What is Care?

When I was invited to an interview with Blue Cabin to possibly become an Associate Artist on the Creative Life Story Work project, care was something I was thinking about a lot. The pandemic had hit, and the world, especially as a disabled artist, felt terrifying.

I needed to care for myself in a way I hadn’t been confronted with for years. Here were Blue Cabin saying care was at the heart of their work, as an organisation, with the young people they work with, and the care system they work alongside.

But what is care? A quick internet search brings up a definition from Oxford Languages:

the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something

I am struck by ‘what is necessary’. This to me implies the bare minimum in order to meet an obligation. And in this time of panic and fear and the ways things had gone before crumbling around us, I suppose this seems reasonable.

But do you know what? I’m a bit of a rebel. I don’t like reasonable. Kindness and care and creativity and ‘Hello, how are you? Would you like a cup of tea?’ are embedded in all the work that I do. I was tired of seeing care written into a statement of values for an organisation, but which was locked in a filing cabinet and wasn’t in the core of their work. I was in a fortunate position that different elements of creative work had come together and I didn’t desperately need to work with Blue Cabin, something that had made me make decisions in the past, in fact I was actively trying to move away from organisations, feeling that often my notion of care wasn’t the same as theirs and maybe I was better off working solo.

In my interview, and in the run up to it, I felt cared for, welcomed, there was genuine interest in me, no pretence, an honesty and directness that I adored. Laughter. In an interview! I knew in that moment, that this company had care running through them as if they were a stick of rock.

I feel supported to care, about the work that I do and the young people I work with. I get a text message every morning before I run a session, just asking how I’m doing. As Associate Artists we are provided with reflection sessions, supervision, a buddy, unlimited access to the incredible team, and someone always at hand during a session too.

My dad says that something can only be judged by what they do when something goes wrong. When I had a hard session and I was worried about a possible safeguarding issue, I can honestly say I have never felt so supported and cared for. What could have been a sleepless night scenario just wasn’t, because of the team, their systems, but above all else, their kindness and care.

My definition of care isn’t what is necessary. My definition is above and beyond necessary. Aim For The Stars Care. And that is what Blue Cabin do. And in providing that environment it allows me to be the best possible creative practitioner and artist, to care for the young people I work alongside, to invest really heavily in that because I know they will support me in doing so.

I wish more organisations would embed this in the heart of their practice, be unashamedly proud of this, because I tell you what, I have never worked so hard, never wanted to work so hard, to pass on the care that has been extended to me to the artists and young people I have the privilege to work alongside. Care can be time consuming, can be hard to justify, to budget for – care is worth every single penny.

Lisette Auton (Associate Artist)

Find out more about the Creative Life Story Work project that Lisette has been involved with here.