Our series of Thematic Overviews draw out a selection of work from across the community-led participatory arts projects that make up the Culture Collective network. They’re intended to give an insight into some of the themes that have been identified as important by communities, and offer a starting point into the ways that creative activity can be used to address wider topics.

Health and wellbeing

In 2019, Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, wrote an article in the Scotsman about the positive effects of culture on health and wellbeing: “This is the magic of the arts. The ability to tell stories that connect with people of all backgrounds. The skill of exploring complex, specialist subjects so that we can understand, reflect and often laugh or cry at the same time. This can have a far greater impact than a leaflet in a GP surgery, a public health document or a statement from a Chief Medical Officer.”

Some Culture Collective projects focus explicitly on health and wellbeing – working with disabled people, with those with dementia or learning disabilities, or with those with experience of addiction or mental illness. Many others embrace the wider wellbeing potential of the arts, in bringing people together, tackling loneliness and isolation, and enabling people to embrace the joy and pleasure of creativity.

The wider context

The foreword to an All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry report on Arts, Health and Wellbeing begins “it is time to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to health and wellbeing”. It finds that the arts can help keep us well, and can help meet some of the major challenges facing health and social care – including mental health and loneliness.

A British Council report described culture as “The Missing Pillar” in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It outlines “numerous opportunities for arts and culture programmes to be part of the global health agenda”, especially where communities are involved in the design and delivery of participant-led creative projects.

Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland (ACHWS) connects research, policy and practice, advocating that “the arts can provide enormous benefit to our health and wellbeing, both for specific patient populations in healthcare settings and through integrating culture into our everyday lives”.

Culture Collective work in action

Other Culture Collective thematic overviews

Continue exploring themes that have emerged as important to artists and communities through our other thematic overviews, on: