear their heartfelt stories and see their truly inspirational artwork demonstrate how creative activity helps in their recovery.”
Among the exhibitors is former army musician Gus McLean of Bathgate, West Lothian, who served with the Royal Scots infantry for three years, before transferring to the Corps of Army Music. Having been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his army years, Gus discovered a love for arts and crafts gave him a go-to activity in times of stress – and led to his designs being chosen by Help for Heroes for a new range of clothing to raise funds to support other veterans.
Gus said: “Art has helped me get to a better place mentally. It gives me a better outlook for the future and helps me with my concentration. It makes things so simple; you don’t get anything wrong, even if you don’t like it at the end.”
Royal Navy veteran Alistair Parker, who also has PTSD, has six poems featuring in the exhibition. Alistair, from Ayr, said: “When my PTSD got too much to handle, I discovered that if I could write about my problems then I could share them without going into too much detail or even at all.”
The pictures show RAF veteran and enthusiastic poet Dave Phillips, who has a degenerative eye disease, and former military administrator Penny Lyons, who took up woodwork after battling against physical and mental health issues.