Friday, 11 August 2017

The Arts Are Good for Your Health

Each week during the Summer I'll be taking a topical news item as writing inspiration.

Week 2 
Inspiration: Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

This Report was published in July and sets out research, evidence gathering and discussions with health care professionals, patients, artists, MPs and policy makers. It was produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing following two years of inquiry.

I've attended several APPG meetings over the last couple of years and noticed a commitment from everyone there including cross party MPs to the concept of the arts as beneficial for health and wellbeing. It just seemed like they were looking for more evidence. 

This report is it.  It says: "The evidence we present shows how arts-based aproaches can help people to stay well, recover faster, manage long term conditions and experience a better quality of life. We also show how arts interventions can save money and help staff in their work." 

The Report recommends the National Institiute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) includes the use of the arts in healthcare in its guidance where evidence justifies it.   

It also hopes that: 
  • New collaborations will be formed across conventional boundaries.
  • The thinking and practice of people working in health and social care will be influenced. 
  • A new culture will grow that supports the government in the process of change towards the creation of a society which is both healthy and "health creating."  

It calls for "all those who believe in the value of the arts for health and wellbeing to speak up. We will work with all who believe, as we do, that the arts offer an essential opportunity for the improvement of health and wellbeing."  

That's a rallying cry to all arts and health and wellbeing practitioners for sure

To contact the APPG email Alexandra Coutler on:

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Each week during the rest of the Summer I'm taking a topical news item as writing inspiration and going with the flow... 

Week 1 
Inspiration: The film Dunkirk

Recently, I went to see the film Dunkirk drawn by an overheard snippet of conversation about location filming in Dorset. I was born in Dorchester and spent the first seven years of my life there. It's a soft, rolling, rural county with a beautiful coast line and I love it.  

The film has three distinct story strands. One involves an older man and his son setting sail in their small vessel from Weymouth to Dunkirk, answering the call to assist with the evacuation of 400,000 service men stranded on the beach in France. 

My cousin told me a story about his Mum which links to this. One evening in 1940, Betty aged thirteen, travelled from Dorchester with her parents to watch the small boats carrying evacuated soldiers arrive into Weymouth harbour. 

The three of them were leaning over the rail near the town bridge watching as French soldiers were unloaded on to the steps below. They noticed how war worn, dishevelled and emotional the soldiers were - kissing the ground as they came ashore and throwing their personal belongings towards the watching crowd.  

One soldier threw this necklace and it landed at Betty's feet. She's kept it ever since.


I wonder what happened to that soldier? I hope he recovered from his war experiences.  

See the film  - it is an immersive experience and as such provides the smallest glimpse into what they went through.

Friday, 30 June 2017

The View From My Window

As part of National Writing Day - a First Story initiative in partnership with other arts and literary organisations - the writing group I work with in Newham wrote from the suggested inspiration: The View From My Window...

Two participants wanted to share their writing:

From my bedroom window I see beautiful gardens - my garden and my neighbours, especially at night time with the solar lights' many colours. I see foxes passing by walking without fear of people. Later in the afternoon I see swallows dancing and singing in the sky - when I'm sad they give a smile to me.

By Teresa

The view from my window: As I open the curtains in the morning I hear the birds chirping away. As I glance through the net curtains I see Budda sitting silently in perfect harmony; the cherry tree's branches swaying softly.

My eyes hover over the flower beds where the marigolds sit next to the carnations in full bloom. The vibrational colours of the dahlias put a smile on my face and the red climbing roses rise high above the conifers. I look towards the sky, the pastel shades of blue are interrupted by the white streaks of the aeroplane's fumes. The pigeons and magpies are on a hunt to find food.

My cat appears chasing the birds away and then, finding a shady place, he stretches himself and falls asleep. A new day has begun...

By Narinder

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Hidden Stories 3

Hidden Stories creative writing is now available on the Arts and Crafts Hammersmith website. It's inspired by the stories around 7 Hammersmith Terrace and the people who lived there, their friends and colleagues. 

The writing is by year 8 and 9 students at Fulham Cross Girls' School. It was produced during eight workshops held after school in 2016. Inspirations came from artefacts, original diary entries and letters, a visit to the house, improvisation, sounds, and our own stories around the journeys we've made. 

Thanks to Amie, Holly, Nabilla, Noor, Shahida, Siobhan, Yara, Uriela, Victoria and Wadad for the stories they wrote; thank you to Fulham Cross, for hosting the workshops and teachers Amy Barlow and Anna Michanou for their support. 

This coincides with the reopening of 7 Hammersmith Terrace - the Arts and Crafts home of Emery Walker until 1933 which was preserved by his daughter, Dorothy and her companion Elizabeth de Haas, exactly as he had lived in it. 

The house overlooks the Thames just along from Hammersmith bridge towards Chiswick. It is of interest because of its decor and because of Emery Walker's friendship with William Morris who lived nearby and whose designs are present in the wallpaper, furniture, art and rugs.  It's well worth a visit!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Arts In Health

I recently attended the Critical Voices 2016 Conference aimed at connecting people, ideas, arts, medicine and health.

The day began with a short impactful presentation by Tulsi Vagjiani who told of being orphaned and suffering burns as a child in a plane crash. Her story is one of survival, hope and growing self confidence. Tulsi now works as a pilates Rehabilitation Specialist and volunteers for the Katie Piper Foundation as a peer supporter and motivational speaker.

During the day the audience of clinicians, artists, arts practitioners and service users heard stories of others' mental and physical health difficulties and the interaction with an art form that had provided a crucial factor in recovery or coming to terms with their illness.

These included Monica Suswin who journaled to her ill self from her well self to find an insight into her depression. She used expressive writing - poems and prose  - and found she engaged with "healing inner resources." 

Antonia Attwood is a film maker whose own anxiety and her mother's bi-polar illness formed the subject of her film, which led to a new way of talking between mother and daughter.  

Daniel Regan, a photographer, used this art form to chronicle and manage his own illness. In 2014 he produced Fragmentary, a tantalising exhibition of images of archive self portraits paired with his mental health records. 

This was a small but vital conference. I hope that next year there will be many more clinicians and stakeholders in the audience to witness the therapeutic benefits of arts in health.