Why creativity matters Stories of creativity Trans Folke We speak to Ray Felix Carter and Maxwell Hopkinson from Trans Folke, to find out about their newly formed arts & crafts group for anyone who identifies as a Trans person, gender queer, non-binary, or who’s gender non-conforming or gender questioning. How did your group get started? Ray said: "I was excited to meet someone who is a trans person. Max and I wanted to do something where we had a community. I found out that Max did collage, and I did Arts and thought it would be really good to do something creative. Not seen many craft groups for trans people. Groups for trans people have often met in bars, and they can be inaccessible if you have sensory needs or addiction." Creative activity is therapeutic and reduces social pressure for a group that faces social oppression. Maxwell said: "Ray and I had been talking about it. We met up and were having ideas for things that we could do, and this was the one that stuck, and we thought let’s do it. We both wanted something to bring the trans community together and having arts and craft is good, having an activity felt important. Creating stuff is healing and there was something about that, I think." Who is it for / who takes part? Ray said: "It is centred around local trans people and allies are welcome to come if it makes it easier for trans people to attend. Mostly trans and a few allies. Fifteen people came to the first session, we were shocked. Eighteen in total have engaged so far and 90% trans. "All sessions are donation based. Allies donate a little more, this is because trans often struggle with employment. Active allyship is donating a little more money." Maxwell said: It’s for anyone that identifies as a Trans person, gender queer or non-binary or whose gender non-conforming or gender questioning. What did you find most helpful when getting your group off the ground? Ray said: "People were very supportive and excited. What was helpful was seeing what was wanted and people offering to support the group even though it wasn’t for them. Loads of followers on Instagram and comments of support. "We knew Bean as they run pride. Bean runs DIY 4 Folke, who offered the space on a donation’s basis. That has been absolutely huge. Folklore has also offered space and Margate arts club offered a colab and Creative Folkestone offered to promote it, so all of that helped. "A few people even came from London. I brought loads of materials and other people brought materials and loads of ideas. We had so many suggestions of what people wanted to do." Maxwell said: "I guess we wanted to find a space and DIY 4 Folke was starting. Bean was helpful and finding somewhere to host it easily was helpful. Instagram has been very useful. Sharing our profile and events was helpful, people found out about it that way." What difficulties did you encounter - and how did you overcome them? Ray said: "When we first started, I snapped into doing social media and getting really busy, and the other person running the group with me was overwhelmed and needed to go a bit slower. I felt bad for overlooking how they felt there. "Because of this, we wrote some principles for the space about taking notice of each other's needs. How we are going to treat each other. My concern for the future of the group is that as a person of colour, I think about other people’s needs a lot and worry that people may not think about mine. That's why it's important that we wrote the principles." Maxwell said: "For me personally was doubting myself and doubting if I am the right person to do it. Ray and I have talked about it and reminding myself why I am doing it and I guess we feel that someone else could do a better job, but they aren’t doing it and it's good that it is happening. Logically I don’t believe that you need to be an expert, but I think it’s a common feeling." Have any external organisations played a key role at any point in your project? Ray said: "Folkestone Pride has done lots of promotion. During LGBT history month they advertised which helped." Maxwell said: "Pride Folkestone shared the post and other organisations in Folkestone." How did having a suitable and affordable space contribute to your project’s success? Ray said: "We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the space." Maxwell said: "That’s what has made it possible. It’s all donations based, if it was too expensive, we wouldn’t be able to do it." What would make life easier for you/your group? Ray said: "A little financial buffer would help. Some way to keep things going and support in keeping it going." Maxwell said: "People bring their own crafts to do, have more shared activities, buy and store materials. So having somewhere to store stuff and money." What impact do you feel your project/group has/had on participants’ wellbeing (physical and emotional)? Ray said: "I think it’s going to be really good for people. People have said that they felt safe, at home, that they had a community. They thanked us and get to see people like them. No one has to be nervous and it’s all fine." Maxwell said: "For me it’s had a great impact, a close friend has found it helpful and general feedback has been that this is what people want." What are the best things about being involved in your group/project? Ray said: "I am really happy to see all the people that came." Maxwell said: "Connecting with other Trans people. I think it’s great for my confidence as well. That has been low, so having something that I am doing is good for me." What do you wish you’d known before embarking on this project? And what advice would you give to somebody getting started on something similar? Ray said: "I wish I had known how excited people were about it. It would have encouraged me more. I was told that it was ok for people to feel nervous. It was fine for it to be silent in the room and wish I had known that before. It’s fine for it to feel a bit awkward." Maxwell said: We haven’t had many hurdles. If you want to do it go for it. Because it’s rewarding. Having conversations about the Trans community in Folkestone is really good. Just go for it. If you're interested in learning more about Trans Folke and getting involved in the group's creative activities, you can follow @transfolke on Instagram and sign up to the newsletter. The group meets regularly at DIY 4 Folke in Folkestone.