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

Director’s Monthly Reflection

AHSW Director Alex Coulter shares AHSW upcoming events and news, as well as reflections on the basic tenets of co-production!

Last month in our members e-bulletin* we asked: What does co-production mean to you and how do you use it in your work? We had very limited responses, and so we wondered if that means it is not something people are interested in or perhaps don’t see themselves as using a co-production approach?

Co-production is not a term that is widely understood. A basic tenet is that those people who are the intended ‘beneficiaries’ of what we are planning and delivering should be involved in that planning and delivery. In public services, co-production is when service providers and people who use services work together on an equal footing to create interventions and projects. This forms a shift in power and in concepts of ‘expertise’. Another basic tenet might be that everyone involved is equal but brings different knowledge and skills so we can all learn from each other. Co-design is a term that is used about the concept stage of planning an intervention, but may not involve ‘co-delivery’. Co-creation may be more familiar in the practice of making an artwork with participants. In a report commissioned by Nesta, David Boyle and Michael Harris state that co-production “occurs in the critical middle ground when user and professional knowledge is combined to design and deliver the services.” (Boyle, David and Michael Harris, ‘The Challenge of Co-Production’ commissioned by Nesta, 2009, available online:

Broadly speaking there are three areas of co-production: in research where the ‘subjects’ of the research are involved in shaping and delivering the research itself; in service design and delivery where people who use the services are involved in changing or creating the service; and in creatively co-produced activities between say an artist and participants.  At AHSW we delivered three Spring Schools which brought together people with lived experience of ill-health, creative practitioners, academics and health professionals. We saw these as an opportunity to explore co-production processes. Members of our Advisory Group, who are artists with lived experience of ill-health, help us design and deliver our work, such as events. At the Culture, Health and Wellbeing international conference there were several sessions related to co-production on Mental Health and Co-production; Co-production and Co-creation; and in Research and Practice – Co-creation and Co-design with People with Dementia.

A reminder about the People Make Museums Symposium on Museums and Care which is at the Holburne Museum on 29th April. I will be speaking about the national picture and the work of the National Centre for Creative Health. There is a panel discussion on Care in Museums as well as case studies from Well-City Salisbury, with an afternoon of workshops to explore the potential for therapeutic and creative approaches to care in museums.

In Creativity and Wellbeing Week, we will be hosting two events. On Monday May 16th 11am-12.30pm, Julia Puebla Fortier and I will introduce the Creative Health Learning Alliance and the context for professional development in the region. We will encourage discussion in breakout groups and welcome your contributions to developing a collaborative approach to identifying needs and opportunities. On Wednesday 18th May 3pm-4.30pm a participatory workshop on Co-creating training for arts, health and wellbeing practitioners: Using cross-sector partnerships to develop knowledge and skills will be led by Julia Puebla Fortier with Jayne Howard, Arts Well, and Philippa Forsey, Creativity Works. You can join these events for free but we also welcome donations to our Towards Tomorrow: Recovery through Creativity fundraising campaign! This fundraising campaign will help us support practitioners with free or subsidised training and development opportunities in the future.

Finally, are you looking for an opportunity to join other practitioners to discuss challenging issues? Action Learning is a method of group coaching involving questioning, listening to self and others and taking action on real issues that are holding you back. You can join an AHSW Action Learning Set with a group of peers where you can develop greater insight into managing difficult situations. The deadline for expressions of interest is 31st May and you can find out more here. Previous participants have said:

“Having to talk through a situation and dig deep for your own solutions enables you to see the situation from a much broader perspective” and “I got really constructive support and guidance through complicated issues at a complicated time.”


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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