Based in Bradford and founded in 2012 by Co-Directors Jen Nevin and Mike Auger, Displace Yourself Theatre (DYT) use arts and creativity to support mental health and combat isolation. Our radical approach to care and wellbeing creates pathways into the arts for people who are systematically excluded. We are Bradford and Stockton’s only provider of creative mental health wellbeing programmes for refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people (sanctuary seekers).

DYT have years of expertise working to build confidence and support recovery through creative activities – our unique, trauma conscious process enables people to stay well, deal with the challenges of their current situation, fight for their rights and build a life here.

In 2016 DYT were one of only 40 organisations awarded Elevate from Arts Council England (ACE) – for non-NPO organisations who make a significant contribution to the Creative Case for Diversity.  Receiving c£120k over 3 years this supported a programme of organisational development (including obtaining charitable status) and establishing our ground-breaking Creating Together programme. 

Creating Together (2016-2019) brought together c80 vulnerable adults every month to support mental health, gain confidence, learn new skills and develop communities. Creating Together happened in 5 arts venues across the UK, including Bradford. The scale and reach of this project is demonstration of our unrivalled expertise in enabling vulnerable people to access their own creativity and benefit from the positive mental health, wellbeing and social outcomes that result from our unique way of working.

Participants have told us of the life-changing benefits:

“This session is my medicine every month. It makes me feel better.”

“A safe haven and refuge from life for me.”

“The sessions increased my confidence and supported me hugely in my daily life.”

“Going from feeling bad to feeling good, from sad to happy, it has all worked on me.” 

The project resulted in people regularly accessing culture and live performance where they live – as well as regularly self-organising trips, days out and seeing shows as a group.

People who have recently arrived in the UK seeking sanctuary are already some of the most vulnerable in our society – processing the trauma of the inhumane regimes they have escaped and all they have endured to get here. Having few social networks and little statutory support, they are disproportionately vulnerable: 

“Refugees and asylum seekers are 5 times more likely to have mental health needs”.  UK Mental Health Foundation

Arts & Mental Health Sessions

DYT have years of expertise working with displaced people – our unique trauma conscious process that enables people to heal, thrive, speak their truth and create strategies and set goals for building a life here. 

Using theatre, voice, music and therapeutic movement techniques the half day sessions will achieve:

  • Improved Mental Health and Wellbeing – Through proven practical approaches to the processing of trauma; including equipping people with techniques and exercises they can do at home to stay well
  • Reduced Isolation 
  • Increased self confidence 
  • Better English speaking and communications skills
  • A safe space for self expression

Refugees and asylum seekers experience multiple and complex barriers in accessing the most basic services many of us take for granted; support required to access the programme is as important as the work we do together. Through years of working we have developed a robust process of needs assessment, which leads to an individual support plan for everyone who is part of the project that includes travel planning and bursaries, regular reminders, liaison with other services and goal setting. You can read more about these Creating Together sessions HERE.

Professional Development

In early 2022, DYT delivered A bespoke programme of training and support for ethnically diverse artists to develop an approach to working with wellbeing at its core, engendering confidence and strategies for working creatively with people with mental health needs.

The programme supported 11 artists from Bradford. The integrity, value and effectiveness of DYT’s approach has been recognised as a model of best practice within the industry and we regularly train other artists and organisations in working creatively with marginalised and vulnerable communities. In the last 3 years we have trained over 100 artists and practitioners having worked with the likes of The Albany, Greenwich and Lewisham Young People’s Theatre and an annual engagement with North East Artist Development Network (NEADN). 

We also know the benefits for artists extend beyond their participatory practice – positively impacting all their making and creation processes including: supporting the wellbeing of them and their collaborators, creating a safe space where everyone’s voice is heard and their ideas flourish, making their processes more accessible to people with a range of needs and the care and wraparound support they put in place for audiences.

Creativity to support mental health for displaced people is key to who we are and why we exist.