End of year Director's blog

Young girl sits at a table making a mosaic and smiling
ACAVA_s Grenfell Memorial Community Mosaic - Walking as One workshop (c) Zute Lightfoot. Courtesy ACAVA - Lorna Gemmell

Creative health - or arts and health, or culture, health and wellbeing - has made steady progress this year in an unstable and extremely challenging context; it may not always feel this way, but across government, particularly local government, and in funding and commissioning organisations, recognition for and commitment to creativity and culture in support of health and wellbeing is steadily increasing.

We can see this in the commitment of Arts Council England - set out in its Creative Health & Wellbeing paper this autumn - a roadmap for partnership that harks back to the 2007 Prospectus co-published with the Department of Health, but takes things far further. We can see it in the huge numbers attending the National Centre for Creative Health's Review - currently underway with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health & Wellbeing. We can see it in significant regional commitments like the new Creative Health City Region Strategy for Greater Manchester - and in our home town of Barnsley, where the Metropolitan Borough Council used Creativity & Wellbeing Week this year to launch a new commitment to this work. We can learn too from the commitment of our nearest neighbours, as the NHS Confederation/Arts Council of Wales joint capacity building programme - which introduced and developed arts and health coordinator roles in all seven health boards in Wales - is shown to have improved the health and wellbeing of NHS patients, staff and the wider population.

We can see it too in the Baring Foundation's slew of fascinating and helpful publications on mental health and the arts, and in the way the Foundation has changed its application models to actively encourage applicants to include support for their own wellbeing in budgets.

And at CHWA we've been lucky to be part of a series of passionate, nuanced conversations with around 150 of our members and partners this November and December, to inform the development of a quality framework for creative health - a collaborative and we hope timely process to shore up this progress and clarify the jointly held responsibility across commissioners, funders, research and practice.

All of this is founded on the work you, our members, do to provide vital spaces to build communities, tell stories, and challenge expectations and the status quo. We know you sustain these spaces against the odds and we are committed to strengthening the support for your work, including wellbeing support for practitioners, and to ensuring lived experience is leading the way.

Our Awards Gathering a few weeks ago was a rare chance to celebrate what's been achieved this year. We send our congratulations again to all the shortlisted projects, and we know that many more of you will see your own work mirrored in the work we celebrated this November. We hope that if you watch the Awards Gathering on Youtube, you will know that these awards are a recognition of your work, too.