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A new project will investigate new ideas for how the arts can play an “impactful and sustainable” role in health and wellbeing.

An man and woman dancing
Dance for Parkinson’s, National Dance Company Wales

Rachel Cherry

An initiative backed by the Arts Council of Wales is to work closely with the Welsh NHS Confederation to explore how arts interventions can play a key role in Welsh healthcare provision.

The project is being managed by Y Lab, a partnership between Nesta and Cardiff University that explores innovation in public services. It plans to begin a programme supporting innovations in this field in the autumn.

Prior to the launch, the team will gather information and opinions from those in Wales already working in the arts and healthcare.

Prominent role

Writing on the Nesta blog, Head of Y Lab Rob Ashelford said: “We are keen to understand how the arts can play a more prominent role in the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales and, importantly, where new ideas are needed to make this happen.”

“Over the next couple of months, we’ll be talking to as many people as possible to make sure we’ve really understood the problems, challenges and opportunities in this space,” added Ashelford.

“We have a good idea of where support for new ideas is needed but we want to check that this is reflected back by people already working at the intersections of the arts and health right across Wales.”

ACW Portfolio Manager Lisa Matthews-Jones told ArtsProfessional that the organisation’s 2018 mapping study of arts and health had revealed a “huge amount” of activity across the country – but that more could be done.

She explained: “What this project and partnership is hoping to do is to look at how we can effect systemic change – what are the changes we need to make that allow the arts to play a sustainable role in our wellbeing in Wales?”

“We have worked closely with Nesta before on innovation programmes but these have previously centred on digital transformation in the arts. This time we wanted to look at how we could apply that approach to a particular area of strategic importance.”

Information gathering

As part of the initial information gathering, a six-question online survey has been created to help establish what the support priorities are.

There will also be two workshops in June aimed at those working in either the arts or health sector. These are described by Y Lab as an opportunity “to test our thinking on where the opportunities and challenges lie.”

Ashelford added: “We want to design a programme of support that focuses on the spaces where big, bold, new ideas are genuinely needed and where we can make some impact using the resources we have. We can’t do everything so we need to ensure we’re focused in the right places.

“Once we’ve firmed up our logic model and defined the areas that we need to prioritise, we’ll start looking in detail at the different types of support we might provide to make this happen.”