“She’s 16 now, but I’ve always done crafts with her and it always helped her concentrate and improved her attention span,” says Annemarie. “Dollies Dezigns all started with her.”
A Leyland-based community-interest company (CIC), Dollies Dezigns provides anyone and everyone with a friendly setting in which they can meet with like-minded people and engage in a range of creative and artistic pursuits.
Founded back in 2019 by Annemarie, the group seeks to offer the community as a whole that very same chance which Annemarie’s granddaughter got: the opportunity to indulge in something creative.
“It’s not just one thing for one type of person, it’s diverse,” says Annemarie, who lives in Lostock Hall. “We hold all kinds of groups for a range of people, from those with Asperger’s or autism, to people with mental health issues or those who are struggling with isolation.
“We’re open to anyone,” she continues. “It’s all about getting crafts out into the community and I try to adapt to people’s needs. For example, we have a young lad who struggles with motor skills, so I do things like threading for him.
“I make sure everything involves quick activities or sensory stuff, like painting with hands and using different textures, and people love it,” explains Annemarie, 58. “Before Covid came along, we were doing things like afternoon tea and a craft, which was just brilliant.
“Creativity should be available to everybody and anybody.”
Running a varied roster of projects and catering to those who may otherwise face challenges in accessing flexible and inclusive social activities, the group actively welcomes everyone from pre-schoolers to pensioners, including those grappling with mental health issues or loneliness and people living with developmental disorders.
What’s more, since the Covid-19 pandemic the CIC has been supporting isolated members of the community during the various lockdowns of the past 12 months, carrying out tasks such as shopping, dog-walking, and picking up medication.
Annemarie has also been putting together craft packs for people to get the creative juices flowing at home.
“At the start of the pandemic, it was tough,” says Annemarie. “I had ladies asking if we could meet, but we just couldn’t, so I had the idea of putting together boxes for people to do their own crafts.
“The craft packs started out as something just for the children, but I quickly started doing them for community groups, social services, women refuges, and nursing homes.
“It was a nice personal touch at a time when people needed that and I’ve had loads of comments from parents saying how it’s been a godsend,” she adds, having won a 2021 Progress Community Champions Award for her work. “It’s still been difficult because social interaction is a big part of what we do - being sat around a table getting creative really lifts the spirit.”
With some of her craft packs even distributed through a Facebook page called Random Acts of Kindness, Annemarie has relished her role in keeping community morale high but, with lockdown restrictions starting to ease, she’s loving being able to hold small, in-person sessions again at The Leyland Hub on Dunkirk Lane.
“Maintaining that social angle is so important, especially when it comes to people’s mental health,” says Annemarie. “I’ve still got a little group of primary school girls who meet on Zoom and do their craft packs together and I absolutely love it.
“I’m so proud to be involved,” she adds. “But I can’t wait until we can have big, in-person groups again.
“The bigger the group, the more creativity flows.”