At It’s Not Your Birthday But… we’re all about the power of connecting with others through letters, words and visual arts. Why wait for people's birthdays to communicate by post? If we let people know what they mean to us on the normal days, it can mean so much more.
We work in a range of community settings from care homes to schools, hospitals to hospices, prisons to wellbeing groups. We place artists in each setting to inspire others to share what’s important or helpful to them through letters, words and visual arts.
We aim to ensure everyone we work with is given a platform to be well and truly heard in the wider community. We join up different parts of a community who would not otherwise meet. We hope this leads to greater understanding, empathy and continued engagement between people or groups who may otherwise walk past each other on the street or assume they have nothing in common.
We give people space and support to engage with their own creativity, imaginations and words and share the results with others. Words that enable them to share what’s important or helpful to them, words that allow them to connect with others, words that build other, imaginary worlds and words that help them explore alternative pathways. In many settings we also share words as part of an artwork. We run stand-alone workshops as well as programmes of work in single or linked settings. It's important for our work that it is artist-led, as we believe that arts and creativity can be a liberating and enriching experience for everyone. We work with writers, poets, visual artists, designers and theatre practitioners who share, not just their work, but aspects of themselves and their lives to inspire others to do the same. We draw out what we have in common and highlight positive human connections.
At a time when human beings are tweeting, refreshing, scrolling, uploading and searching for connection and engagement through digital devices more than ever before, we celebrate the power of the handwritten word to truly connect people in meaningful and positive ways, open doors and challenge assumptions. Whatever we’re searching for on our devices (connection, acceptance, attention?) we don’t always find it. Some words, a letter, an artwork or a small act of kindness can sometimes be a much better way to understand others and connect with them.
Drawings by Erika Flowers
Portraits drawn by INYBB workshop participants and INYBB friends. Shared with permission.
Alex is an artist and historian who has been enjoying rediscovering the challenges and rewards of creative writing since she started to work for INYBB in February 2018. She strongly believes in the positive impact that creativity can have, and in the power of imagination.
Alex’s artworks are predominantly still life pieces and close-ups of plants, and she has exhibited her work in the UK and in Greece. In the past she has worked in the art department of a primary school, and she also ran art classes for children at the Greek Council for Refugees in Athens. Currently she volunteers in the art room at The Connection, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Alex’s historical research is focussed on the Zoroastrian communities of Iran and India, and she has taught various courses at SOAS, University of London. She is now working on her first book, Zoroastrianism in India and Iran: Persians, Parsis and the Flowering of Political Identity.
Erika is an exhibited artist and illustrator with lived experience of the Criminal Justice System. She has an extensive body of work in many styles, including ‘Postcards from Prison’, a series of daily diary drawings that constitute a living record of her journey through incarceration.
She has worked for many years with Koestler Arts and has exhibited frequently at their annual South Bank Exhibition. Erika is also an elected member of the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance Steering Group and participates in the Prisoners Education Trust Alumni Advisory Group. Erika is passionate about encouraging people to explore their artistic side, even those who feel they don’t have one! She believes that the process of creating images can be not only therapeutic, but can help with self-esteem, confidence and communication.
follow the postcards on Facebook @Postcards from Prison or Instagram @postcardsfromprisondiary
Fiona is a playwright and screenwriter. Her passion is to tell stories that have not been heard in voices that are not usually listened to. Her latest feature film Acceptable Damage is available to watch online in the UK and USA. Her theatre plays have been written for a range of audiences and performed in a variety of venues. These include theatres, site-specific venues, a bookshop, cafe, launderette, care home and many others.
Fiona is currently on commission to 1623 Theatre for a one-woman play for D/Deaf artist Caroline Sparks. She believes that everyone has a story to tell and a unique voice that needs to be heard. Working with INYBB gives her the opportunity to practise the mantra that ‘writing can happen anywhere’.
JB is a musician and artist with a passion for graffiti-style art and different forms of lettering. He is leading on a new INYBB booklet for Young Adults newly arrived at HMPYOI Feltham, based on his own experiences of being in exactly that position. He has included postcards to keep in touch with loved ones on the outside, inspiring portraits, templates to design and customise trainers and clothing as well as positive word-based images. JB is the newest addition to our team and we can't wait to get him involved in our projects.
He has been working on a series of cards for use in secure settings, developed some inspirational mural art for our project for the Mayor of London in Newham and has been commissioned for some heritage artworks in our Lost Letters project.
Nadine is an Artist and Arts Facilitator. She works predominately with sculpture and sculptural installations that comment on contemporary culture. Using a variety of objects to create new forms, anything can become a sculpture.
Nadine is passionate about the power of creating art. When you might not yet have the words, art can be the tool to express yourself. As an arts facilitator, workshops are about sharing the tactile nature of sculpture, through learning about new materials and techniques to physically work with a material to turn it into something new.
Nathan is an actor and writer who grew up consuming as much Caribbean food as his bank balance would allow.
He is best known as an actor for his on screen role of Joey in Benidorm and Jamie in Some Girls. He has also appeared in BBC Comedy Ghosts.
He is an award-winning children's book author. His debut children's book, Look Up!, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in 2020.
He has also published a follow-up book, Clean Up!, to great acclaim and has written for a number of children's TV shows including Rastamouse and Swashbuckle.
Nathan is the co-creator and writer of Bloods on Sky TV.
Nicole is a freelance Illustrator who enjoys documenting people around her. Within her illustration work she is interested in social commentary and experiments with the use of shape and limited colour palettes. She works with INYBB in Visual Arts workshops at HMPYOI Feltham and Anstee Bridge. She believes that everybody should have a vehicle through which they can express creativity, gain confidence and be able to communicate and express themselves.
Nicole also works as a graduate tutor at the University for the Creative Arts and won a D&AD New Blood Pencil in 2016.
Find out more about Nicole's work here www.nicolecowan.com
Polly is an administrator and organiser, running her own virtual PA consultancy. Polly has always enjoyed working for creative clients and INYBB could not be a more perfect fit. Passionate about history and preserving our heritage, Polly loves to dive in to some of the archives on the Lost Letters project and has found it fascinating to see the world from the personal perspectives of so many local residents. Polly’s other great love is photography and she has, in the past, led a creative photography class for students at various schools in the local area. Being able to encourage and coach the students as they discover their creativity is enormously satisfying and she is very proud of all they have achieved.
Sarah is a visual artist & facilitator. She is passionate about creating spaces for connection through art. She has an MA in Inclusive Arts Practice which means she spent 2 years thinking a lot about the ways creative collaboration can help us encounter each other in new ways, connect as equals and create social change. She loves daydreaming, noticing details, meeting humans, making a mess and discovering new things.
Sarah believes creativity can change the way we see the world and make every day a little bit richer, no matter what our situation is. She has previously taught at University of Brighton and often works with the Rocket Artists, a collective of neurodiverse artists. She is ONCA’s lead artist on a wellbeing project for NHS staff and runs Global Social Club, the UK's first Youth Club of Sanctuary.
Tom is a writer and historian who combines the two into documentary poems. When not creating his own work, Tom is an arts facilitator helping people express their creativity and have their voices heard how they want them to be. Tom has first-hand experience of some of the barriers that people may face when trying to find a way to express themselves and the massive positive effect on a person's wellbeing and mental health that creative activity can generate.
Tom has worked with It's Not Your Birthday But ... since 2016 on multiple projects working with a wide range of participants in care homes, hospitals and support groups.
In 2014 Tom created Write-London CIC, an arts organisation which works with people with moderate to acute mental health needs to tell their stories.
Wendy founded INYBB in 2015, initially because of her love of sending and receiving handwritten letters. The organisation has since grown into a creative collective of artists and writers who work in a range of settings to encourage creativity in all its forms. She is passionate about everyone having access to creative opportunities and this influences the types of projects she leads and champions.
As well as leading INYBB, she works as a creative producer and fundraiser for a range of arts and heritage projects, organisations and artists. Previously Wendy worked in a range of production and fundraising roles at The Hub, the Barbican and Classic FM. She was a founding Trustee of the Ministry of Stories, a children’s writing charity in East London and is currently a Trustee of The R C Sherriff Trust.
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We're a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, registered with Companies House (Registered Company Number 9784441).
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