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LEAD Event: Arts Health Research Intensive, Snape Maltings, UK

Blog post written by Emily Foulkes (Arts Health ECRN Cornwall Representative)

The ECRN’s second annual Arts Health Research Intensive was held at Snape Maltings’ Creative Campus 4-8th February 2019. The Intensive brought together 50 early career researchers from all over the world, including the USA, Africa, Australia, Israel and Guernsey. The jam-packed and stimulating week was led by Dr Daisy Fancourt (Arts Health ECRN Network Lead) and Jill Sonke (University of Florida).

Each day started with a creative activity, from knitting, to voice warm ups, percussion and calligraphy. These activities helped to break the ice, giving us a creative burst before the stimulating activities and discussions that would take place for the rest of the day. The lectures were led by Daisy and Jill, each offering insights, examples and tools in the area of Arts in Health, including an overview of the history of the field and research design, understanding arts and health through a multimodal lens, and exploring the physiological, social and behavioural effects of the arts.

For part of each day, the group split into two. One group was led by Jill and provided an introduction to research methods, while the other was led by Daisy and covered frontiers in research methodologies such as how epidemiology, cognitive psychology and psychoneuroimmunology can enhance our understanding of the links between arts and health.

Sessions towards the end of each day gave participants a chance to work on their own areas of research. I was able to spend this time refining my research plans for my Singing for Chronic Pain work. I am carrying out an MA with Voice Workshop and my specialism is singing for health and well-being. Jill offered templates and tools to help focus this and we had the opportunity to discuss and share our ideas with colleagues. We worked towards preparing a two minute poster presentation for the end of the week, which was shared using a speed networking style, giving us a chance to hear from others and to perfect the articulation of our research project ideas.

Jill and Daisy were on hand across the duration of the Intensive for individual advice and guidance. We were also supported by Katey Warran, the Intensive’s Programme Administrator, and Jenny Baxley Lee (University of Florida), who offered moments of Mindfulness and compiled a group poem from all our contributions.

The whole week was set in the beautiful location of Snape Maltings. Lunches were just what was required to keep the brains working and we had the chance to walk around and take in the scenery during breaks. It was an important and enjoyable part of the networking to develop new relationships and friendships in the evenings.

The week gave me a chance to be immersed in research and to consider and develop my ideas, as well as to connect with inspiring and like-minded people. It is rare to have such an opportunity, and it was the conversations with others which really gave this week the X Factor. There was so much information to take on board, much of which is still sinking in, and there are certainly lots of things to follow up from the week. I was particularly interested in psychoneuroimmunology and was pleased to hear of Daisy’s work in this area. I had a chance to delve into outcome measures used in the context of arts and health research, discussing with others the usefulness of some nationally recognised scales including the practicalities of collecting saliva samples to test cortisol levels. The templates provided were also really helpful and I've continued using them, including sharing and discussing ideas with other participants who I've stayed in touch with. As well as this, the Intensive came just before I was about to embark on my MA in Professional Practice – Voice Pedagogy, after already completing a PGcert, so it was perfect timing to take the learning and ideas onto my course.

Since the Intensive I have signed up to be the ECRN representative for Cornwall, UK and have started using Twitter (@emilyfoulkes1) to raise the profile of the Network. I will be working with Arts Well Community Interest Company in Cornwall to create networking and learning opportunities for early career researchers. I have also signed up to the MARCH Network and the Singing for Mental Health Special Interest Group as a result of my involvement with ECRN. If you are involved with Singing and Mental Health, you can sign up here.

The Arts Health Research Intensive is an annual programme, and the dates for 2020 will be announced on our website in due course. If you are interested in becoming a regional representative, you can also apply here.

Thanks so much to Emily for writing such an informative piece on the Research Intensive. If you are interested in writing a blog about an arts & health event, or you are interested in reviewing an arts & health text please get in touch.

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