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

Reflections on the Need to Challenge and Act Against Racism

Director’s Blog – June 2020

It is two weeks since the killing of George Floyd and the urgency and need to challenge and act against racism has never been more present in our global consciousness. It is intersecting with the frustration, fear and pain generated by the inordinate impact of Covid-19 on people of colour and the stark evidence of increasing inequality. We can make statements of solidarity but must also look in the mirror and question our own efforts and progress towards a truly inclusive way of being and working. I go back to a report on Arts & Health South West written by Sado Jirde, Director of the Black South West Network, in 2019, and the recommendation to build knowledge in order to understand our environment and why cultural sector organisations are not more diverse. In working with Sado, I was struck by how we haven’t been able to connect with networks beyond our known territories. And now, within the turmoil created by the pandemic, this is an urgent task.

Recently, our reach has been expanding through the online programme of networking meetings, themed discussions and webinars and we would like to use this method to reach out further. We would really welcome your ideas. What subjects for online meetings and webinars would you like? How can we ensure more diverse and inclusive engagement and practice? Are there people you would like to invite to share their experiences and thoughts? Are you part of networks we could join forces with? Please get in touch – email alex[at]

The networking and support meetings for people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire; in Bath and North East Somerset, Wiltshire and Swindon; in Gloucestershire; in Cornwall; in Devon and Torbay; in Dorset this week, and next week in Somerset, have followed a similar pattern. Up to 50 people have come together on Zoom and been asked to share in a creative activity before joining small breakout discussions on where we are now, what we are learning and how we might take our collective learning into the future. We have heard the most extraordinary stories of imaginative and creative responses to the pandemic, offline and online activities, small acts of kindness and experiences of grief, loss and personal growth, of abrupt endings and of new beginnings. It is a rich and inspiring narrative. We have heard how improvisation is a response to restriction; of the sense of stillness, smallness and slowness; that place and home have become more present; about the power of local connections; and that the future is often glimpsed in the margins, in that liminal space on the periphery of our vision.

The webinars during Creativity & Wellbeing Week were very well attended, with some attracting more than 300 sign ups including people from all over the world. I was particularly pleased to ‘meet’ an attendee from Port-of-Spain in Trinidad, where I was born! This bodes well for the international conference next year, which we are planning as a hybrid event with a face-to-face conference in Bristol, as well as a bold digital dimension. You can see further information on the website and sign up for the conference newsletter here.

All the webinars are now on our website and YouTube channel. I really enjoyed taking part in Re-Imagining the Future which built on an informal conversation with colleagues to gather intelligence and to discuss where next for practice and research. In the webinar, we were joined by a panel of responders including AHSW trustee, Martin R. White, who shares insights from the Public Health England SW pandemic effort, and Arthur Mactaggart, who speaks powerfully about why we must work together with people with lived experience of ill-health to co-produce all our futures. The webinar that has been most watched subsequent to the live event, is Positive Futures, a collaboration with Hampshire Cultural Trust and Southampton Art in Health Forum, which showcases work from a wide range of organisations working with young people, mental health and creativity. Please get in touch with ideas for future online events and meetings by emailing me at alex[at]


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