What is Creative Mentoring? Guest Blog by Richard Stone

Creative Mentor, Richard reflects on what Creative Mentoring means to him and the children and young people whose lives it transforms.


Here, Richard considers the benefits of Creative Mentoring and shares some highlights about working with children and young people in need.

I’m often asked to explain what Creative Mentoring is and, I have to admit, I often struggle to define what it is because each young person brings their unique self to the process.  I don’t think any two experiences of mentoring can ever be the same but there is one definite similarity that leaps out. Essentially, the young people we work with are likely to have suffered in some way – bereavement, family breakdown, issues with school or difficulties with their own mental health. As a Creative Mentor you find yourself in a privileged position based, as much as anything, on the fact that you aren’t a teacher, social worker, carer or parent; you stand outside and so can be seen as a non-threatening presence in their life. 

I have mentored five young people over the past year: they’ve all been boys, living in care homes, foster care or the family home and all have struggled to articulate how they feel about their lives and what has happened to them. This presents a challenge when song writing (my main creative outlet) because songs are so often used to describe our inner worlds, so I have learned to embrace the process more than the outcome.  

Here are three occasions that exemplify what creative mentoring means to me…  

  • Making up silly songs about animals with a Primary aged boy – he was extremely creative but didn’t want to write or prepare anything. Instead, we were able to improvise together, to laugh and have fun. For me, that’s when creative mentoring is at its best, when mentor and mentee meet as equals, particularly through laughter. 
  • Singing back a line written by a post-16 young man and watching him jump round the room – he couldn’t believe what we’d done. On a side note, he would sometimes present lyrics from other people’s songs as if he’d written them. Once I got over the feeling of disappointment that they weren’t his (they were very good lyrics!) I realised he was sharing how he felt about his life in the only way he felt able.  
  • Watching a Secondary aged boy decide to share one of the pieces we’d created with a friend from school. This young man has a great musical ear, can collaborate well and has the confidence to say what he does and doesn’t like or want to include in a piece. However, he has low self-esteem (another common theme) and struggles to feel positive about what he creates so making the decision to share a piece with a friend was a great step forward. 

Finally, I have found that sharing something of myself can also be useful in helping the young person see us as, in some small way, similar to them. Like any art or creative endeavour, the best results come when we are our authentic selves, so being open and  honest, by sharing a similar experience or a time when you have struggled, can help build a bond. Further to this, framing our own stories in positive language can help mentees see that it is possible to move beyond challenges in a healthy and positive way.  

Creative mentoring is certainly not easy, but it is immensely rewarding and I feel privileged to be able to support vulnerable young people while helping share the joy of creativity.

Has Richard inspired you to think about becoming a Creative Mentor? Find out how you can join our Creative Mentoring pool!