THERE are an estimated 32,000 military veterans in Liverpool and, once a person has left the Forces there is no centralised system in place to assist with the transition back to civilian life.
Many are lucky, but some end up with conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which often do not manifest themselves until years after returning from the front line. Other men and women vanish off the radar of mainstream life, lacking the tools to deal with the every day.
Now FACT has been given £120,000 to build on its arts project with military veterans – the only one of its kind in Europe.
Veterans in Practice offers ex-servicemen and women of all ages the opportunity to work with professional artists, photographers, animators and designers on a range of creative digital projects that aim to build their confidence, give them a voice and help them learn new skills. It has been developed in partnership with Liverpool Veterans Project.
The money has come from Paul Hamlyn Foundation (£90,000) and the Community Covenant (£30,000), with support from Liverpool PCT and Liverpool FC Foundation.
The programme features regular events including the First Tuesday Film Club, a regular free film screening where the group curates its own programme, giving an opportunity to meet and socialise while learning about the history of film.
It is launching a recruitment drive and says the new funding will help develop and strengthen the programme and reach out to new members.
Angharad Williams, FACT Project Manager, explains: “Many individuals feel incredibly isolated when they leave the Armed Forces and yet there is a huge lack of support available to both them and their families. We’ve been amazed the impact the project has had on individuals, not only in terms of new skills and confidence but also in helping them discover a new creative talent and even find employment. This new funding means we can reach out to even more people and give them the support and inspiration they might be looking for.”
The group has already worked with photographer Stephen King and filmmaker Carl Davies to interview and photograph 13 local Atlantic Star veterans, and exhibited the resulting documentary and photographs at FACT and Merseyside Maritime Museum in June.
The group are currently filming a documentary about therapeutic techniques with artist Jacqueline Passmore. There are also plans to develop a social networking site for ex-servicemen and women to showcase their creative projects.
Tom Hornby, a PTSD sufferer who was in the Royal Signals said: "Before I found it difficult to mix with anyone other than military orientated people. The programme has given me the confidence to go out again and meet new people.”
FACT is recruiting new members to join the group. If you are an ex-Armed Forces and want to find out more, email here, call 0151 707 4416 or visit the website.