Arts and health expert using creativity  to promote wellbeing in communities hit by a return of restrictions
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Arts and health expert using creativity to promote wellbeing in communities hit by a return of restrictions

A Hull-based specialist arts and health consultant who has helped businesses back creativity and culture across the country has made a national impact with a pioneering project to support wellbeing among the most vulnerable children in Calderdale.

Arts Drop, which uses social workers and other outreach teams to distribute activity packs to children and young people, seized the attention of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Arts, Health & Wellbeing as one of only five case studies chosen to highlight how creativity is tackling Covid-19 across England.

The project was organised by the Creative Learning Guild (CLG) which appointed Elaine Burke to devise the content and the approach. Arts Drop was such a success that Elaine and the CLG are now expanding it to meet the needs which will emerge from the introduction of new restrictions in Calderdale, and adapting it for other groups with similar needs and in other parts of the country.

Elaine Burke

Gilly Bryerley, Managing Director of the CLG, said: “We were thrilled to be included in the handful of case studies presented to the APPG, which includes some really influential people from arts, health and politics, but the tightening of the Covid-19 restrictions in our area means there’s no time to dwell on that.

“We’ve re-stocked the Arts Drop production line and our amazing volunteers have been packing the bags, prepping 34,000 pipe cleaners, folding 23,000 pieces of coloured paper, organising 6,000 jumbo crayons and much more.”

Initial research by The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance generated nearly 50 case studies on initiatives providing creative support to more than 100,000 shielding and vulnerable people nationwide. The five projects selected by the Alliance for detailed consideration by the APPG embrace people of all ages, with Arts Drop’s focus on at-risk and looked-after children, young carers and children with refugee or asylum seeker status.

In total, Arts Drop has reached 2,500 people since its launch in May. In addition to the National Lottery it was funded by Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, Calderdale Community Foundation and money from Arts Council England managed by IVE.

Having inspired the launch of similar projects, Arts Drop is now acting on feedback from partners who are eager to use Elaine’s wellbeing expertise to introduce creative activities to other people who need support and in other areas of the country.

Gilly said: “Our partners have been in regular contact to tell us about the impact they have seen being made by Arts Drop and to talk about how we can do more of this sort of thing. It’s clear there is a much greater understanding of what creativity can do and how it can achieve something special and unique.”

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Elaine, who lives and works in Cottingham, has had great success at building partnerships to bring together arts and business.

She was a key figure in the development of Larkin with Toads which transformed the streets of Hull 10 years ago, leading the evaluation to identify a contribution of more than £500,000 for the local economy, with the same again in media and PR value. She continues to help Wykeland shape the cultural and community aspects of its investments in Hull, Beverley and Northallerton and she advises the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust on its arts and health strategy.

In 2018 Elaine hosted the Yorkshire and Humber launch of the APPG’s Creative Health report at Hull Royal Infirmary, delivering a keynote speech.

Elaine said: “Arts Drop has achieved everything we hoped it would and more. Children have enjoyed using it on their own and within family groups who have been brought together and been engaged and interested and connected with positive, creative activities.

“In doing that they are keeping their imagination and excitement fired up and that’s absolutely vital for their wellbeing and their ability to remain resilient and to recover as we help them cope with the re-introduction of restrictions in Calderdale.”

Victoria Hume, Director of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, compiled the case studies for the APPG. She said: “The feedback we have been getting suggests that people really have been seeing this work as a lifeline. These projects are creating vital space for people to express not just happiness but also frustration, fear, anger and to articulate the need for big changes in society.

“What these case studies make clear is the need for partnership, investing in these organisations that have been doing so much to support communities but it is also about investing time into partnerships between culture, health, social care, local government.”

To find out more about Arts Drop please visit www.artsdrop.co.uk

Picture details

Pix attached of children using Arts Drop materials. Permission has been secured for the use of the images.

Also a pic of Elaine Burke at the launch of the Creative Health report in Hull in 2018.

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