AHSW's Director, Trustees, and Members reflect on various aspects of arts, health and wellbeing.

Director’s Monthly Reflection

AHSW Director Alex Coulter shares her monthly reflections, as well as AHSW upcoming events and news!

Last month we asked in our AHSW Members E-bulletin* – What does co-production mean to you and how do you use it in your work? We had some very thoughtful and reflective responses, so thank you. As one person said, a key issue is the time it takes to do co-production well and if you genuinely want to co-produce from the very beginning there is the added challenge of capacity before funding has been secured. The power dynamic between ‘expert’ and ‘participant’ is a recurring theme and complex to navigate. To quote one respondent: ‘everyone is an expert, and everyone has a vital role to play.’

Recently we met face to face to begin co-production of the RIRO – Reach In Reach Out – a partnership project funded by the Volunteer Futures Fund. We are working with young people to explore and co-produce new approaches to volunteering with a focus on heritage. Our partners are Holburne Museum and Creativity Works; John Wesley’s New Room and creativeShift; Theatre Orchard and the For All Healthy Living Centre; and the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance. There will be three ‘experimentation sites’ in Bath, Bristol and Weston-super-Mare. We met in John Wesley’s New Room, a museum in the middle of the Broadmead Shopping Centre with the oldest purpose-built Methodist preaching house, a beautiful 18th century meeting room. John Wesley’s principles are still very resonant today and include: reduce the gap between rich and poor; seek to ensure full employment; introduce measures to help the poorest, including a living wage; empower individuals to feel they can make a difference; create a society based on values and not on profits and consumerism; avoid engaging in wars; and care for the animals with whom we share our planet. It really made a difference having three young people in the room. They kept the discussion focussed on the young people we want to engage and how we might frame the project. Shannon Humphries is working with AHSW as a KickStarter and is going to be helping with the RIRO project. Shannon said that volunteering is about ‘finding your passion’. Hear more from Shannon here on our blog.

RIRO aims to combat loneliness and support good mental health. Recently it was Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation has a focus on loneliness. They are providing practical steps we can take to combat loneliness. The longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. This week is Creativity and Wellbeing Week, and on 17th May there is an APPG webinar that also focusses on mental health, in particular young people’s mental health and how creativity and co-production can influence mental health services. It is one of the mass of events in Creativity and Wellbeing Week.

AHSW is delivering two online events connected to our Creative Health Learning Alliance. On Monday 16th at 11am, Julia Puebla Fortier and I are leading a discussion on developing a collaborative agenda for professional development in Creative Health, and on Wednesday 18th at 3pm there is a participatory learning event to explore how practitioners and organisations can co-create training through cross-sector partnerships, with Jayne Howard from Arts Well CIC and Philippa Forsey from Creativity Works. Come and join the conversation!

Finally, Julia and I are delivering a short course on Creative Health: support wellbeing and manage stress on the 8th and 9th June. The course has been commissioned by SWRLS, the regional libraries network, and is free to their members. Anyone can join and it will be relevant to all those working in a frontline role with the public. We will be covering the theory of emotional labour and discussing how secondary trauma and stress affect frontline workers, as well as how creative health approaches can help.  If you are dealing with challenging situations at work, don’t forget there is an opportunity to join a supportive Action Learning Set  with a group of peers. The deadline for expressions of interest is 31st May and you can find out more here.

Keep well,



*As a charitable organisation, our membership is free! As a AHSW member you will be automatically sent a monthly e-bulletin with all the latest news, events, and opportunities in arts and health. So if you want to join in conversations about arts and health make sure you are signed up.

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