There is increasing recognition that people’s health and wellbeing is influenced by a range of interconnecting factors. Indeed, the World Health Organisation suggested over 50 years ago that health is a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely an absence of disease or infirmity. This definition acknowledges that good health and wellbeing are reliant on an array of multiple factors, not just physical, but also psychological and social. Arts Council England, the Department of Health and many leading healthcare experts firmly believe that the arts have an important part to play in improving the health and wellbeing of people in many ways.
The tenants at our supported living service in Rainbow Court, Peterborough, are all deafblind. They have set up an art group that meets each week. Although it is facilitated by a volunteer, the tenants manage the group and decide on weekly themes. Recently they designed cards and decorations for Halloween and Christmas. The group is self-supporting, they look after each other. Recently, one of the members of the group bought a huge inflatable spider and a bat so that one of the other tenants could feel what it ‘looked’ like and used it as a reference to be able to draw or make something similar.
The group provides an important platform, not only for people to be able to express themselves, but to come together and have some fun, socialise and be part of a community. Aisha, one of the art group members said: ”I love coming here. It gets me out and I’ve made some great friends.”
After the art group, Andy was keen to show me his workshop. Although it may have looked like a chaotic ‘man cave’ collection of power tools, wood, screws and nails. To Andy, it is his haven, to chill, relax and make things. “It keeps me out of trouble” he says!
Andy is completely blind and says he has learnt by touch which bits he needs to avoid, which are the ‘pointy’ ends and which are the safe ends. Recently he constructed a rabbit hutch for someone and is just adding some finishing touches.
There is widespread recognition that choosing a healthy lifestyle, rather than simply dealing with illness as it occurs, is key to improving health in the longer term. The Arts Council believe that arts (and crafts) play a hugely valuable role in engaging excluded or hard-to-reach groups or communities who may not respond to traditional methods of health promotion. The art group at Rainbow Court are certainly demonstrating this and find this is a great way to promote self care and well being.
Caroline Roberts, Rainbow Court