Natasha Boardman-Steer does, well, everything. Describing herself as an urban activist, she is Creatabot, and one of the pioneers of using creativity to deliver positive change in her Medway community. As well as Community Engagement Manager at Nucleus Arts, she is currently one of a network of partners working with a local CIC ‘Improving Mental Health Provision’ who are looking to expand their programme of activities to allow for a 24 hour mental health hub in Medway.
It’s clear that Natasha is very much a people person. This coming May Day Rochester High Street will be adorned with flowers created in one of many community engagement workshops for SPLAT!, a new festival run by Medway Council alongside the infamous Rochester Sweeps Festival.
Creativity works for Natasha because she believes it both helps get people into their minds, and out of the house. ‘Creativity is a tool for mindfulness. We all know hard it is to concentrate on the current moment, instead of worrying about our past and future. When you make something, you have to be focussed on the current moment or you won’t complete the task. Therefore doing something creative assists in distraction from anxiety. I recently had a young participant say that when she was in the creative workshop it was one of the few times the voices in her head stopped. Additionally creative activities are a great way to get people together with a motive/outcome. The long term benefits or creative activities are actually the social contact that they bring.’
Although Natasha hasn’t always lived in Medway, it is here that she has ‘been an active participant in joining dots and have seen the benefits of being a catalyst.’ Part of the reason for this and having the relentless energy that it requires is her passion for equality and kindness. At a young age ‘I realised being friendly and kind meant you meet people who are friendly and kind. And together with kind people you can make awesome things happen. Together, without needing a suit and tie, you change a little bit of the world. Being around ‘doers’ inspires me and keeps me going, seeing things improve keeps me going, giving people things to be positive and surprised about keeps me going.’
Collaboration, community and creativity are all values that that Natasha lives by. It’s something that is being recognized, and she has been nominated for the Positive Role Model National Diversity Award 2017 for working with all age groups, is a Finalist for the Kent Creative Awards 2017 : Creative champion of the year and was winner of the Pride in Medway award 2015 for Community Service, But for her it’s not about awards, but visibly seeing the impact to individuals and collective groups.
‘Being involved means I feel connected to where I live, I guess that is quite spiritual. I look for the beauty in everything and by working directly in an area so closely more and more beauty is revealed.’
There’s beauty everywhere. If only more of us would open our eyes to see it.