Working with Liverpool Veterans Project (based at BNENC Community Centre in North Everton) and NHS Merseyside, FACT has been developing a digital arts project with military veterans from Liverpool and further afield called VIP - Veterans in Practice. VIP is part of the Liverpool Veterans Project wellbeing programme - one strand of the services they provide (they are a one-stop shop for military veterans (for housing, health, employment and therapeutic support).
VIP meet weekly and work with digital artists to produce creative projects. There are men and women in the group and ages range from 23 - 73 - Everyone is welcome! The first VIP project was with artist photographer Stuart Griffiths. Stuart is an ex-paratrooper who left service when he was 21 and became a freelance photographer. He has worked with VIP over several months leading to a photography exhibition at FACT that will launch on 27 November 2012. VIP have also worked with filmmakers, animators, sound artists, online artists, painters and writers.
FACT have also been working with Walton Prison and recently screened Isolation, a documentary about Stuart Griffiths and veterans experiences after leaving service.
VIP supports military veterans by creating a space where they can discuss similar personal experiences and where they can be creative. It provides social connections and new experiences.
"The thing I love the most is the FACT project. I have loved football most of my life but I would miss practice to come to FACT to do animation." Phil Roberts (veteran).
"VIP gives us a reason to get up in the morning…What started out as some veterans getting together to produce art has kept me sane in difficult times and may even lead to a new career. Creating artworks has helped me and could help others to cope better, its been an amazing opportunity." Paul Crooks (veteran).
"Its stress relieving and a different thing to do. FACT has the resources and the knowledge to help us do these projects. They know what they are talking about and have dedicated staff to support it. They include veterans in every decision and its nice to feel a part of something again." Alan Kelly (veteran).
The Veterans in Practice website is regularly updated with details of projects, discussions, films and writing from the group. Recent features include a telepresence discussion with Argentine digital artist Marina Zerbarini, video and a live blog from their recent event discussing the return to civilian life, film reviews, photography and more. Recently they have also been involved with the Battle of the Atlantic 70th Anniversary celebrations across the city, contributing photographs, films and interviews, some of which can be seen on our Star Gazing project page.
After the success of the VIP group and their work with animation, photography, writing and IT, a series of new projects are launching and we're looking for new members. If you're a veteran, live in Merseyside and you are interested in applying, please get in touch with Angharad Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on 0151 707 4416.
Alternative Sceptics is a new documentary being made by VIP members with filmmaker Jackie Passmore. Described as 'a guide to alternative therapies made by veterans, for veterans', it will address issues of stress and anxiety among the veteran community using non-pharmaceutical methods of dealing with the problem. Every fortnight, veterans will try a different therapy, such as yoga and spiritual healing, and report back on what they find.
The Bike Buddy project will pair up veterans with visual impairments and sighted veterans, who will work with an artist to create cycle routes around Liverpool. The cyclists will record soundscapes on the trails, that will later be made available to download and distributed to people with visual impairments.
Digital Veterans initiative
FACT was successful in securing funding from the MoD to create the Digital Veterans initiative, and will be offering digital training packages for veterans, who will help to develop the project's own website, offering a creative platform for veterans all over the world.