Arts and Mental Health Child & Family Psychology Health & Wellbeing pandemic

Culture at a distance: arts for health in isolation

One positive of the pandemic for me is seeing the increasing recognition of the far-reaching and vital roles of culture and the arts, in particular around health and well-being.


One positive of the pandemic for me is seeing the increasing recognition of the far-reaching and vital roles of culture and the arts, in particular around health and well-being. We’re reminded afresh how culture and the arts can help foster individual and community health, from spreading public health messages, to supporting well-being in isolation.

This post is a collection of cultural and creative resources to keep you entertained, engaged and connected as we practice social distancing measures (again). Find multiple sources of inspiration below. For more on what the pandemic and 2020 has brought into sharper focus for arts and health, see my review of 2020, with special treats at the end. 

Creative and arts-based activities can support mental health in many important ways:

  • story-telling can aid sense-making and answer questions in accessible ways
  • arts engagement can provide relaxation, distraction and absorption
  • arts engagement has been shown to reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body and protect the immune system
  • arts activities build self-esteem, senses of achievement and pride
  • culture and the arts can engender a sense of awe, an emotion with social benefits
  • culture improves connection and belonging,  and can be achieved now through, for example, joint projects and competitions
  • creative exploration helps to foster meaning and purpose during unsettling times

Creative Resources: Get Your Cultural Greens!

MARCH Network is a mental health network focused on the power of bringing people together with social, cultural and community assets. With people distancing themselves, they’ve shared some home-based, creative ways to support mental health.

Arts activity boxes. Designed by a group of leading artists including Anthony Gormley, Gillian Wearing and Grayson Perry, you can download a range of free arts activities here.

Grayson’s Art Club: the exhibition. During the lockdown, one of Britain’s foremost artists, Grayson Perry, brought the nation together through art, inviting a unique record of the pandemic in Britain through personal representations of lock-down. Manchester Art Gallery will display work made by the public, well-known artists and celebrities during Grayson’s Art Club exhibition.

Grayson's Art Club | Manchester Art Gallery
You can watch the series and finale of the exhibition on Channel 4.

As part of Grayson’s Art Club, the Manchester Art Gallery are launching their own art club, encouraging people from Manchester and beyond to make art with a Mancunian twist.

Greater Manchester Creative Care Kits

Recognising that 22,000 young people across Greater Manchester are not online, the first Creative Care Kit initiative saw charities, businesses and arts organisations join forces to distribute Kits to those who may isolated and lonely during a difficult time. A second Creative Care Kit was distributed in autumn.


Each kit contains 36 pages of activities and tips on protecting mental well-being and a set of art materials. As well as providing something to do, the kits help create a sense of connection in the absence of face-to-face interactions.

Create your own Stop Motion Animation! The Stikbot Studio app is simple to navigate and great fun to use. The app allows you to create and share stop motion animations.

Life Drawing classes, every Sunday starting at 3pm and Finish by 5.30pm. Poses will range from 2min to 45min.

DIY: If arts crafts are more your thing, why not try one of these homemade bird feeder ideas

Daily Isolation activities from The Horsfall and 42nd Street.
Manchester-based mental health organisations have prepared a guide with resources and tips to support you in this time, and also provide online support. They are inviting daily isolation activities on Instagram and other social media channels if you want to reconnect and do something positive and creative. Use the hashtag #horsfallcreateandconnect to connect your efforts to others.

The By You Tapestry: Stitches in Time have created a downloadable resource for individual embroideries to be joined together into a giant, historic textile, made by all ages across the country.

Jodie Silverman, Art Therapist (featured image) is sharing lots of beautiful therapeutic prompts for activities on her Instagram JodieSilvermanArt, with a focus on managing anxiety, improving wellbeing and finding flow.

Image by Jodie Silverman, on Instagram Jodiesilvermanart

On the Brink Studio are offering beautiful boxes you can buy, from wooden jewellery kits and tool kits, to a pencil-case set for Draw Club.


RadioMusic Matters: The Human Connection, BBC Radio 4

Listen to a review of how and why people engaged in music and music-making during the pandemic, with Dr Daisy Fancourt, author of the WHO 2019 scoping review on the role of arts and culture in health, and World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

Group singing (across many settings and conditions, and even virtually), has been shown to boost participants’ self-esteem, reduce feelings of social isolation, reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing. Don’t be shy, give it a try while you’re at home!

Bee Vocal Online Choir Join on Eventbrite or @BeeVocalChoir to be led in a song by musical director @danielmcdwyer 

Check out the largest record store in the world, Amoeba Music. New music is not cancelled!

Virtual Tours, Story-telling and Streaming

Art at home. Ready to stay creative from your home? Here is a comprehensive guide to enjoying art at home including  virtual museum tours, games, education and competitions.

Google Arts and Culture hosts a huge range of cultural and arts options, including ways to ‘Do the Cultural 5’, your daily dose of culture, arts activities to do at home, content from over 2000 leading museums and archives.

MoMA online: Massive Open Online Courses on Corsera

Classical Music: Let the Berlin Phil Come to You via The Guardian

Van Gough Museum, Amsterdam
Here you’ll find a selection of things to do for young children, school children, the ‘just curious’ and the ‘die hard art lovers’.

Gateshead International Festival of Theatre three day festival online.

Goodnight with Dolly: ‘Queen of County’ Dolly Parton with a story once week.

Moving Essence: film-makers providing therapeutic videos and cinematic mental health sessions proven to work in the health space. Winner – Improving Patient Experience Award – NHS North West Excellence in Supply Awards 2019.

Greater Manchester, United We Stream: a live set, EVERY night, live bands, DJ’s, singers and performers in a UK first, to entertain, educate and enrich you in your home, from 7pm from GM Culture.

Morecambe Music Festival, Live music daily, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm
Facebook: Morecambe Music Festival LIVE LOUNGE

Art in Isolation: new podcasts about Islamic art, heritage and culture.

Or take inspiration from outer space! NASA’s space images available online.

Get Moving!

Dance with Oti, 30 minute themed classes daily. 11.30am for children and 7.30pm for adults. YouTube – Oti Mabuse Official

Cosmic Kids Yoga: Free, & ad-free, online classes uses stories, playfulness, colourful worlds & characters to make yoga & mindfulness fun.

Kiddy Kalma Yoga classes are designed with children in mind and each session contains elements of Yoga, mindfulness, music, drama, storytelling, and arts & crafts. The YouTube classes are always focused on providing kids with a safe space to play, have fun, relax, get moving, and get mindful.

GMMoving: Ways to keep moving on GM Moving blog.

I’ll leave you with some musical love from Paul Simon and family, and friend Woody Harrelson! Below, enjoy!

If you have additional resources you’d like me to put on here just send me an email: or contact me on Twitter @communikatt.

If you are interested in finding out more about arts-based clinical options, we are currently implementing an Arts, Culture and Mental Programme out across children’s services in Greater Manchester as part of GM iTHRIVE, find out more.

You can also join us as an Arts, Culture and Mental Health Ambassador to receive free resources, support and training  to embed the arts into thinking and practice where you work.

All I Have To Do Is Dream:

Additional Resources

Read about how music and culture have played a protective role in health and the history of pandemics for thousands of years.

Creatively Minded: An initial mapping study of participatory arts and mental health activity in the UK
– From The Baring Foundation, the first report of  the new Arts & Mental Health funding theme.

I'm a British clinical psychologist with a research background. I manage the Greater Manchester i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health Programme, part of the national transformation of children's services. I also have an NHS clinical role in Lancaster and Morecambe working with children, young people and families (CAMHS). I began this blog in 2017 to record a WCMT Travelling Fellowship, from a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. I began clinical psychology training (DCLinPsy, Lancaster) in 2010, and studied the role of creativity in bipolar disorder, because of the known links, and partly due to my own experiences of creatively managing extremes of mood in adolescence and throughout my 20s. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including Manchester University in suicide prevention, the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University (notable for service user expertise), and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

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