The OutHouse

Essex Local Delivery Pilot

We want to ensure we have opportunities for everyone in Essex to feel supported in getting active and improving their mental health through physical activity.

The Outhouse is a charity that seek to offer support and information to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people of Essex. Based in Colchester, they provide a range of services such as counselling, health and wellbeing guidance and movement and mindfulness groups free of charge. Through the Active Essex local Delivery Pilot microgrant funding we were able to help ensure more people could be supported through their offer.

Jonathan, a local dance tutor from Movement Space, approached The Outhouse about running sessions for the LGBTQ+ community. He piloted this project initially and found a need for LGBTQ+ exercise classes to the community in Colchester. His idea to bring the local LGBTQ+ community together through dance and exercise and to encourage their community to use exercise to benefit their mental health was well received.

Due to Covid and lockdown, anxieties and personal circumstances have exacerbated; there was a huge increase in demand for counselling and health and wellbeing support. The Outhouse initially offered the movement classes through an online medium, which encouraged people who do not normally engage in exercise to participate. After lockdown restrictions ended, an accessible space at the Colchester centre was used to run the classes alongside online provision, so a hybrid model was adopted.

Jacquie Russell, CEO of The Outhouse shared: “Attendees have had the ability to be the person they want to be. They’ve attended a centre that aims to support the LGBTQ+ community and run by a person from their community who speaks the language that they understand!”.

When it became possible to offer face to face sessions, Jacquie received a message from a client who had been supported by the Outhouse for many years. He had suffered from severe mental health issues and was under the crisis team. Part of his rehabilitation process was to move more and to continue contact with The Outhouse. He asked if the dance sessions were still happening online so he could continue to access them via home. He told Jacquie ‘I can’t not attend my weekly sessions, they’re my lifeline!’.

The longer-term aim is to make this a self-sustaining project. The Outhouse run a scheme with counsellors, that if they continue to support the centre by volunteering counselling time, in return The Outhouse will offer counselling rooms at a low cost. They aim to explore this for the ongoing health and wellbeing movement sessions, by offering studio space at a reduced rate in return for free sessions.

The Outhouse are also exploring an agreement to record the sessions, which would provide a library of classes that could be used to continue the free sessions. The Outhouse have achieved what they set out too, which was to engage with those people struggling with ongoing mental health, offering regular movement activity for people to engage with.

If you are interested in finding out more about Outhouse and their activity sessions, then visit their page here: