Junction Arts’ emotional health and wellbeing programme Six Pillars, is helping young people in the region to build confidence and develop skills to achieve their goals.   It’s only a few months into the project, but we already have an inspiring story to share…

Riley is aged 14, has autism and struggles with anxiety. They were referred to the programme by their mum who was worried that they were too reserved and didn’t interact well with peers.  Within a couple of months, Riley has gone from barely speaking in a group situation to wanting to become a volunteer!


During Riley’s first session, with digital artist, Abbie Canning, they sat alone and didn’t speak to anyone, making a small model of a snake quietly, but refusing to have it scanned to create an augmented reality version – leaving the plasticine model on a table and leaving without saying a word.   The session facilitators were glad that Riley had attended but noted their lack of confidence in interacting. They reflected on how best they could meet their needs and help them to access the sessions more fully, as well as encourage them to feel safer within the company of other young people.

Riley attended another session, Recycled Sculptures with Michelle Reader.  In this workshop the young people were encouraged to work as a team to create a sculpture, this was challenging for Riley, but with support and encouragement, they started to join in, working with peers, asking the artists questions and getting advice for their model of a crocodile.

Riley enjoyed the session and had started to make small steps outside of their comfort zone, Riley’s mum was also pleased with the progress made in just two sessions:

Riley really enjoyed the sessions. They usually find it hard to join in with people they don’t know, but they were clearly drawn out of their shell. Thank you. Riley is keen to attend further sessions please!”

The Six Pillars team signposted Riley and their family to the Curiosity Academy, a tech-inspired week of creative activities as part of This Girl Codes run by Junction Arts. The sessions were held at Creswell Craggs at the end of the summer holidays, and Riley signed up for every session. During the week Riley’s confidence grew considerably and they were able to join in and contribute to all activities.


Riley enjoyed the sessions at Creswell Crags so much that they expressed a desire to keep attending even after the week was due to finish. Staff responsible for volunteering at the venue assured Riley that they would investigate a possible volunteering role for them, so they could keep attending in an official capacity.

Junction Arts Wellbeing Coordinator, Lizzie Bourke said: “It is very encouraging to see success like this so early on in the programme. Six Pillars referred Riley to an activity from which they gained so much joy and participation time. We would be absolutely thrilled if it led to a more regular volunteering role for them within a location they seemed to connect with so brilliantly. For a young person who was ‘struggling to come out of their shell’ and at risk of social isolation, it really is progress to celebrate.”

Six Pillars delivery started in May 2023, it has seen young people come together via a series of artistic activities and workshops involving exciting and diverse art forms, chosen by the young people themselves. Activities have included VR, animation, painting and sculptures.

Junction Arts has been working in a number of secondary schools in key areas delivering creative after-school workshops, we also ran a schedule of summer holiday workshops in Bolsover, Clowne, Dronfield and Clay Cross.  More information about Six Pillars can be found here.

 For anyone interested in finding out more about how you can get involved, please email: sixpillars@junctionarts.org or call: 01246 209219