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Online LINK: Reflections on the Beyond Measure? Programme

Blog post written by Robyn Dowlen (Centre for Cultural Value), Geraldine Montgomerie (Leeds Arts Health Wellbeing Network) and Erica Ramsay (Cultural Institute.

'Beyond Measure? Research and Evidence in Culture and Health' was a programme of events co- produced by the Cultural Institute with Leeds Arts Health and Wellbeing Network and the Centre for Cultural Value. We began in May 2020 by asking people on Twitter what topics they’d be interested to see covered under the broad umbrella of research and evidence in culture and health. Throughout the programme, we invited anyone who has an interest in this year's discussions to join the conversation using the hashtag #BeyondMeasure on Twitter. In July we distilled these suggestions into three Twitter chats, the first on the role of the artist practitioner, chaired by Nicola Naismith, the second on ethics and equity chaired by MAFWA Theatre, and third on unpicking who research and evidence is for, chaired by the Centre for Cultural Value and The Audience Agency. You can catch up with these discussions here, and read reflective blogs written by their hosts. In June we invited artists to creatively respond to the themes of Beyond Measure?, and we were lucky enough to be able to commission ten responses, covering media such as ceramics, dance, gardening, and poetry. The full gallery is here. We also commissioned a programme of creativity on prescription, facilitated by Art Doctors, for a small cohort of health sector professionals and trainees, who were prescribed cultural activity during a consultation with an Art Doctor. They reflected on their experiences in a follow up consultation - find out more here.

In November, we also hosted four online events reflecting on the themes of the programme which we will describe below. If you are interested in watching the events you can find recordings of all four here.

Event 1: Artist lunchtime conversation event

Three artists who had been commissioned by 'Beyond Measure?, Garry Barker, Niya B and Sarah Fraser, discussed why they were interested in the programme, their approach and the artistic outputs they have created.

This prompted a wider discussion on topics like:

  • how the artwork provoked dialogue between the cultural practitioner and participants

  • how we can create intimacy through remote arts and cultural projects

  • the impact of the pandemic on the commissions and on creative practice more broadly

  • learning on commissioning culture with a wide range of voices, ideas and forms

Event 2: What is it about art & culture that can make a difference to our health?

This event brought together experts in the health and arts sectors together in a panel discussion which explored the specific role of art and culture in addressing health and wellbeing needs. The discussion was chaired by Victoria Hume (Director of the Culture, Health, Wellbeing Alliance). Victoria was joined by panellists Norma Daykin, professor of Arts as Wellbeing, Angela Awuah Founder and Chief Executive of Mental Health The Arts, David McQuillan, Arts & Health Programme Manager for South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and Mike and Helen, serial attenders, and latterly organisers, of cultural engagement programmes in the city of Leeds.

The discussion itself was wide-ranging and thought provoking, including discussions around:

  • the role of arts and culture in creating healthcare settings that are inviting and empowering for patients

  • the ways in which arts and cultural experiences enable strong connections to be built through shared fragility and openness to experience, affording a sense of belonging rather than just ‘fitting in’

  • the ways music and dance can provide a medium to express emotions, connecting with self-identity, enabling healing from trauma, giving voice to those whose voices are oppressed and enabling the development of greater self-esteem and confidence

  • the complexities of unpicking the specific role of arts and culture with high quality mixed-methods research perhaps offering more nuanced insights into experiences.

Event 3: What does effective collaboration look like in culture and health work?

This event brought together experts in the health and cultural sectors to explore questions relating to effective partnerships and collaborations, and how this can lead to greater outcomes. This session was chaired by Rob Webster, Chief Executive of South West Yorkshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWYFT). He was joined by panellists Julia Puebla Fortier, doctoral candidate at the London School of Tropical Medicine, Lerato Dunn, Arts Development Officer at Bristol City Council, and Mick Ward, associate of the Health Systems Innovations Lab, a Senior Associate of Nurture Development, and a Trustee of Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

Julia Puebla Fortier shared her work with Arts Health South West which has examined the actors and relationships between health and cultural sectors in the South West of England. This study used a participatory action research approach to understand the dynamics of cross-sectoral collaboration, and the strengths and challenges associated with this way of working.

Mick Ward described the development of the Leeds Arts Health Wellbeing Network and the role of partnership and collaboration in bringing people together to work towards joint outcomes.

Lerato Dunn shared her experiences as an arts and health practitioner and arts development officer. She explored power differences, the role of language and navigating patient and professional perspectives. She highlighted the importance of time in the context of collaboration: time for reflection, learning and development; time to hear the voices of those with lived experience; time to develop strong local connections; and time to challenge power hierarchies.

Event 4: Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Psychobiology and Epidemiology (UCL), in conversation with Darren Henley, Chief Executive Arts Council England

The final event was a reflection on all of the themes of ‘Beyond Measure?’ by Dr Daisy Fancourt, leading arts and health researcher and Arts Health Early Career Research Network Lead. Daisy was joined in conversation with Darren Henley, Chief Executive Arts Council England to discuss her research to date, the role of the arts and culture in wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what her research plans are within the near future.


Overall, the Beyond Measure programme was an opportunity to dig deeper into ideas surrounding the ways in which we can research and evaluate the value of arts and culture in relation to health and wellbeing needs. We were very lucky to be joined by such a wide range of panellists representing the different worlds that are brought together with this work.

The three partner organisations are taking some time to reflect on the impact of Beyond Measure? for their work, and look forward to sharing more about this, and inviting participation, in the new year.

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