Earlier this month, UK MPs participated in an invigorating debate on the role of culture and the arts in promoting health and wellbeing. The debate, secured by Ed Vaizey (Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2014 – 16), advances the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts Health and Wellbeing, which launched the Creative Health Report in July 2017.
You can watch the debate on Parliament TV here.
Highlights from the MP contributions
Of course people will have their different preferred moments, but for me the standout contributions for me included:
- Helen Goodman, from Bishop Auckland, whose powerful speech reminded us that wellbeing goes beyond the physical to the emotional
- Bob Seely, the Isle of Wight, who views the arts in health as an “overlooked and exceptionally important subject.” Mr Seely quoted ‘Crossing the Bar’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson to illustrate how the arts are harnessed in palliative care to help islanders who are dying understand and accept difficult and profound issues.
- Bristol MP Darren Jones cited research showing that children from low-income backgrounds are three times more likely to access higher education if they have access to learning to play a musical instrument. Mr Jones paid tribute to public funding that enabled his own access to musical training, arguing that music teaches discipline and teamwork, and our performance and confidence is based on arts and culture and may prepare us for roles – such as being a member of parliament.
- Finally, a key message from this debate is that the arts are a primal activity and fundamental to being human. Their use must be embedded in our thinking, and are not the icing on the cake but the essence of the cake – we thus leave them out at our peril.
Also this month a three-year Memorandum of Understanding between the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) and the Welsh NHS Confederation has reached an agreement to promote the benefits of the arts for national wellbeing. Speaking about the agreement, Chair of ACW Phil George said: “There is growing and resilient evidence for arts participation benefitting mental health, wellbeing and recovery from physical illness.”
And just the day before this debate, I was invited to address an EU group on social inclusion at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Brussels, on the growing evidence for the role of the arts and culture on health and wellbeing. That my contribution on this topic was invited and taken seriously by this group is hugely encouraging and reveals a little of the climate around the field of arts for health wellbeing. I’ll write more about this in my next post.
To follow up the launch of the Creative Health report North West Arts Health Network will host an event in Manchester on 5th January 2017 convened by Clive Parkinson at Manchester’s Arts for Health.