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LINK Event - Arts and Health: Careers and Networking (University of Edinburgh)

Updated: Apr 2


Blog post written by Katey Warran (Network Coordinator) On Thursday 6 December 2018, the Arts Health ECRN hosted their first Arts and Health: Careers and Networking event. Led in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, the event aimed to connect students interested in knowing more about Arts and Health with those working within the field to allow for: 1) discussion about careers in arts and health; and 2) networking opportunities to improve communication between researchers and practitioners. Accordingly, the evening was split into two: the first part comprising of a panel discussion and the second part providing an opportunity to network.

Following an introduction from Network Coordinator, Katey Warran, and the other members of the event organising team, Joy Vamvakari and Simona Di Folco, the event began by the panel members introducing themselves and talking about their entry routes into the field:

  • Chris Fremantle is a Senior Research Fellow at Gray’s School of Art specialising in Arts & Health (patient pathways and environments) and Art & Ecology, with a particular interest in practice-led research. He has a diverse background and originally studied Cultural History.

  • Chris Kelly is the Projects Coordinator for Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust. He began his career as a fine artists but has in recent years become more involved with research including working on an RCT exploring art participation in stroke rehabilitation.

  • Catriona McIntyre is the Arts Activities Coordinator for Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity where she coordinates 700 arts activities per year to provide fun, creativity and distraction for children in hospital. She found her way into arts and health via the Adopt an Intern scheme.

  • Iona McCann is Outreach Manager at Art in Healthcare where she primarily leads on their social prescribing project Room for Art. Iona previously worked in gallery and museum settings.


After introductions, attendees were invited to pose questions to the panel. A lot was discussed, but here are a few highlights: 1. How can we bring together data to understand better the impact of arts in health when research tends to be project-based and short-lived? This was discussed as a challenge within the field, particularly as funding is limited to bring datasets together. However, attention was drawn to Arts Health ECRN Director Dr Daisy Fancourt’s research which uses statistical analyses on cohort studies to explore cultural engagement across the lifespan. Cochrane Reviews were also discussed as a useful tool as they use quality criteria to bring together best evidence. 2. How can we isolate arts intervention to test them within controlled designs? The complexity of this was discussed, with Chris Fremantle raising challenges around knowing whether impacts are a result of the arts intervention itself or from contextual factors such as the architecture. This led onto a discussion around the different ‘languages’ that are used within public health settings, where artists and facilitators are required to speak in terms of the medical hierarchy of evidence. This can provide great opportunities for evidence-based research, but the panel also felt that the language of art has a place within healthcare. 3. Do you think that there is an opportunity to include ‘play’ within arts and health? The interrelationship between play and the arts was discussed, with an emphasis on the benefits of the intrinsic value of the arts for creativity and enjoyment, rather than for a specific health outcome. Catriona McIntyre also talked about her relationships with the Play Therapy team and how coordinating with them has been invaluable for her job. Bringing together the discussions from the evening, the potential tensions between the intrinsic and instrumental value of the arts were discussed: whilst arts engagement has great value ‘for art’s sake’, using the arts within healthcare requires viewing art in terms of impact. The question was posed: could this be resolved by viewing benefits to health and wellbeing as intrinsic to the arts? Following the discussion, attendees were invited to stay, have a drink and to play networking bingo; finding people in the room who matched traits on a networking bingo card, with the winner receiving a £10 book voucher.


This event was a fantastic opportunity to LINK researchers and practitioners from across Scotland to discuss the different roles within arts and health and to talk about central debates within the field. If you’re interested in having a similar event in your area, then why not get in touch with your local ECRN area representative. Attendees of this event also received a handout which included useful weblinks which can be downloaded here. The organising team would like to thank the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Academic Development for their generous support. Thanks so much to Katey for writing such an informative blog post. If you would like to blog about an arts and health event, or are interested in reviewing an arts and health text, please get in touch (Robyn Dowlen - Blog Editor).

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