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Online LINK: Virtual Coffee & Chat

Blog post written by Emily Bradfield (Arts Health ECR Network East Anglia Representative and Director of Arts & Minds)

A year after our first Coffee & Chat in Cambridge, and a couple of weeks after the Arts Health ECRN Twitter Chat in partnership with Arts & Minds, it was great to get together with some familiar faces and new ones to talk about all things arts & health. Conversations were focused around creative activities we’ve been involved with over the past few weeks of lockdown and how these activities had supported our wellbeing and sense of connection.

This year’s Coffee & Chat included a group of eight local artists, researchers, teachers and practitioners. Since our last Coffee & Chat, two of the group have completed their PhDs, one has qualified as a maths teacher, and a software developer is now coaching people to use creativity in technology. At end of the last meet up (March 2019) we decided we’d like to remain in touch and I created #thinkingSPOT - a place to step away from the everyday and create. Since then we’ve run an art-making workshop, a session on creative writing for wellbeing and had a go at improvisation theatre. It’s wonderful to see how this network has evolved and continues to develop.

We talked about the elements of the Covid-19 crisis which has brought time for new or revitalized creativity within the group. Common themes included: cooking, gardening, daily exercise, new career paths and the right to not have to connect. For example, with so much pressure for everything to be online and for communication streams to be more diverse than ever before, it is essential for us to remember that we can say ‘no’, or ‘not just now’.

Here’s a patchwork of the creative activities we’ve been involved with, so you can explore anything that catches your eye:

Dr Suzanne Culshaw shared her doctoral research which explored ‘struggling’ as a teacher through collage. This innovative arts-based method enabled teachers to examine their experiences through creativity. Click here to read more . Suzanne also introduced us to an interesting method of exploring practice, called “post and return”, which she discovered via twitter. Click here to find out more or follow Ian Robsons on twitter.

MacKenzie is working on a project to determine if, and to what degree, online art experiences can be beneficial to the well-being of those in isolation. Click here to take part in her research.

Xenia is a harpist who’s been using the concept of a “Sanctuary Space” as a place for reflection and respite. Find her on Twitter. She’s also been live streaming her harp music for people to enjoy on Twitter.

Antony has recently been exploring creativity in technology and has set up a new group for experiments in creating connections (free). Antony has also been trying out a few online creative classes which he recommended for supporting wellbeing and creativity, such as online drawing classes (£4 per one-hour class), improvisation theatre (£10 per two-hour class) and a generative art and computational creativity online course which is free to access.

Finally, check out my interview with Alex Elbro on Cambridge 105, talking all things #CreativeConnections, including recent collaboration between Arts & Minds and the Arts Health Early Career Research Network. Thank you Emily for taking the time to write this blog, sounds like your participants are finding amazing ways to connect creatively. If you are interested in writing for the blog please get in touch!

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