Arts & Health covers a lot – from common sense benefits to mental health to therapeutic fine motor skills tuning through magic tricks (Breathe Magic). We may turn to the arts to help us through a trauma or crisis, finding companionship in a misunderstood character from a play or solace in raging to loud music, perhaps our escapism takes shape in creative photography, or pottery, or dance, or.. well, the list is endless.
We asked a few prominent figures questions around what they thought Arts & Health was. From the Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt, to Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre and Jana Stefanofska, founder of NOW Live Events. Click on their name to read their responses.
Regular engagement in the arts has shown to improve our overall well being and shouldn’t be something we turn to as an ‘extra’ or a ‘little luxury’ but as something which is woven into the everyday fabric of our lives.
From traditional skills to groundbreaking conceptual arts, let’s embrace arts and our health, for everyone.
SEWING Sewing your own clothes not only saves you money and is better for the environment, but is good for your health. We need to focus, both physically and mentally while we’re sewing: to interpret a pattern, prevent a pricked finger and get everything in the right position, correctly pinned on the proper side of the fabric. There’s simply no more room for everyday niggles and worries! More than that, the hand to eye coordination is good for our brains plus it keeps our fingers nimble.
According to The Sewing Directory: “Having agile minds and bodies tend to make us feel more agile and alert. Plus being able to make and mend does wonders for our self –esteem. There is also something wonderful about pointing to a new dress or a restyled jacket and saying: “I did that.” So much of modern activity doesn’t have a physical end result. Many of us work in jobs where our ‘output’ can’t be shown off in the same way.”
Sewing skills can also open up your social life. Courses are a great way to meet new people as well as acquire new skills. And once you’ve acquired or updated your sewing skills with a course, the socialising doesn’t have to stop. “Sewing circles” are coming back into fashion. They operate a bit like book clubs, with a group of friends taking it in turns to choose projects, host evenings and lay on refreshments.
Sewing also brings positive benefits for older people, including those with dementia, as it is a familiar activity that older people often remember how to do, even if other activities have become more daunting. For example, the Craft Cafe on a housing estate in Glasgow was set up to combat social isolation among older residents. The skills on offer included sewing and knitting and the initiative proved so effective that local doctors referred older patients to the cafe and another project set up in Govan as a therapeutic approach to long-term illness.
QUILTING University of Glasgow research on the advantages of quilting found it benefited people in ways that physical or outdoor pursuits didn’t. This included improving cognitive, emotional and social well being. The team behind the research said that the social network that developed fostered the formation of strong friendships. “Affirmation from others boosted self-esteem and increased motivation for skill development. Quilts were often given altruistically and gave quilting added purpose.”
Throughout October 2016 we ran our first Come Quilt With Me – a month long social quilting initiative, every Thursday morning from 10.30am – 12.30pm, free of charge and open to all. It was so successful, we’ll be repeating it here in Craft Month 2017 (October) and taking it to other venues.
Farnham Maltings hosts the Quilters Fair every January.
KNITTING occupies our mind in a similar way to sewing. It distracts us from negative ruminating and alleviates core issues of loneliness, low self-esteem, and anxiety. There is evidence to suggest that the health benefits of cross-stitching and knitting have even helped alleviate suicidal depression and allowed people to reduce pain medication. It seems that knitting has a neurochemical effect on the brain, changing brain chemistry for the better, possibly by decreasing stress hormones and increasing feel-good serotonin and dopamine. With fans including fans include Madonna, Russell Crowe and Meryl Streep, it’s becoming more and more fashionable and a great way to unwind.
Every year in February, Farnham Maltings runs unravel… a festival of knitting.