Getting creative for health and wellbeing – an article by the Arts Council

The role played by creativity has been profound suggests John McMahon. Stimulating and entertaining people while also breaching loneliness and isolation.

Written by John McMahon (Lead for for arts and health at the Arts Council), this article was originally published by the Arts Council on 20/05/2020.

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One of the many remarkable things about how individuals and communities have responded to the stress and stasis of the Covid-19 lockdown has been the way in which culture and creativity have been so widely embraced.

It’s apt then, that as we enter a third month of social distancing and adjusting to our ‘new normal’, May should see a series of events that help to further stimulate this engagement. From the BBC’s Get Creative Campaign (11-19 May) to the Age of Creativity Festival, which runs throughout May and focuses on creativity for those aged 50+. Creativity and Wellbeing Week also coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week this year – a perfect opportunity to explore the relationship between mental health and creativity.

Art in a time of Coronavirus

We’ve seen many inspiring moments of spontaneous creativity since the start of the crisis. Italian families singing from their balconies across deserted streets; ‘Garden Gigs’ in Sheffield with neighbours performing to each other at appropriate distance; and even a lone trumpeter in West Yorkshire serenading the April supermoon.

We’ve also seen literally hundreds of organisations putting materials online for the public to engage with, from major productions by the likes of The National Theatre, and exhibition tours by the Tate, to daily creative challenges from organisations like 64 Million Artists.

Add to this, the colossal engagement with TV-led mass creative projects like Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 – with 1.3m viewers a week, and over 10,000 artworks submitted so far – and Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus, which saw over 100,000 viewers sign up in the first week alone. Arts Council England also has a new partnership with the BBC, Culture in Quarantine, to bring extra content to people at home.

We’ve seen book clubs, singing groups, and drawing classes get creative to stay connected – from using video conferencing platforms online, to embracing analogue communication by sharing tapes, letters and books by post. The use of windows and doors as an impromptu gallery space has been so widely adopted that the V&A are currently trying to document the moment for posterity.

The role played by creativity has been profound. Stimulating and entertaining people while also breaching loneliness and isolation. Helping people to manage clinical mental health conditions, as well as promoting positive mental health for the wider community. Supporting physical wellbeing, through activities like dance for mobility and singing for lung health. Providing hope – a means of processing uncertainty and trauma and an outlet for grief for families kept apart.

What next?

Over the coming weeks and months, we want to showcase what’s happening in the creative and cultural sector to support health and wellbeing during the pandemic. We’ll share interesting and exciting practice from artists, cultural organisations, museums and libraries on social media, and here on our blog, where we’ll hear from some of the organisations and creatives leading the charge on creativity for wellbeing in these strange new times.

Over the past 18 months we’ve undertaken a wide range of work already, including our ongoing research on the contribution of the arts to health and wellbeing and our partnership with NHS England to support the development of social prescribing.

If you haven’t already, I’d strongly advise you to explore just some of the many links included above, which might inspire you to get (or stay) creative.  The Creativity and Wellbeing Week website has a list of over 200 searchable activities, and they’re also asking all of us across the UK to share what we’re doing for our own creative wellbeing using the hashtag #CreateWell2020. Stick around to stay part of the conversation, as we continue to showcase this exciting and important field of work.

Read the whole article and access to links via the Arts Council Website 

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