Women of Brixton get a confidence boost with Project Dare

Body Confidence - Smile

Let us introduce Project Dare: Body Adoration. A new Lambeth-based initiative that is providing funded places for women of Coldharbour ward  to participate in Project Dares ‘sessions that dare’.  The workshops are drama based and all the tasks are designed to celebrate the human body, be lots of fun and just a little bit daring…

The Brixton Blog arts and culture team chatted with with Ursula Joy, Brixton local and founder of Project Dare to find out more.

So, Ursula, what inspired you to set up Project Dare? 

I experienced a breakdown in 2011 and consequently began a journey of self-discovery as I tried to figure out how to move forwards with my life. I battled severe low self-esteem and depression. After a lot of soul-searching I discovered the three traits I loved most about myself. These are passion, energy and creativity. I had this thought that if I lived these out on a daily basis she would be reinforcing her positive traits and be more content as a result. And so, I designed Project Dare on these 3 words, passion, energy and creativity. By the end of the workshops each participant will also, come away with their own three words of self-love exactly like I did.

How many workshops have you run as part of the project so far?

The Project began last May 1st 2013 and it underwent a vigorous prototyping period. We launched the third instalment of the dare sessions this week, a four and a half day course. My supporters are the CCG (Lambeth Collaborative Commissioning Group), Living Well Partnership, London Community Foundation, Innovation Unit, Status Employment and Missing Link Peer Support

Ursula Joy at work giving girls confidence
Ursula Joy at work giving girls confidence

How do you find working with young women to build their confidence? Is it hard?

It’s fun working with women of all ages & works particularly well when there are diverse ages in the room, as they can learn a lot from each other. I am not a therapist and the course is not drama therapy. It’s exploration of self-compassion and body image through an actors / drama & dance point of view. It affords therapeutic outcomes but is all about celebration. The sessions are fun, challenging and a little bit daring, with the aim being to get each darer (participant) to work outside of their comfort zones, therefore increasing their confidence. If they can do this, what else can they do..? They are unstoppable!It’s not hard, its challenging & re-warding, but I wouldn’t use the word hard.

Did you particularly want to run the workshops in Brixton, your home town, and if so why?

I am not originally from Brixton, or even London. Brixton was where I accessed primary & secondary mental health services when I became ill. As a service user I took part in the Lambeth Collaborative’s Innovation in healthcare programme. I was picked along with three others to take part in the re-design of healthcare services in Lambeth each case study picked (me as one) demonstrates the power for innovation in healthcare not only to transform outcomes for patients, but to create significant cost savings. They explore themes of cutting edge practice, radical new models and upcoming  technology, each with the principles of patient-centred design at their core. Hence I founded mental health service Project Dare through the ‘Lambeth Incubator Experiment’, which supports people in recovery to design and deliver new mental health services based on their experiences.

Brixton looked after me through a heart-wrenching period of my life, the health care professionals here and our NHS of which I am so proud. It feels incredible to be able to give something back and hopefully do my bit to support the NHS after what they have done for me. The aim being for Dare to keep people out of secondary care and consequently to head towards a more sustainable future for the most incredible and inspirational organisation on the planet.

What single factor do you think is most to blame for low esteem and self confidence in young women in Brixton today? 

No one is born with low self-esteem it is a learnt process. I would say the internal critical voices are most to blame. We are not born with this punitive voice but hear it at some point while we are growing and internalise it, if it is not addressed it can lead to developing unhealthy core beliefs.

Body Confidence - ActionAlso, women working too hard or giving themselves unrelenting standards. As a student I would worry about my assignments, ever trying to better them that I would consistently miss the deadline. It took me years to learn that society requires people who can get the job done over people who can make things ‘perfect’. From a young age we watch films or participate in sporting events or exams where winners are celebrated & made triumphant. This, whilst meant to inspire, can leave people feeling inadequate, they become scared of ‘failing’ – so procrastination and/or lack of self-belief sets in and is hard to escape from. My favourite saying ever is ‘use what talent you can. The woods would be very quiet, if no birds sang, except those that sang best’ (Henry Van Dyke)

What one piece of advice, apart from come along to the Dare Sessions of course, would you like to offer to Brixton’s young women? 

I would wish to address bonding between women. We are on the same team and should be supportive of each other, speak positively about each other always & help raise each other up. There is space & time for all of us to be great & live meaningful lives.

When are the sessions running and where can our readers find out more about you? 

PrintThe sessions take place at Longfield Hall in Camberwell, SW5.  If you would like to participate in the ‘dare sessions’ or know someone who would  Check out our website www.projectdare.co.uk for further information or call / e-mail Ursula Joy for booking details. ursula@projectdare.co.uk (07507530929)