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 thoughts and reflections for July 2021

In my last Blog, I talked about our Chair, Sue Isherwood, and her work with Jo Spence, and Sue asked me to make a correction to acknowledge that Jo Spence’s iconic self-portraits about her experience of breast cancer developed from the pioneering phototherapy practice she worked on with Rosy Martin, another of Sue’s friends. Sue has written a Blog on her own reflections on the last 10 years. Thank you, Sue, for all your encouragement, support and wise counsel.

Some of those reading this Blog will have been with us at the third Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference in late June. It felt truly international with over 500 people from 30 countries. Airmeet, the digital platform we used, seemed to work very well for nearly everyone and I was particularly pleased with how it enabled us to include voices from remote parts of the world and from marginalised groups, including a very moving interaction with homeless men in Tokyo, and presentations from people working in Malawi, Nepal and on the borders of Ecuador and Columbia. We are very grateful to those who supported the involvement of Arts in Medicine Fellows. This is a growing Pan-Africa network and they have invited me to speak at their orientation event for the next cohort of Fellows on August 1st. We can learn so much from how they are spreading arts and health work in communities across Africa.

The conference has provided us with a fantastic resource which we will be finding ways to share more widely. You can download the Research Proceedings and we will be releasing recordings later in the year. The collection of Research Proceedings, edited by Norma Daykin and myself, includes 49 research abstracts that were accepted after a peer review process for the CHW21 conference. A wealth of current research is presented within, including literature reviews, analysis of data from large surveys, theoretical contributions, methodology papers, quantitative studies, qualitative research and process evaluation. The studies include data from research participants in many countries, with authors from Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US.

CHW21 Research Proceedings PDF Download >>

As part of the opening event for the Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference, we were particularly excited to share our new commission – Cap O’Rushes by British award-winning Composer, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian. Based on the story of Cap O’Rushes a rare version of a folktale from Suffolk, Cevanne worked with three inclusive ensembles BSO Resound, Ensemble Juvenil de Setúbal, and HeadSpace Ensemble to bring her composition to life. Now, we are delighted to share this powerful and inspiring new work with all our audiences, you can watch it online via our youtube channel

Following on from CHW21, we want to use our annual conference in November to explore and continue discussions about those big themes: Inequality, Power, Sustainability. Please get in touch if you have something you want to say about any of them and would like to give a 5 minute ‘Provocation’. We are particularly keen to hear from people with lived experience of ill-health.

As we move into the next phase, we want to focus on the professional development of the workforce and help build capacity in this growing area of policy, practice and research. Julia Puebla Fortier, our Research Associate, helped develop our regional strategy. An article on this work: Creative cross-sectoral collaboration: A conceptual framework of factors influencing partnerships for arts, health and wellbeing, is published in the latest edition of the Royal Society for Public Health’s Public Health Journal and you can access it for free until August 19th. I’d like to highlight another article which covers relevant territory: Defining the Role of “Relational Producer” in Arts-and-Health Collaborations in Hospitals, A Reflection on Catalysts and Partnerships, also available as a free download. The lead author is Anna Ledgard. Goal 1 in the regional strategy is to increase the capacity of arts and cultural practitioners and organisations to contribute to health and wellbeing priorities and we will be exploring this further at our annual conference in November.

We are wondering whether to make the annual conference fully digital, in-person, or hybrid, and would be very grateful for your thoughts. Here is a quick questionnaire to help us decide:

My next Blog may be very short as I will be in Spain, travel restrictions permitting! I hope you are all keeping well and are able to have some time to relax over the summer.


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