LAHF Spotlight: Daniel Regan

LAHF board member Daniel Regan is a freelance artist and the Artistic Director of the Free Space Project.

What is your current role and what projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working in two roles: as a freelance artist focusing on health & wellbeing, alongside being the Artistic Director of arts and health charity Free Space Project (Camden, London) based in primary care and working in social prescribing.

As an artist my work is divided up into two strands: working on personal projects, commissions, exhibitions etc related to my own lived experience. I also have a socially engaged practice working with community groups primarily focused on mental health, in clinical, fine art and educational settings. I do some teaching on medical humanities modules for medical students. I also run the Arts & Health Hub, an Arts Council funded community of artists & cultural producers interested/working in arts and health, with the aim to connect, learn and share with one another. We have about 300 people in the network now.

At the Free Space Project I head up the ongoing development of the organisation and the programming of our diverse arts & community activities taking place in Kentish Town Health Centre, in Camden. We run a number of projects as part of our social prescribing initiative in collaboration with the James Wigg GP practice, a large practice of about 28,000 patients. We host exhibitions related to health and wellbeing, alongside an engagement programme of workshops including Dance for Parkinson’s, drawing for people with Aphasia and much more.

What brought you to this role?

Both my BA and MA in Photography focused on the transformational role that photography (and the wider arts) can play in the lives of people affected by emotional difficulties, starting with my own lived experience. After I finished my BA I was working in more commercial photography but it wasn’t for me. I slowly started transitioning into working with vulnerable groups, using photography as an opportunity to create broader social dialogues around mental health. From there I started running workshops with people affected by ill mental health and really re-focused my practice. For me, it’s very important to feel authentic in what I do and that is helping others, creating a dialogue around difficult subjects and using my lived experience to support others.

I initially started working with the Free Space Project delivering therapeutic photography workshops, then came into the Director post in 2017.

What do you love most about your work?

I love working in all different places with different people, so my work really lends itself to that. I really thrive on that kind of kinetic energy. I get to work across lots of interesting sites delivering workshops and talks, then work across lots of interesting projects within the health centre.

Seeing the impact of these projects is one of the greatest rewards. For people to really discover something new, to engage in a creative project (when they didn’t think they could), and to feed their soul is something that really warms me.

I also love being able to transfer my lived experience to projects with a positive outcome. My difficult experiences often mean that I can connect with others and have an insider viewpoint to complex projects or participants.

Where do you find inspiration?

Often in the places that I least expect. I don’t necessarily feel inspired immediately by something (art, music etc) — it’s weeks, months or even years later when my mind has subconsciously sorted through things.

How do you relax?

I am pretty terrible at relaxing, but I try to make time to read and catch up with friends outside of the work environment. I am big on travel, so I am often thinking of the next trip I’ll take. I thrive on a sense of awe, so travel is a big component of getting that feeling.

What makes you smile?

Noticing the often unseen, beautiful little joys in the everyday.

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