Taking Inspiration

Amanda Colbourne shares her experience of this year's Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference and Exchange...

This month The Learning Diaries chat to arts engagement and evaluation consultant Amanda Colbourne who shares her experience of this year’s Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference and Exchange which took place in Bristol 19- 21 June 2017.

Tell us about yourself and your involvement in the event...
Having previously worked as Head of Learning and Outreach for Artes Mundi, (and previously for Creative Partnerships and Tate Modern) with a keen interest in arts and wellbeing, I’m now an arts consultant and have been on the board of the Arts and Health South West since last year.

What were some of your key highlights from the conference?
· Valued by health services: I found the Keynote speaker, Duncan Selby, Chief Executive of Public Health England, really inspiring because it was evidence he fully endorses the role of arts and culture. He felt the impact culture can have on wellbeing is vital, but much more than the NHS can offer, so there is a key place for the arts and health services to collaborate.

· Considering the global perspective: Sessions that brought an international perspective really challenged my thinking about what is arts and wellbeing across different cultural contexts. As Chris Nicholson told us about his work using music to promote wellbeing with young people with HIV in Rwanda. The sessions utilised sound and voice, but he struggled to convince Rwandan healthcare staff this was ‘proper’ music. To them the work was just ‘noise’ because it was not formally composed. Another practitioner, Amber Walls, shared her research and work from New Zealand, where she has been working within the Maori community. She told us that the Maori definition of ‘wellbeing’ is very different; for them it means a more holistic ‘collective identity’ – which affects the whole approach.

· New innovative quantitative data: Dr Fred Foote, a poet and military physician based at the Walter Reed Military Medical Centre in Florida – for trauma and severely injured soldiers from Iraq. In many cases, medical interventions have gone as far as they can for those he works with, but a more holistic approach integrating mindfulness, art and nature is a big part of the facility. They have been measuring the impact of this medically and have produced quantitative evidence around the positive impact of the arts on health and wellbeing.

Can you share any ideas or advice from the conference that you would pass on to arts and cultural practitioners in our field?
It’s useful to know that there many of the sessions have been filmed and are online.
There are loads of useful case studies and ideas if you explore the exhibition programme, but also sites such as Bristol Arts and Referral Alliance, as well as Creative and Credible – the latter especially for evaluation guidance.
I believe this work is becoming more valued and it is great news that ACE has just awarded SSO status to a new Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, which will create a national body for health and culture organisations. CHWA will work with the sector to develop training and advocacy, methods and platforms for sharing evidence as well as opportunities for networking between the cultural and health sectors.

Thanks to Amanda for sharing her experience of the conference