Derbyshire-based Lubrizol helps to fund unique mental health project which uses circus skills to boost well-being

A Derbyshire company has continued its support of mental health projects by helping to fund two support workers who want to use circus skills to improve the wellbeing of people living in Nottingham.

Lubrizol, based in Hazelwood, has donated money to help Michail Athinaios and Jeni Steatham set up projects which will enable them to share their juggling skills and circus trickery with young adults and people with alcohol and drugs dependency and people with mixed abilities.

It made the donation through its ongoing work with an event called Hard Heads and Hang Ups, which invites organisations to make a pitch to a panel of judges in order to win money for projects which set out to improve people’s mental health.

Michail, a project worker for Nottingham housing and support charity Framework, held impromptu circus skills classes for families living in refugee camps in his native Greece. Penguin PR: public relations, media and communications

The event was held at the THiNK in NG meeting space in Nottingham last month and among the judges on the night was Karen Clegg, production services manager at Lubrizol.

She said: “We’re very proud of our ongoing involvement in Hard Heads and Hang Ups, which has granted money to help projects that have gone on to make a real difference to people’s lives.

“I had never considered that learning circus skills could be used to improve people’s mental health but both Michail and Jeni made such strong cases for their projects that everyone decided they both deserved the funding.

“We’d like to wish congratulations to both of them and we can’t wait to seeing them put their plans in action.”

Michail, 27, is a project worker for Nottingham housing and support charity Framework but studied circus skills for five years, including two in a circus school in Italy, on his way to devising his new venture, called Project: Circus.

He says he has already seen how circus skills can have a positive impact on people’s lives, having held impromptu circus skills classes for families living in refugee camps in his native Greece.

He will use his prize to buy a hamper of equipment and plans to get in touch with community groups to offer his services for free with the aim of working with young adults and people with alcohol and drugs dependency.

He said: “Circus skills might not seem a serious activity to bring to people in difficult situations but when I held workshops in refugee camps, I saw what a difference they make. They may not change people’s lives, but when you see a little child who hasn’t smiled for months laughing, you appreciate the power circus skills can have.

“I know that it would have the same effect on people with mental health problems in Nottingham, which is why I’m very excited to have won the funding and am looking forward to starting.”

Jeni, meanwhile, took up circus skills for recreation nearly 20 years ago and will use the £250 to launch her Rainbow Lotus Circus project, offering tailored/bespoke workshops for people of all ages and abilities.

A disability support worker for 15 years, Jeni spent three months delivering workshops in schools with a travelling circus company and is convinced it can play a powerful role in helping people with mental health difficulties.

She said: “Engaging in basic circus skills workshops can develop physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Along with boosting confidence and self-esteem, sessions can foster resilience and build a sense of pride.

“Mindfulness trains us to be aware of the present moment and connects our minds to our bodies. I believe learning circus skills can offer a similar experience and I’m looking forward to sharing the therapeutic properties of circus with as many people as possible.”

Lubrizol first got involved in the Hard Heads and Hang Ups event two years ago and also helped one of the previous winners, local bereavement group Let’s Talk About Loss, mount an art exhibition which is currently on display at THiNK in NG.


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