Art helps make unpaid carers more visible

A Carers UK briefing defines carers as those who “provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, older or disabled family member, friend or partner… which could be a few hours a week or round the clock”. Carers also provide care to loved ones experiencing mental ill health or substance misuse issues.

Together with the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds, Carers UK also produced a report ‘Valuing Carers 2015‘ which calculated the value of carers support at a national and regional level. Figures contained indicate that in Blackpool, with a then population of 142,065, there were over 16,000 carers “providing some form of unpaid care for between one and 49 hours per week, whilst for 5,092 residents it involved a substantial 50 hours or more”.

A later policy briefing stated that “in 2019, using population projections from the ONS and polling by Carers UK, it can be estimated that 8.8 million (9.1 million pre-Covid, now estimated a 4.5 million increase in 2020 to 13.6 million carers) adults in the UK are carers”, and figures for young carers from the same projections suggest approximately 244,000 people under 19 are carers of which about 23,000 are between five and nine years old.

New statistics are expected to show higher numbers both nationally (a significant number of people are becoming carers for the first time due to the pandemic and the impact of not only COVID-19, but also delayed diagnoses and treatment of their health conditions) and locally and, alongside carer numbers, the list of organisations offering support to carers is, of necessity, also increasing. One local organisation is Blackpool Carers Centre, first opened in 2005, who provide specialist support, respite and outings for unpaid carers from the age of five years and their families.

Amongst many support services, Blackpool Carers promote an interest in arts and crafts pursuits. A current activity is an art display created by carers who were invited to submit a small artwork, of any description, defining the emotions and feelings of “being a carer”. These works were to have been displayed in an open exhibition but, due to current COVID-19 restrictions, are being shown, supported by The Arts Society Fylde, on the society’s website instead.

Blackpool Carers Centre provides support to unpaid carers along with their families within Blackpool. It provides an extensive range of age-specific services and support in order to fulfil its purpose, which is to make ‘A Better Life for Carers’. An unpaid carer is someone who provides support or care for a family member who may be affected by disability, mental ill  health or substance misuse. In Blackpool alone there are more than 16,000 people who provide unpaid care to another person! Blackpool Carers support takes the form of family support, information, signposting and advice, training courses and much needed respite opportunities.

Blackpool Carers Centre’s project Carers HeArt is part of its respite offer for young and adult carers, and has seen participants engage in online art sessions during lockdown to create pieces of art using images, colours, patterns or words to express what it means to be a carer and their experiences of being a carer. These pieces of art have been pieced together to help make unpaid carers more ‘visible’ and provide valuable insight into what it is like to be an unpaid carer and to be cared for.


Adult Carers Art

(Please click on each artwork to view an enlarged image)

Tree – finger painting. Created by Helen Jones, Adult Carer and volunteer

“Enjoyed the experience used a lot of concentration which abled me to relax, taking me away from reality.”

A poem “What if” accompanies Helen’s art work

What if

What if I was a tree,
my arms spread to the sky,
my fingers waving in the breeze,
my face bathing in the sun,
my mind so clear so calm
Oh what a wonderful life…


Stuff Around Flat – Grey Donkey. Created by Katrina, aged 24

“I created this image using items from around my flat. Each item has a link to my role as a carer, for example, the shopping bag as I help out with the shopping. It also has items that link to who I am as individual such as colouring pencils as I draw to help me relax.”


Patient. Created by Claire Law, Adult Carers’ Respite Co-ordinator

“I drew a window with elegant curtains to symbolise that carers are often confined to the house. Whilst things might look lovely on the outside, being a carer can feel tough, and there are lots of “unseen carers” out there. I wrote the word lonely inside the window to symbolise the isolation that caring can bring about. The shadows of self image represents dementia carers and the relationship they have with a partner with dementia.  The carer can feel that they recognise the physical form of their loved one, but that in a way they are also just a shadow of their former self.  The carer can feel that they too are now a shadow of their former self, with questions and concerns about the future.  The stairs represent a philosophy of managing as a carer – to take one step at a time.  Many carers support a loved one, and care out of compassion and love for their family member of friend. The word patient symbolises the quality that many carers exhibit.”


Poem: “Levitation” by Susan Barker, Carer and Volunteer at Beaverbrooks House


Seagulls – beautiful –
Riding the thermals –
Aero-meisters of levitation

So maybe you levitate –
Challenging at 14 stones !

Try a mental version –
You’re a fluffy, sea-gull feather
On a wispy breeze

Meanwhile, back on earth
Baby-steps, tottering, stuttering. But,
Away from your mental prison – those
Negatives within your bony cage.

Bit-by bit your mental landscape
May enlarge, e.g.

A Saturday morning tableau
Shoppers’ footfalls admixed
With human chatter – ebbing/flowing
Benches – spaced – to take “the weight off” –
In order to sit, sigh, quieten and listen – to the beautiful swell
From the lovely guy
Playing his violin.

Therefore, gaze at the blue sky
Glimpse the half-hidden, day time Moon.
An upward rising jet
Its vapour-trails seem to emerge
From the sleepy moon.
To stop wallowing, and
Stare at our wonderful sea-scape – down the road apiece.
Frilly waves, a great horizon
And yes…!
Those effortless gulls.


The Seasonal Tree “Staying in, looking out. Seasonal colours all about”. Created by Adult Carer, aged 55


“I hope this drawing shows how although we may be going through the strangest of times, nature continues its seasonal journey through our lives.
It is amazing how much we look out of a window but never actually “see” the world in front of us.  During the lockdown many an hour was spent looking across to the tree at the bottom of the garden, seasons came and went, during which the tree blossomed and bloomed and the magpies contented with the elements to build a nest ready for the beginning of new life.”


Poem: “What if We Stayed in Lockdown” by Terry Ryan, Adult Carer

What if we stayed in lockdown

What if we stayed in lockdown
And the rivers and streams ran clear always
And we can always hear the bird song
                                                      instead of traffic.


My Caring Life. Created by Christine Wright, Adult Carer


Poem: “A Poem for all family and friends” by Adult Carer, aged 29

“The reason I wrote that poem was because I was looking back through my memories during lockdown – the ones that make me smile – I was thinking about all those who I love including family and friends even though I couldn’t see them I hoped that they knew I was thinking about them and that we will all be back together once lockdown restrictions ease.”



Circle of Support. Created by Claire Law, Adult Carers’ Respite Co-ordinator



My Happy Place – Lake District (Ambleside) where I go to escape. Created by Adult Carer, aged 42

 Young Carers Art


Front cover of a comic book designed and created by young carers


(Please click on each artwork in the Gallery below to view an enlarged image)