Sensory room is crafty move for Hartlepool arts venue

Lucas Jeffries (4) with Barbara Ward of Be Crafty. The Arches, Park Road, Hartlepool, in their new sensory room that was officially opened by Lucas on Saturday.
Lucas Jeffries (4) with Barbara Ward of Be Crafty. The Arches, Park Road, Hartlepool, in their new sensory room that was officially opened by Lucas on Saturday.

A Hartlepool community organisation has come up with a bright new way of helping people to relax and unwind.

Be Crafty in The Arches in Park Road has opened a new sensory room, featuring gentle lights and laid-back sounds and music which is open to anyone for a small donation.

Lucas Jeffries (4) with Barbara Ward of Be Crafty. The Arches, Park Road, Hartlepool, about to cut the ribbon to their new sensory room that was officially opened by Lucas on Saturday.

Lucas Jeffries (4) with Barbara Ward of Be Crafty. The Arches, Park Road, Hartlepool, about to cut the ribbon to their new sensory room that was officially opened by Lucas on Saturday.

The community group, which promotes good mental health, has created a room to help autistic children and provide adults with anxiety issues with a place to relax and access holistic therapies.

Be Crafty is the brainchild of Hartlepool mum-of-four Barbara Ward, who suffers from an extremely rare condition which makes her allergic to a wide range of substances.

Barbara, a former call centre worker, of The Fens, has a condition called Mast Cell Activation Disorder.

Water – including her own tears – perfume and even exercise can send her body into anaphylactic shock.

It does not matter if you are old, young, whatever, you are welcome to come and use the room. It is for everybody.

Barbara Ward

She set up the not-for-profit organisation after crafting helped her to cope with the stress of her condition, in order to provide a safe haven for anyone suffering from anxiety, depression or who just wants to get out of the house.

“People can come down here to relax and our new sensory room is a part of that,” said Barbara.

Four-year-old Lucas Jeffries cut the ribbon to declare the new room officially open.

“The reason Lucas was chosen is that he is someone who will be using the room,” said Barbara.

“He is partially sighted and he has some other difficulties, so the sensory room is ideal for him.

“But the room is open to anyone use wants to use it - today we have a load of mothers and babies down.

“It does not matter if you are old, young, whatever, you are welcome to come and use the room. It is for everybody.”

Barbara conducts regular ‘mindfulness’ sessions - training to help people cope with stress and anxiety, which she will be holding in the sensory room.

“We usually think about the past or the future, we rarely think about ‘now’,” said Barbara.

“Mindfulness is about training the muscle of the brain to be able to have better control over our thoughts.

“The craft workshops are really busy now, so the sensory room will be the perfect venue for the mindfulness training.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Hartlepool that has anything like this.”