Gloucestershire Creative Health Consortium: Collective Power Awards
We are delighted to be involved again this year with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance’s (CHWA) annual awards which focus on collective power (partnership and co-production), practitioner support and climate.
We are partnering with CHWA on their Collective Power Award. This award aims to recognise an inspiring project, consortium, collective or movement of people in which meaningful partnership and co-production has improved the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities through culture and creativity. CHWA were positively overwhelmed by the quality of applications. Each application told another story of the incredible work happening all over the country and the amazing collaborative and creative spirit of people responding to individual, local and global challenges. We loved the different interpretations of “collective power” and we were blown away by how people and organisations worked together to respond and adapt during the pandemic.
In order to celebrate this work, we are running a blog series on each of the projects shortlisted for the Collective Power Award. This blog features one of the joint winners: Gloucestershire Creative Health Consortium, made up of Art Shape; Mindsong; The Music Works; Artlift and Artspace. They all work in partnership to provide high quality, personalised, inclusive and accessible creative health services for people experiencing psychological and/or physical challenges.
Anyone in Gloucestershire can access ways to better manage their own health and wellbeing, through ongoing creative health options. They can be referred by their GP, social prescribers or they can self-refer.
Working together in the pandemic
During the pandemic, the way of working quickly shifted. Gloucestershire is a mix of both urban and rural areas, with isolated populations in both. Each provider found county wide worsening social inequalities and increased psychological symptoms, including depression and anxiety, isolation and loneliness. The creative health sector in Gloucestershire is well established and so partners were able to signpost, support through culture and creativity, refer, coproduce and advocate in a joined up way for and with this that were most vulnerable during the lockdown periods.
The collective power of the consortium – many volunteers, staff, experienced practitioners and artists – working together ensured they were flexible and fluid enough to stay in contact with people during the pandemic, when the NHS and other agencies were at capacity. They were able to identify and step into areas of unmet need and collectively address them in innovative ways. They not only worked as advocates but supported each other during the long and challenging period, when there were few other options.
The legacy of this collective way of working is that they are able to identify the gaps and work together, with the people who use the services to offer new programmes of work, expand the reach and build in practical and supportive strategies for other bumps in the road.
Developing further skills
Many volunteers and staff have lived experience of services offered. It’s common practice for participants to attend reflection and feedback meetings and have direct input on the shaping of services. Some use services then join as volunteers or advisors to develop further skills.
Young people can progress to become ‘buddies’ providing invaluable support for newbies onto the programme (The Music Works, Art Shape and Cinderford Artspace programmes) all while developing skills and experience themselves. One of Artlift’s Artist facilitators, ‘My volunteer is amazing. Having someone else in the room who understands what it’s like to be a participant, has an eye on who might need extra support, and is able to gently have a chat with them, makes such a difference in a session. Having that kind of support as well as chatting through how the session went afterwards, is so important.’
Feedback demonstrated the benefits and value of shared creative experiences. People developed coping skills, found purpose, discovered that engaging in creativity decreased their stress and countered profound isolation by increased connection with others.
The following feedback from the participants following pandemic lockdowns tells us so much:
‘No one else would come in, but [the therapist] came and sat in the doorway.’
‘It’s helped me to feel like I’ve achieved something, instead of feeling so worthless all the time.’
‘The feeling that I mattered for the first time meant so much. It really carried me through difficult times.’
‘The courses have been a lifeline for me. I wonder if my sanity would have remained as intact without it.’
‘It has been easy to be doubly isolated because of cancer and the pandemic. Having a regular social date broke that isolation in a positive space with positive creative outcomes.’
‘I live alone and sometimes panic as I have no family near. I’ve been isolating since the beginning of March and will be for the foreseeable future. The one highlight is our session where we exercise and sing.’
‘Our daughter cannot believe she was brave enough to do the performance. What a difference you have made to our little girl!’
Find out more
Download and read the report: Providing Creative Health in Gloucestershire During Lockdown.
Take a look at the following films on YouTube:
Follow the organisations on Twitter:
And on Instagram:
Photo credit: Group Creative Circus Session. Gloucestershire Creative Health Consortium, Artshape, Artspace & Artlift.