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

Networking Meetings, Themed Discussions and Webinars

Director’s Blog – May 2020

Time is odd in lockdown, weeks fly by but it seems an age since our last newsletter. You will have received a newsflash last week about our programme of networking meetings, themed discussions and webinars throughout May and June. I am extremely grateful to all the organisations who are co-hosting these with us. The first, in partnership with Bristol City Council, Culture Weston and Willis Newson, is full, so please sign up to the next one, on 13th May from 11am-1pm. The focus is arts and health networking and support in BANES, Wiltshire and Swindon in partnership with Creativity Works and Wiltshire Council.

During Creativity & Wellbeing Week, our event on 20th May from 10.00-12.00, Positive Futures, will showcase and discuss great work with and for young people to support their mental health. This is in partnership with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, Hampshire Cultural Trust and the Southampton Art in Health Forum. On 21st May 3.00-4.30pm, Jane Willis and Professor Norma Daykin, will give a webinar on evaluating loneliness and isolation. Norma, who is Professor Emerita of Arts in Health at the University of the West of England, will outline the What Works Centre for Wellbeing Evidence Review on Loneliness which she co-authored. Jane and Norma will explore ways in which evaluation can support the arts and health sector to meet the challenges of loneliness and isolation.

Loneliness and isolation couldn’t be more relevant of course. Last week, we recorded a podcast with three people who have lived with ‘life-limiting’ conditions for many years, but whose creative practice allows them to live an expanded life in the imagination. Natasha, Gavin and Max Frances joined Hannah and me to reflect on their experiences of the Spring School in early March, and to reflect on how we are all experiencing lockdown.

We had a wonderful conversation with rich insights and lots of thought-provoking discussions about loneliness, creativity, connection, identity and productivity. Gavin left us with an evocative metaphor. He said that, for him, making paintings is like breathing out, leaving a snail trail behind him. Breathing in is absorbing the world around us, a nourishing source for creativity. The Spring School helped us to slow right down and fully connect with nature. When we returned from Dorset I wrote a blog and Max Frances has written one too. You can listen to the podcast with Natasha, Gavin and Max here.

As many people have said to me, our emotions and thoughts are in constant flux. Those we are working with or supporting are likely to be experiencing destabilising emotional flux and anxiety as well. This week, I have been inspired and uplifted by seeing images of the new Bristol Nightingale Hospital transformed by artworks, plants and comfortable seating, a joint effort by arts managers in hospitals in Bristol, Bath and Yeovil. I have heard from colleagues in Cornwall, Dorset, Bath & North East Somerset and Gloucestershire about the neighbourhood hubs where food parcels are delivered with creative activities inside, and how this coordinated volunteer effort is mirrored in towns and villages.

Creativity & Wellbeing Week is an opportunity for us to share with each other some of the inspiring ways that people are continuing to support vulnerable people to stay connected and keep creative; to reflect on the bigger questions that are thrown into sharp relief through this experience; and to collectively imagine a more positive future. You can add digital events to the listings and showcase your organisations and projects even if you don’t have an event during the week. Please also respond to the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance national survey by 9am on the 11th May. This will help us make the case for that imagined future.

Finally, we are looking for a dynamic and inspiring new Chair for the Board of Trustees! Very sadly, Sue Isherwood, our current Chair, will have to stand down in November. Sue has been with us for nine years and helped guide the organisation through a period of successful expansion and development, as well as providing huge support to me personally. We will miss her. If you are interested in applying, or know someone who would be, you can find out more here.


Alex Coulter

5th May 2020

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