You may not have heard of the Oaks Way Centre in Carshalton – it has been an invaluable Day Centre for elderly vulnerable people in the local community for over 50 years and last year was the Mayor of Sutton’s main nominated charities.
In March 2020 however, along with most other charity organisations it was forced to close its doors because of Covid-19, and its staff and the clients who are reliant on its services so much were devastated.
During such dark times however, Centre Manager Sally Martin had a small gem of an idea to take advantage of having an empty Centre and turn its walls into something rather unique for its clients with the help and artistic inspiration of local resident Fran Cambettie-Davies..
“I had originally volunteered to do some weeding of their flower beds” said Fran “And Sally asked me if I knew of anyone who could paint murals – to which I said ‘well yes – me!’”. Fran, who qualified as a typographer from Swansea Art College and was an Assistant Picture Editor on the Sutton Guardian, had experience of painting theatrical backdrops for local theatre groups and quickly realised that having the opportunity to paint colourful murals on such a large scale wasn’t an opportunity that came around very often.
Fran explained “Centre Manager Sally wanted colourful landscapes and calming water scenes for the returning clients – I started the painting with a large Oak Tree (for obvious reasons) and things just grew from then on!”
“Sally said that as they couldn’t take their vulnerable clients out to the park or the seaside, she wanted to bring the park and seaside to the clients – I think we’ve achieved this”
Fran has taken her inspiration for the various images from places she has been to – beaches at Newquay where she goes on holiday, beach huts at The Witterings in Sussex and waterfalls from her beloved Wales. She was assisted by art student Charlotte Emerson-Rolfe whose graphic style added another dimension to the murals.
Fran started her mammoth art installation back in April and has clocked up an average of three hours each day to complete her unique creations, which are painted in a loose style with a very ‘holiday’ feel in some places using sponges as well as brushes and whatever paint there was to hand.
Fran also inserted a bit of humour in her paintings of saucy postcards and a Punch and Judy stand.
“Fran’s work has been incredible – she has transformed our Centre and has refused to take any payment for all her work” said Centre Manager Sally.
The overall result is a unique art installation of murals that will have a wonderful restorative, therapeutic and ‘feel good’ effect for the clients who after such a long absence have started returning to their Centre.
Oaks Way Centre clients are referred from a variety of sources including family members, carers, GPs, Social Services, Age Concern and hospitals. Referrals may be to address loneliness and isolation, to add variety and interest to the life of the client or to provide respite for a carer.