Researching Arts, Health and Wellbeing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Health Sciences


Research on Arts, Health and Wellbeing is found across many academic disciplines and creative agencies, but remains fragmented and intellectually diffuse. There is currently no identifiable research network that connects research in this area in the UK. The proposed Seminar Programme will bring into dialogue different academic and practitioner perspectives, involving established researchers and major organisations in the field of Arts, Health and Wellbeing. Through this dialogue, the aim of the Seminar Programme is fourfold:

1. to generate consensus on the 'big questions' for Arts, Health and Wellbeing research
2. to advance and deepen theoretical, conceptual and methodological research on the processes and practices in Arts, Health and Wellbeing
3. to develop strategies for advocacy and knowledge exchange with policy-makers, funders and arts agencies and practitioners
4. to establish the foundations for a national network in Arts, Health and Wellbeing

The Seminar Programme will be organised by an informal academic network set up in March 2011, which comprises established academics and emerging centres of excellence in relation to Arts, Health and Wellbeing. The Programme builds on the expertise, achievements and collaborations of these academics to expand reach, capacity and coordination across arts and health agencies, relevant policy communities and funders as well as early career academics and post-graduates. The seminar programme will enable a space in which to explore and address the challenges of generating innovative research in Arts, Health and Wellbeing that is both intellectually engaging and of applied benefits. Our unifying concern is how the arts may contribute to wellbeing and health of individuals and communities, to the settings of health care, to therapeutic processes and to professional development, explorations that may have particular traction within current public sector restructuring. National networks in Arts, Health and Wellbeing are emergent in other countries to this end; it is timely to build our own national network in order to maintain an international reputation in the field. The collaborators on this proposal are also mindful of the need for a national network through which to establish formal links with similar networks in other countries.

The Seminar Programme comprises four national meetings over two-years. Seminars will be one day events with 4-5 speakers and rooms for discussion and decision-making. The Programme will produce academic publications and policy and practice relevant briefing notes and we will follow-up through direct contacts with relevant policy and practitioner agencies, with web-based networking and a five page national bench-making statement on the state of arts and health research and the future agenda. The seminars will be as follows:

1] Existing knowledge, contested approaches and future agenda
March, 2013, Nottingham.
The first seminar aims to map the terrain of existing research across different disciplines, identify consensus and conceptual tensions and build an academic agenda for cross-disciplinary research.

2] The place of arts and health research and practice in contemporary society
September 2013, Bristol.
The second seminar aims to examine the challenges for research and practice in Arts, Health and Wellbeing within contemporary values or framings in the political, economic and health domains.

3] New encounters of social theory and the creative arts
March, 2014, Glasgow.
The third seminar aims to examine the potential of engagement and participation in particular art forms to facilitate health and wellbeing through empowerment, voice and representation.

4] Strategies for advocacy, knowledge transfer and networking
September, 2014, London.
The final seminar aims to explore barriers to awareness of and mobilisation of arts and health interventions, the information and action needs to challenge such barriers.

Planned Impact

Health promotion, disease prevention and managing the challenges of complex, chronic ill-health all emphasise the need for innovative approaches, including alternative spaces and processes to those of conventional public health. The potential benefits of the arts for health and wellbeing has been recognised in national health policy (DH/Arts Council, 2007) but has remained marginalised in public health practice. This reflects a lack of both visibility and voice. The holistic nature of arts-based interventions for health and wellbeing affords research opportunities to a wide range of academic disciplines but usually unconnected. Moreover, the research interests and needs of discipline-based researchers, arts agencies and practitioners and relevant policy communities can be vastly different. The topics, participants and outputs of the Seminar Programme are designed to counter this fragmentation and better integrate knowledge and advocacy.

In doing so, there will be benefits to a range of constituencies:

1. UK national and local government agencies, including health, education, social policy, local government:
Through an integration of existing fragmented knowledge, the seminar series will enhance government agency capacity in the field through greater awareness of the opportunities afforded by arts, health and wellbeing intervention, the elements of implementation and practice that need attention in planning and an informed engagement with realistic impacts and time-frames.
The existence of a national network provides government agencies with a point of reference for research expertise in negotiation programmes and evaluation

2. International agencies, such as EU, WHO, UNESCO:
International agencies are mandated to collate knowledge and experiences to define potential arena for action to enable health and wellbeing. Greater integration of knowledge and practice in a country-specific context can both advocate for and feed into international level development of cross-national policy guidelines.

3. Arts and health practitioners:
A process of reflective practice is common amongst arts practitioners to enable professional development. Formal sources of knowledge on good practice is again diffuse, beyond the arts therapy traditions. Research on practices, processes and contexts can improve potential impacts by prompting reflective practice.

4. Arts and health agencies:
Arts and health agencies increasingly have to compete for public sector funding to deliver specified outputs. Agencies will gain from the integrated outputs of the seminar series in advertising the strengths of arts, health and wellbeing interventions but also in negotiating expectations with funders.

5. Funders of arts, health and wellbeing research and intervention:
Funding agencies will be able to access greater guidance on criteria of good practice by which to assess applications both from outputs of the seminar series and through the existence of a national network.

The following Learned Societies have been identified as collaborators/supporters of the Programme and each will be presented with the progress and outcomes of the Seminar programme:

Society for Arts in Healthcare (USA)
Royal Society for Public Health
Royal Society of Arts
Arts Council england
Arts and Health Alliance
Society for All Artists
Association of Medical Humanities
British Psychological Society
British Association of Art Therapists
International Society for the Study of the Psychopathology of Expression and Art Therapy
International Centre for Research into Arts Therapies, Imperial College, London
Association for Medical Humanities
International Visual Sociology Association


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Description Arts, Health & Wellbeing - Seminar Series
Key Findings Report

1] Significant achievements from the grant
All four seminars were delivered as planned. A steering group comprising the applicants met regularly throughout the course of the project. In total, about 175 people attended, including approximately 40 PhD students. In order to keep costs down, we had to limit the numbers except for the fourth seminar, where we were able to secure additional funding from elsewhere to cover increased catering costs. Whilst the focus of the seminars was upon theoretical development, time was also allowed for networking. Delegates came from a multitude of disciplines. A brief summary of the four seminars follows with comments from completed evaluation forms:
Nottingham, March 2013. Title: "Existing knowledge, contested approaches and future agenda". The PI and a Co-I introduced the series and the seminar and the first speaker Clive Parkinson from Manchester Metropolitan University spoke about the "State of the Arts", followed by Norma Daykin from University of West England on: "Arts and Health Research: Current developments and future prospects" and finally, Tia DeNora from University of Exeter "Arts, Wellbeing and Health Theoretical Challenges". Only 13 participants completed the evaluation form, but of these 9 thought the day was "Excellent" and 4 thought the day "Good".
Comments were generally positive and encouraging:
• Wonderful opportunity to share anxieties and enthusiasms and think about what issues will dominate future research agenda. Excellent choice of presenters.
• I really enjoyed the presentation by Clive Parkinson and the discussion groups. It was good to have a broad discussion regarding research approaches and encouraging that this area is being discussed by national researchers.
• Excellent talk by Tia about the interdisciplinary influence and perspectives in arts-for-health
We invited constructive comments to help with our future planning. There were several constructive comments about future opportunities such as:
• Bringing researchers together with NHS Senior managers. Bringing researchers together with NHS Government department officials?
• I would be interested in attending future events particularly around developing research methodologies.
Bristol, September 2013. Title: "The challenges for research and practice in Arts, Health and Wellbeing within contemporary values or framings in the political, economic and health domains". The first hour's session addressed current developments including:
• Feedback from research discussions at the International Arts and Health Conference (Alex Coulter and Norma Daykin)
• Feedback and comment on the recent Methodological Framework seminar with Sally MacIntyre (Polly Moseley, Tim Joss)
• Responses to Lord Howarth's call for a manifesto for arts and health research (Tia DeNora, Theo Stickley, Suzanne Hacking)
The afternoon session addressed developing methodologies for Arts and Health research and speakers included: Sarah Atkinson "Setting the context/s for arts and health research"; Ellie Byrne (PhD student) "Visual methods and photography: what happens when research participants take photographs of their surroundings?"; Lynne Froggett "Using aesthetics in research methodology"; Jane Willis, Norma Daykin and Karen Gray "Supporting methodology in arts and health practice: results from a two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership." The final session of the day focused upon developing the UK arts and health research network.

24 evaluation forms were completed and comments included:

• Greater understanding of the debate on different methodologies - insight into the range of innovative methodologies being developed.
• Lovely to hear from PhD student.
• Good for networking and opportunity to speak to others. Great presentations. Understanding of what the issues around methodology of research are.
• Can we create a vision of where we want to be in 10-20 years and then look at what research/policy questions/practices are used to get there?
• More discussions about how to lobby and convey the real impacts of these approaches to the establishment and the political agendas.
Glasgow, April 2014. Title: "Beyond Evidence: theorising arts and health". The focus of the day was to consider social theoretical resources to inform Arts and Health research. Alison Phipps spoke on: "Certainty and Doubt: Knowing arts and health from the edge of language"; Gary Andsell on "Practising Goethe's 'delicate empiricism' in music therapy research: Finding value and saving the phenomenon"; Bethan Evans and Charlotte Cooper "Queering arts and health: engaging with fat activism" and finally Christine Borland "Circles of Focus: A collaborative visual art project on body donation for creative and artistic research".
15 people completed the evaluation forms and comments included:
• A sense of the variety of ideas and approaches amongst and across different disciplines. Really good to hear from artists because the confidence of 'the academic' voice can be overbearing.
• Nothing is unhelpful. Everything in context. Could be more emphasis on where arts/health going next. Perhaps for next seminar?
London, September 2014. The seminar focused on the 'trials and tribulations' and what we have learned from larger-scale research projects including how we might measure the economic value of arts and health interventions and programmes. The first speaker was David McDaid "Outcomes and learning from LSE research into economic value: Direct experience from two successful social enterprises"; then Josie Billington and Andrew Jones "Shared reading and chronic pain"; Sue Holttum and Val Huet "Complex interventions and RCTs: Learning from the MATISSE study on art therapy groups with people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia"; Georgina Charlesworth and Jennifer Wenborn "Group reminiscence for people with dementia and their family carers: findings from two randomised controlled trials and a qualitative study".
40 evaluation forms were completed, 36 of which rated the day as either good or excellent. 26 people had not attended any of the previous three seminars. Comments included:
• The intrinsic honesty and willingness to learn and question. Assumptions: lots of opportunity to speak to colleagues - I'm only sorry I missed the previous 3.
• Good timings and breaks meant sustained attention was possible. Honesty of approach - balance made the challenges seem perhaps less galling.
• Clear analysis of the problematic nature of control and other trials. Ideas for useful links between researchers and artists. Honesty concerning difficulties.
• Great talks and clear structure. Really well organised.

2] Grant objectives
1. To generate consensus on the 'big questions' for Arts, Health and Wellbeing research
2. To advance and deepen theoretical, conceptual and methodological research on the processes and practices in Arts, Health and Wellbeing
3. To develop strategies for advocacy and knowledge exchange with policy-makers, funders and arts agencies and practitioners
4. To establish the foundations for a national network in Arts, Health and Wellbeing
It is difficult to measure the degree to which the first two aims were met however the 'big questions' were at the forefront of the seminars and the entire programme addressed the theoretical, conceptual and methodological research on the processes and practices in Arts, Health and Wellbeing. For example how to value, collect, analyse 'evidence' of arts impact; how to move beyond health economics, what counts as health/wellbeing, what are the mechanisms, ontologies of illness/health, eventful bodies and extremis role of arts, medical 'authority', questioning experience and its origins? Were each addressed. Issues beyond evidence were explored for example lay expertise, alternative methods of documenting impact of the arts, evaluation and 'beyond' towards new ontologies of health/wellbeing/illness and ultimately to policy implications.
The content of aim 3 was discussed at each of the seminars as delegates were very keen to engage with the current political agenda. In the course of the project, Lord Howarth had challenged the group to develop a manifesto for knowledge exchange and this activity was incorporated into the programme. The final aim was fully met as during the programme, funding was acquired to establish a network and the steering group for the Seminar Series has since become the steering group for the network. This now has nearly 200 members and future activities have already been planned.
3] Moving forward
This emerging network is extremely inter-disciplinary and growing. This is an ideal platform for growth. With three year funding from Lankelly Chase, the website can be developed and maintained and a 5 year plan can be developed beyond the initial funding. The Royal Society for Health Promotion has agreed to host the network as a Special Interest Group under their auspices. A conference is planned for June 2015 to take the work forward. The PhD students and early career researchers who have engaged with the series have also created a network on social media and this has 85 members. They have independently organised a seminar for March of this year. A number of the steering group have also collaborated in submitting a bid for the recent ESRC call for the "What Works Centre for Wellbeing" and the network has also been approached by the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing to collaborate on a bid to the Arts Council for their recent call.
In terms of political engagement, during the course of the programme a number of us were invited to the House of Commons for a roundtable meeting with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey on the subject of culture and wellbeing. Furthermore, our steering group also gave constructive feedback to Sir Peter Bazalgete on the Arts Council's recent "Evidence Review". This feedback was appreciated has led to closer working between our network and his department.
The book based upon the content of the Seminar Series has now been published.
Over the last 12 months our website has had over 5,000 hits from 10 countries
Exploitation Route The book has been published and the content of the seminars is now publicly available. The work of the seminars has helped with the drafting and submission of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing bid. The Seminar Series has laid the foundations for the national network. See point 3 above.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Two of our Co-Is have gone on to submit a proposal to ESRC for the Culture and Sport programme for the What Works Centre for Wellbeing call, one was successful. Our Seminar series helped to develop some of the thinking behind this. Our book based upon the Seminar Series has been submitted and has now been published. The PI has also gone on to Guest Edit the January 2018 edition of Perspectives in Public Health on Arts, Health & Wellbeing A journal article that reports on the Seminar Series has been published and is Open Access. The new network has now been endorsed by the Royal Society for Public Health and they have offered support to house the network as a Special Interest Group (SIG) under their auspices. We have been approached by the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing to work on a joint bid to Arts Council England for the recent call for Supporting Sector grants. This bid has been successful and a new sector support alliance has been created. . The SIG has collaborated with the National Alliance in the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Arts, Health & Wellbeing. The report was published in 2018 and launched at the International Conference for Culture, Health & Wellbeing, Bristol, June 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description Advice to Culture Minister
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
Description Contribution to All Party Parliamentary review and report on Arts, Culture, health and Wellbeing
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description AHRC Cultural Values award 
Organisation Anglia Ruskin University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Seminar Series brought together academics that collaborated on a successful bid to AHRC a Cultural Values Project: The Value of the Arts in Therapeutic and Clinical Interventions: A critical review of the literature
Collaborator Contribution The Series brought the partners together which facilitated the collaboration.
Impact Report now being published
Start Year 2012
Description New Network 
Organisation Lankelly Chase Foundation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Three members of our research team collaborated to submit a bid to this funder in order to support the work of developing an Arts & Health Research network across the UK. This bid was successful and the funding was granted to one of our partner organisations (Public Engagement Foundation- PEF). PEF has subsequently developed a Methodological Framework (Aesop 1) after much public consultation and also laid the foundations for the UK Network. This work is on-going. The 'Aesop 1 framework for developing and researching arts in health programmes' has so far been downloaded over 250 times from the micro site ( and via AESOP's website It has also been published in the Arts & Health Journal and accessed 160 times. Feedback received indicates that researchers are able to use Aesop 1 without much difficulty while organisations running practical arts and health programmes find it quite a challenge. Prompted by this, AESOP now plans to develop online and face-face training and consultancy for Aesop 1 and to that end we have created a partnership with three sector skills councils: Creative & Cultural Skills, Skills for Health, and Skills for Care.
Collaborator Contribution Partners have commented upon and supported the application. Since the grant was awarded, network membership has increased from about 55 members to about 180.
Impact There are now approximately 180 members of this network. Disciplines include: Dance Movement Psychotherapy Outdoor Community Arts Music Therapy / Music & Health Geography Arts and health Psychology Music and geography participant action/interpretivist Medical History Art Therapy Sociology Healthcare Ethics and Health Humanities Music education Visual Art Arts and Health, Arts, Public Art, Arts and Business, Cultural Tourism Psychology Museums, Health and Wellbeing Health Promotion/Psychology Health & Life Services (Children & Family); Visual Sociology Fat Studies, sociology, Adult mental health Illustration Sociology Music Dance Improvisation/Somatics Dance for people with Parkinson's Arts Music Therapy Music, Singing and Health Health management Arts development Music and medicine Performing arts in healthcare Music and wellbeing Arts, Health and Wellbeing Psychosocial Studies/Social Work Art Psychotherapy Applied Arts/Education Sustainable Green Infrastructure anthropology Mental Health Nutrition and Public Health Visual anthropology; Art therapy and cultural history Literature and performance - in social and healthcare settings Creative arts in health Social and cultural entrepreneurship philanthropy Sociology Philosophy and Art History Voice Community Psychology Social Work applied theatre socially engaged practice health and health communication, sexual and reproductive health care Medical humanities Human geography Psychosocial Studies Mental Health Health & Education & Arts   Health Services Research Theatre and Performance Studies Performing Arts, Drama Art Therapy Sociology, Gender & Women's Studies, Media & Cultural Studies Clinical Trials, Arts and Health Public Health Music, Music Therapy, Aesthetics, Arts and Health Social Policy, cross-disciplinary Arts, Health, Environment, Ecology Adult Nursing; Primary Care and Respiratory Nursing Art and Society Human Geography Law and Social Justice English Nursing Poetry Visual arts, positive psychology, art therapy Mental Health, Spirituality Singing and Well-being Psychiatry Education Applied Drama; Theatre in-Health and Wellbeing Counselling and Psychotherapy Advanced nursing practice Nursing Audience engagement, Theatre in mental health Counselling Ethnomusicology Clinical psychology Contemporary Art Cognitive and Health Psychology Forensic Psychology Health Sciences Arts, Media Design Tourism Medical Sociology Cultural Studies Age studies social gerontology
Start Year 2012