When I first approached the Creative Arts Support Team (CAST), I was studying English Literature at the University of Sheffield. Passionate about the arts and mental wellbeing through my own experience, I was looking for a group to volunteer with to give me a broader picture of how my degree subject could be of benefit to the world.
Two years on, I can honestly say that I have never come across another group of people as positive, welcoming and honestly selfless as the CAST members. Developing creative skill and mental wellbeing was always a group effort: I was actively encouraged to contribute from day one, and when anyone had a poem to share or work to present, we were awarded with patience and complete attention.
The sheer talent of the group is astounding, and their humour, even through the difficulty of living with mental illness, was completely uplifting. I started learning things about myself: that creative good can come out of suffering, and that small things, whether it be listening to someone read their poem, or dedicating a few hours of your time to running organisations like CAST, can be so valuable.
After I’d finished university, I decided I would like to leave them something that they could use; here the anthology came into being. Neil Simpson came up with a great title, ‘Keys to the Door’, and I began collecting images, poems, short stories, and even autobiographies to put in the publication. I was deeply saddened to hear that one of our CAST members, David Pearce, passed away before the anthology was finished. He was resilient, wise and wonderfully quick-witted; Keys to the Door is dedicated to David and his family, with some of his fascinating life story enclosed in the pages.
I hope the members of Sheffield’s Creative Arts Support Team are proud of what they have achieved. I hope they feel like their creative minds are valued and valuable. I hope people enjoy reading Keys to the Door, and get a real sense of what it’s like to be part of an organisation that exists solely to support its members. And by purchasing the book, I hope that you know that you are supporting them too.