A NORTH-EAST art group established to support the health and wellbeing of its members has celebrated its first anniversary with a party.

The Darlington group, called the Art of Survival, was established by the remarkable Ken Longstaff, a former mechanic who is confined to a wheelchair after being struck down with a rare neurological condition, called Guillain Barre Syndrome, in 2012.

Despite having to rely on his carer, Anne Hankin, to help him squeeze his tubes of paint, Ken developed a talent for art as a big part of his therapy.

As he became more accomplished, he wanted to spread the health benefits of art to others, so he put out an appeal on social media to see how much interest there would be in setting up a wellbeing art group.

The result was the Art of Survival, which meets regularly in a room at the Hippodrome Theatre, and now has around 30 members, with Anne helping Ken with the organisation.

Ken, pictured below, said: “Art helped me so much that I wanted to help others who shared my passion, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in the first year. We have so much talent in the group and it’s growing all the time, so we wanted to celebrate with a party.”

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One of the members, Malcolm Singleton, who is being treated for a brain tumour, said: “Being part of a group of like-minded people, who share a passion for art, has really helped me. It’s something to look forward to each week.

“Ken is a remarkable man. He keeps in touch to check how I’m doing, and is always thinking about others, despite everything he’s going through himself. He’s an inspiration to us all.”

The group was supported by Creative Darlington in its first year and is being funded this year by the Lottery Community Fund.