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  • Arts Health ECRN

London Arts in Health Forum, Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2018 (London, UK)

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

We are very lucky this month to have received blogs from two AHECRN members who attended events as part of Creativity and Wellbeing Week in London, UK. The first of these blog posts is written by Anna Faye Bosworth Woolf, a first year PhD candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, researching arthritis in teenagers, digital theatre and transition. If you have attended any of the events as part of Creativity and Wellbeing Week and would like to write a blog about the event please feel free to get in touch! I had the pleasure of attending London Arts in Health Forum #CreativityAndWellbeing week as both a participant and a presenter. This week is always an absolute joy, and so necessary to shine a light on not only the exceptional quality and possibility of arts in health work, but also contributes to the discourse around the impact, value and research of such projects. In this blog post I will be writing about two events: Excellence in Theatre and Health and ‘Tea and Toast’. Excellence in Theatre and Health (Wednesday 6th June) was curated and hosted by Dr Katharine Low and Damian Hebron from London Arts and Health Forum, at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. It aimed to examine the ways in which theatre can both engage patients and artists, and improve health outcomes. The first half of the event titled ‘Achieving Excellence in Hospital Settings’ offered insights into the ways theatre can change the experience of patients in hospitals. This seminar included keynotes from GOSH Arts with Peut-Etre Theatre and Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust with Hoodwink Theatre, and clearly showcased the efficacy that theatre in hospital spaces can have. Perhaps a more overlooked art form (as opposed to visual arts which can be traditionally easier to commission in hospital spaces), it was fantastic to see that theatre in hospitals has real potential for patients, family members and staff, no matter their age. For example, Peut-Etre Theatre presented work on a collaboration with young people, parents and staff to create a deliciously messy response to the notion of ‘tidying up’. The company identified tidying up as something that all young children and parents could relate to; for parent’s it can be the most annoying part of the day, but for children, mess making is a real chance to learn! Their 3-week residency in the staff canteen at Great Ormond Street Hospital creating this physical and co-collaborated piece was not without challenge, but the barriers to co-production both shaped the artistic product and process, making an inclusive, playful and truly accessible piece of theatre, created with, for and by all involved. Likewise, Hoodwink (who performed their beautiful bedside show ‘La Mer’ during the conference) proved that playful encounters can radically change both patient, staff and visitor experiences of the typically mundane nature of prolonged hospital stays.

Hoodwink encourage audience participation in La Mer Image ©AnnaFayeBosworthWoolf

The second half of this day focussed on ‘Artistry and Quality in Community Provision/Practice’ and featured keynotes from Kindred Minds in partnership with Gail Babb (Talawa Theatre Company) and Fallen Angels Dance Theatre with Dr Zoe Zontou (Liverpool Hope). What was particularly important about both these presentations was the active inclusion of participant voices, talking about and owning their own work, within the conference space. Trace, from Fallen Angels in particular was such a powerful and vital voice. She shared a poem she wrote as part of a workshop which moved the whole room to tears. The power of theatre and dance to overcome addiction and aid recovery was apparent in every word she read. Furthermore, both participants embodied the importance of co-collaboration and the need for risk in our practice. We take risks, creatively, and from these blossom brilliance; both in artistry and evaluation.

Zoe and Trace from Fallen Angels Dance Theatre Image ©AnnaFayeBosworthWoolf

On Friday, I also launched my own project ‘Tea and Toast#PoemsForNewMums at The Power of Poetry. This event examined the powerful impact poetry, spoken word and literature can have upon both mental and physical health. My book is a poetry anthology and is designed to support new mums and their mental health through the first year of motherhood. Distributed exclusively for launch within the maternity ward, this project is fully supported by the Arts and Heritage team at University College London Hospitals. Three poets came to read from the book; this was followed by Ruth Sapseed from Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination and a panel hosted by the Reading Agency featuring one of my co-collaborators on Tea and Toast, poet Wendy French (amongst others). The event was moving and truly articulated the power the written word has on people’s ability to not only deal with the complex nature of life, but also express their own emotional needs.

#CreativityAndWellbeing week grows from strength to strength, and shows that as a field, the arts in health is fertile ground for quality in art forms, cross arts and contains a plethora of evidence in a variety of forms that shows its value and impact. I cannot wait for next year’s programme to be released. Thank you to Anna for taking the time to write this fantastic blog post. You can contact Anna through twitter ( @annafayebosworthwoolf), visit her website, or drop her an email. If you have an arts and health event that you would be interested in blogging about please feel free to get in touch with Robyn (blog editor) here.

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