Stepping Stone Theatre - An Impact on Health Award Finalist
One of the most incredible things about our annual Lincolnshire Sports and Physical Activity Awards is seeing the positive light our county’s groups, initiatives, and individuals bring. Not only to Lincolnshire’s active agenda but to the people who utilise their offering. We are, of course talking about the nominations we receive.
In this year’s Lincolnshire Sports and Physical Activity Awards, it was a member of Stepping Stone Theatre that put founders Bill and Kate forward as a nominee for the Impact on Health Award, saying:
“I can speak from personal experience when I say, if it was not for Bill and Kate, I would not be alive today. My struggles with my own mental health have been so severe that suicide seemed to be the only option.”
Through Stepping Stone Theatre (SST), Bill and Kate work within the community offering a wide variety of activities including walking groups, writing groups, singing groups and drama groups all of which help to tackle the stigma of mental health and promote the physical and mental well-being of people in and around Gainsborough.
The member who penned a heartfelt nomination about Bill and Kate has been involved with SST since 2015 having battled with their own mental health for some time. Having mentioned in a conversation with the Crisis Team that they liked theatre, the individual was put in touch with Bill and Kate.
Stamping Out the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health, One Step at a Time
“Stepping Stone Theatre activities make a massive difference to all participants as they give people who wouldn’t have the confidence to talk about their mental health a platform to do so,” said the SST member who nominated Bill and Kate. “It is non-judgmental, and while the topic is always about mental health, each individual's mental health isn’t the focus, but rather the individual is.
“I encourage anyone with a mental health illness to join Stepping Stone Theatre or seek out any of the activities that are held/organised by SST. SST saved my life, if it hadn’t been for Bill and Kate I would not be here today. I have gained my confidence back, started writing again (including sketches and scripts for various shows), returned to full-time work, and started socialising again.
The best part of the group is Bill, Kate and every single member of SST and the love, support, guidance, friendship and more importantly the acceptance that is part of parcel of being among the SST family.”
Bill and Kate's Excellent Adventure
The brainchild of Bill and Kate, SST was formed after the pair looked to the community and found no one creative support for mental health. “Bear in mind, this was ten years ago, in Blyton,” said Kate. “ Today, there are groups for everything - walking for mental health, gardening, bowling, you name it. But when we started it was quite innovative – now of course there is much more awareness around mental health and the challenges living with a mental condition poses.”
As someone who has Bipolar herself, Kate has relied on husband Bill at various points throughout her life to be her carer as well as her life partner. An actor and corporate professional respectively, Bill and Kate were beginning to slow down in their careers. It was at that moment, that SST began.
“We received a grant from the Managed Care Network and found a space we knew we could use for free, “ added Kate. “So we put out flyers and posters and we sat and we waited, and then we waited some more. We waited for four weeks, and then two people showed up. And from that night we were on to a winner. Not very far into it we realised what we were doing qualified us for additional funding. We could see what we were doing was already worth it, we wanted to be one of the places where people could turn.
“It’s all about telling your story and sharing it with others. It isn’t about me or Bill. It’s about the people who come to see us. It’s about connectivity, that’s what we are about - connecting and sharing with each other, knowing we aren’t alone in how we’re feeling.”
Having found that most groups were taking place during the week, leaving a void at the weekends, Bill and Kate chose to focus their efforts across Saturdays and Sundays. With strong numbers attending each of the groups SST has grown to become not just a place for creative outlet, but a place where like-minded people can meet, share and support each other. Countless strong friendship bonds have formed among members as the SST founders expertly access creativity as a means to open the door to conversations that aren’t always so easy to have.
“We see that creativity so often loosens and opens people up,” explained Kate. “I’m 37 years into my recovery, it’s so easy to get caught up in being mentally ill so anything that can offer a break in the monotony of mental illness – a distraction or task – is a welcome relief. Hobbies are really useful for improving your mental health. Talking, walking, singing, and acting, whichever outlet people choose, it all offers a break, a chance to step outside of ourselves and gain perspective. It becomes really difficult to see the future and not only see it negatively. SST breaks that thought process for some people, an external activity whatever it is, provides a buffer from those thoughts.
“The walking workshop, for example, Walk and Talk, is brilliant because that light bit of exercise encourages people to disclose and we are big believers that the first step on the road to recovery is to tell your story and get people talking. Not only that but the theatre is a discipline and with discipline, you do a warm-up, a physical warm-up with breathing and stretching - it’s very active. You can’t just get up on stage and tell a story - the same applies to our groups. The walking warms us up for the talking.
Hear Bill and Kate talk about Stepping Stone Theatre in this video they filmed pre awards:
Over the years, alongside its regular groups, SST has put on five main performances at the Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough, starting with the inaugural show, ‘Confessions of Me’, with others titled, ‘In a Nutshell’, and ‘The Mind Is Kind’.
Other more frequent shows function around the ‘shows in a suitcase’ premise which sees members performing with the bare minimum in way of props at various locations. SST has also branched out online with Bill and Kate hosting a podcast series (Both Sides of the Medication Cart) for its followers - the self-titled, Krazy Krew.
They may not have been our winners of the Impact on Health Award for 2023, but there is no doubt that the work Bill and Kate are doing through Stepping Stone Theatre is nothing short of life-saving.