Creativity runs free in Thatcham

Phil Dollin, 86, has always considered himself a keen artist, and in 1994, ditched his 9 to 5 as a Technical Illustrator Engineer to pursue his long-held passion for painting and drawing. “There’s so much more to art than putting pencil to paper. Not only is it a great way to express yourself, but it also helps you feel good. Nothing gives me greater joy than sitting in front of a blank canvas and letting my creativity run free”, he comments.

Having swapped a T-square and compass for sketchbooks and paints, Phil set up his own purpose-built studio at the rear of his home in Woolhampton, Berkshire, where he and his wife Rose lived for 57 years. Fast forward and Phil has become a popular member of the thriving community that has steadily formed at Turner Place, a Retirement Living development in Berkshire, where he now lives with his wife, and has been inspiring new neighbours to explore their own creative talents.

“For the past 18 months, I’ve been running a weekly art class for the other homeowners. We really appreciate getting together and taking the time to slow down and relax, while doing something we enjoy. I’ve even had people comment that it’s the highlight of their week, which is always fantastic to hear.”

Participating in arts and crafts has also been proven to have a wealth of health benefits, including reducing stress, increasing social engagement, and improving cognition, all of which are

 increasingly important as we age. Fellow homeowner and arts enthusiast, Connie says: “Phil is an excellent artist and I find his classes incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. They’re especially good for mental health, as well as the companionship of others.”

As the sessions grew in popularity, more and more masterpieces were created, inspiring the retirement community to hold an exhibition in aid of charity.

“I’ve formed a close friendship with a lovely couple, Pat and John Grover, at our neighbouring development, William House. Their daughter, Joy Read works in the creative business and has hosted several events. She was recently telling us about an art exhibition she was at, which gave me the idea to do something similar here. I’ve been part of plenty of exhibitions before, but this is the first time I’ve ever staged one in my own home,” tells Phil.

“We’re delighted that so many people took the time to visit and show their appreciation for art. We also want to say a huge thank you to everyone’s generosity, which helped us raise £150 for Cancer Research and local charity, Thames Valley Air Ambulance.”

Kayla Baillie, House Manager at Turner Place, says: “Turner Place is a hub of social activity, with residents using the likes of the communal lounge and other shared facilities to cultivate a community feel, socialise, and even learn new skills.”

The move to Turner Place has given Phil every opportunity to allow his artistry to flourish.

“What we love most is the freedom to do the things we enjoy most, which means I can paint and draw until my heart’s content. My wife has limited mobility, which means she struggles to get about on her own. We knew we needed somewhere that could provide support and care when needed. We came to visit Turner Place and fell in love with it straight away.”