350 people from 22 countries attended the International Culture Health & Wellbeing Conference in Bristol from 24 to 26 June 2013.
Delegates included representatives of a wide range of cultural organisations, health bodies and academic institutions as well as individual artists and practitioners. The interaction of specialists in many areas of arts and health created a real buzz around the Bristol venues and online.
In his opening address, John Wyn Owen addressed issues of the arts and health in the context of new realities for health globally and in supporting resilient people and communities. He also looked at progress in the field of arts & health since the Windsor Declaration of 1998 which promoted the practical application of the arts and humanities in caring for people and in promoting better health and well being.
As well as looking back at the development of arts & health, Lord Howarth of Newport spoke about his work with the National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing to set up an All Party Parliamentary Group on The Arts, Health and Wellbeing. He ended his speech by talking about the crisis of the NHS, saying: “The crisis now besetting us is the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for you”.
Other keynotes gave delegates an opportunity to hear about and be inspired by the opportunities arising from Derry~Londonderry City of Culture, the benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s and Kate Wells’ research about how crafts can help women in KwaZulu-Natal to express their concerns about HIV/AIDS.
A number of live performances throughout the conference showed how music, theatre and poetry are being used in, and inspired by, healthcare settings. Japanese musician Sizzle Ohtaka engaged the audience with her singing and gentle percussion sounds; a string quartet and soprano moved delegates with a Ian Wilson’s ‘Bewitched’, a piece of music composed during a residency in the stroke unit at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin; and poet Karen Hayes charmed her audience at the Arts & Health South West Awards dinner which took place during the conference.
A huge range of talks enabled delegates to discuss research and practice around subjects from wellbeing in New Zealand to creative ageing in Japan and Finland. Workshops gave the opportunity to try knitting, dance, writing and a range of other creative techniques.
Feedback from the conference was overwhelmingly positive, highlighting the diverse range of people and presentations, inspiration of performances and opportunity to engage.
The conference was organised by Arts & Health South West in partnership with The Royal Society for Public Health, Canterbury Christchurch University, Durham University and the University of the West of England with funding and sponsorship from Arts Council England, the Daiwa Foundation, the Fine Family Foundation, Bristol City Council and Routledge.
Photo: Clint Randall