Wellbeing: A response from the arts and health sector

Can our response to the pandemic be an energized arts and health sector?

Making sense now more than ever

Over the last year or so I’ve been struck by the growing number of public platforms acknowledging how creativity maintains and nurtures our mental wellbeing, with anecdotal and statistical evidence of the effectiveness of arts participation on mental health, this is a huge opportunity for the arts and health sector. More people than ever have taken part in creative activities which have: 

  • provided essential space and tools to reflect on and express experiences 
  • fostered solace and a calm environment in which to mitigate and cope with increased stress in many areas of our lives 
  • helped people to connect with each other , build resilience and to feel part of a community, albeit a physically distanced one

For me, having worked in this sector for over 25 years, it’s not news – but very welcome dialogue nonetheless! Right now I feel we’re at the heart of a dynamic movement which has truly found a voice at the right time.

The benefits of the arts for our health and wellbeing are now openly discussed nationally, through the development of new social prescribing programmes, an All Party Parliamentary Group, key reports/strategies, including the Marmot Review: 10 Years On and Arts Council England Let’s Create, and across the media. And I know that I was not alone in being genuinely moved to tears each week of both series’ of Grayson Perry’s Art Club, showing the healing power that a creative process can have for individuals facing immense personal challenges.

 At the GM level, our friend Dr Clive Parkinson from the Manchester Institute for Arts, Health & Social Change produced his study, A Social Glue: “a snapshot in time of the fast-growing field of culture, health and wellbeing and its place in Greater Manchester’s ongoing cultural evolution”.

“From way back, the area that is now Greater Manchester has pioneered best practice in arts and health initiatives. More recently Greater Manchester has seized the opportunity to pioneer the integration of health and social care services and work proactively to mitigate the damage to health caused by social and economic disadvantage.”

I was delighted to be at the launch of the report, and to have Arc included in the associated case studies publication.   It is an inspirational read – I urge you to take a look and be heartened by what you read, for us all, not only the arts and health sector. 

Arc has been shouting this message from the rooftops for many years. Stockport has a long, proud history of arts and health programmes, but I feel that our work has never made more sense or had more meaning than it has in the past year. 

 Within a week of the first lockdown in March 2020 we launched our #KeepingUsTogether project and in the following 15 months it grew and developed, providing invaluable connections and a creative lifeline to hundreds of people .  Arc’s work, like that of every arts organisation, was forced to adapt and we had to draw on all our reserves of resilience and ingenuity.  I’m so proud of our amazing team’s response – which can be seen in the film ‘Keeping Us Together: a year of learning and adapting arts for wellbeing’ here.

And now, working together with Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Arc will be presenting Stockport Together Again from September 25th 2021, including a large scale celebratory exhibition, the borough’s first Arts and Health Week and a series of micro-commissions for artists wanting to pilot creative ideas which will benefit the health and wellbeing of Stockport residents.

The exhibition will take place at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery – a place built to bring people together in difficult times. Not only will Stockport Together Again reflect lockdown through the eyes of Stockport’s makers and dreamers but it will act as the catalyst for participation in an energized arts and health sector.

Join me and lots of local groups and creatives at Stockport Arts and Health Week from October 11th – 17th.

Hope to see you there – where we can share inspiring stories of connection and creativity.
By Jacqui Wood
Lead Officer, Arc
July 6th, 2021