Sarah Eley, Creative Expressive Therapies - College of Health and Social Care - University of Derby

Sarah Eley, BA (Hons) Creative Expressive Therapies, 2010

What are you doing now?

Since graduation I founded the charity Borderline Arts based in Derby. Due to ill health I have been unable to work but being involved in volunteer work has enabled me to use skills I learned at University and use what I studied for my dissertation to secure funding to help the charity expand. 

Borderline Arts supports people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which is a complex and challenging illness.  A disorder is often prompted by and occurs in the context of relationships, BPD can wreak havoc not only on those with the disorder but on their loved ones as well.

As a charity we've:

  • held four exhibitions of artwork created by people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • performed two pieces of theatre
  • held many creative workshops and events including a music concert and a Mad Hatter's Tea Part
  • campaigned for treatment for those with the condition
  • raised awareness of the condition at various events
  • and many more! 

All the activities we carry out have the purpose of raising awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding the disorder.

We have strong links with many key stakeholders including:

  • Chief Executive of Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation
  • Alistair Burt - Minister of State for the Department of Health
  • Mayor of Nottingham
  • Local MP’s
  • Local organisations including - Furthest From The Sea, Time to Change, Mind, Artcore,
  • Derby QUAD
  • Derby City Council

We've also collaborated with Channel 5 TV, celebrity Kerry Katona, Goldsmiths and BBC Radio Derby.

Currently Borderline Arts is working on a film about a young lady with the disorder and holding educational creative awareness workshops, a creative writing workshop and art therapy group sessions for carers of people with BPD.

What were the main reasons you took this range of courses?

I planned to study a combined language degree after my gap year but during my time abroad, in Jordan and India, I was involved in running creative workshops for orphans. I decided I really wanted to study something creative at university as I could (and would rather) improve my languages by spending time abroad in the future.

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby?

I chose Derby as it was the only place to offer this course and when I heard about it, it was exactly what I wanted to do. I grew up in Derby too, so after living abroad for four years, I was glad to spend time close to family, especially as my first nephew had just been born.

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

It's given me confidence to lead workshops and the understanding of how to run them in a safe, effective and engaging way. Having the chance to explore a topic I felt passionately about for my dissertation really helped me realise I wanted to use the arts to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness. I’ve been able to use direct quotes from my dissertation to secure funding for the work the charity carries out.

How did the lecturers inspire you?

My lecturers were enthusiastic and often taught in non-traditional, practical and creative ways. This style suited me perfectly and I feel I learned so much more as a result. They encouraged us to reflect on what we really wanted to do in the future and  to take steps towards our future goals. I found my dissertation one-to-one tuition sessions incredibly helpful and felt really supported by my lecturers.

What are your future plans?

Within the next five years I’d like to get to a point where I am able to do this as a paid job and for it to expand to include more arts strands and to reach many more people.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?

This is pretty much the only University that does this course. If you want to gain skills in facilitating creative workshops, gain understanding of yourself and others, delve into your art form and understand the theory surrounding all this, then certainly look into it!

Who are you still in touch with from University of Derby?

I’m still in touch with a number of lecturers and students from my course and several of my lecturers have been hugely supportive in helping with the setup of the charity. 

I made really good friends at Derby, many of whom I am in touch with regularly. One of my fellow students helped to found the charity, so it's been great to work together. Many of our volunteers have also been students who have either now finished or are currently studying the course, so we have very strong links!


"My lecturers were enthusiastic and often taught in non-traditional, practical and creative ways." Sarah Eley