A MUSIC project in Johnstone which supports people experiencing mental health problems has been shortlisted for an international award.

The Buddy Beat – a weekly drumming group based at Johnstone High Parish Church – helps people to improve their mental health and battle against social exclusion.

Members also take their unique brand of music to others, playing at conferences and events.

Now the project has been nominated as one of five finalists for the inaugural Amateo Award, presented by the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities, which recognises organisations that excel in participatory arts programmes.

Dr Jane Bentley, co-founder of The Buddy Beat, told The Gazette: “I think it’s an amazing honour for such a small project, run by its service users, to be recognised on such a massive scale.

“Many of the people who have benefitted from being part of the project often find it hard to even get out the door in the morning, so there’s something really lovely about this work – and the name of the group – being spread across Europe.

“It really shows that music does make a huge difference to people who experience mental health difficulties and we hope that being recognised will give us a basis to advise and assist with training other people and groups who want to use the arts in this positive way.”

The Buddy Beat has been chosen out of 42 projects across 16 European countries, with the selection panel citing the impressive positive impact the feel-good group has had on the quality of life of its participants.

Judges also spoke of how the activities which nurture mental well-being, confidence and a sense of belonging can be held up as an example of how participation in arts has a positive effect.

Aled Rhys-Jones, panel member and former Amateo president, said: “The range of projects was startlingly diverse, from established large-scale events involving thousands of participants to innovative first-time-out projects led by individuals.

“It was very gratifying for the jury to have such a breadth of high quality applications to consider.”

The Buddy Beat previously received recognition for its work after being crowned Epic Award winners by Voluntary Arts Scotland in 2012.

Tom Chalmers, a former service user who now leads the group, is full of praise for how it has enriched his life.

He said: “The Buddy Beat saved my life in no short measure and also opened it outwards, giving me the empowerment of performance, giving me back my creativity and leading me into volunteering and employment.”

The Buddy Beat will now go up against like-minded projects from Denmark, Slovenia, Belgium and the Netherlands, with the winner being announced on Thursday, May 10, at the Amateo Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

To find out more, visit www.thebuddybeat.com.