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31 March 2020

Postponed Arts + Health event goes digital

The Weston Arts + Health Weekender scheduled to take place in Weston-super-Mare on 3 - 5 April has been postponed in light of COVID-19 directives.Weston Arts and Health However, mindful of the ways that the arts can support health and wellbeing at this challenging time, organisers are bringing elements of the live event online in a re-configured programme with free digital content for the whole community to access.

The inaugural festival, supported by Arts Council England and North Somerset Council, was planned to celebrate wholeness and togetherness and mark two significant events; the joining of two hospital Trusts on 1 April to form University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) and the launch of Culture Weston, a new initiative that promotes cultural and heritage-based activity as a vital part of the town's life. The merger of the NHS Trusts will proceed subject to regulatory approvals and Culture Weston will begin operations, but celebrations will necessarily be delayed.

Content from the festival will now be re-configured and shared online, starting with an online 'Creative Conversation' on the afternoon of Friday 3 April. This replaces the Creative Ageing Convention due to mark the start of the Weekender.  Those supporting the wellbeing of older isolated people and others facing isolation alone are welcome to join in, share challenges and signpost suggested solutions. Details of how to join, via a simple link, will be posted at on 3 April. 

Alongside arts and health activities for the elderly, it will focus on social isolation amongst the general population and signpost people towards a number of resources.

The online 'Creative Conversation' will be hosted by Dr Anna Farthing with a team of highly experienced contributors on board including John McMahon (Arts + Health lead for Arts Council England) and Alex Coulter (Director Arts + Health SW), who will share their research and experiences on how arts approaches can help support health and alleviate loneliness.

Creative tasters will include singing for lung health, with singer songwriter Kate Dimbleby introducing the first in a specially created 'BREATHE' series; creative writing with published author Bob Walton; armchair movement with dance practitioner Vic Hole; breathing exercises for relaxation with drama practitioner Angela Athay-Hunt and easy digital media skills with Nick Sutton.  

Where possible other parts of the original 'Weekender' programme are also being reimagined. The team behind the 'Bubble Schmeisis' show scheduled to take place at The Stable in Weston on Saturday 4 April are instead creating free 'Nights on the Tiles' film shorts.

The first short will be aired online at the original performance time of 8pm this Saturday and will include an invitation to audiences everywhere to send in solo music and comedy slots filmed in the makeshift spas of their home bathrooms. 

A creative play resource with outdoor arts company Mufti Games is also being developed and digital content will continue to unfold over the coming weeks to offer on-going support to the community and help keep minds and bodies buoyant. All creative content gathered will be posted on the Culture Weston website in a new 'At Home With Culture' section.

All content is self-filmed and sets a precedent for how people at home can generate compelling creative content with everyday tools. The online event will also catalyse the sharing of resources to form a free online resource bank for agencies and professionals working with older and isolated people.

Fiona Matthews, Culture Weston Director said: "The Weston Arts + Health Weekender is about creating connections between people and shining a light on experiences and resources that have the potential to uplift lives.  We need this now more than ever.  The 'Creative Conversation' marks the start of an online community with multiple opportunities to engage in creative dialogue and activities that can help everyone feel supported."

Anna Farthing, Arts Programme Director, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, added: "Everyone is seeing the value of arts and culture during this period of extraordinary isolation. Television, films, radio, music, and books can offer great distraction, but humans are inherently social creatures and those who are alone can sometimes need  support to express themselves when no-one else is around. Doing, making and moving ourselves through the arts, crafts, dance, drama and creative writing can help us feel that we have some control over our circumstances.

"Our network of artists and contributors all have extensive experience of working in health, care and wellbeing settings and have invaluable skills to share at this challenging time. We are very grateful for their ongoing support and we look forward to bringing new opportunities for creative connection between them, the public, inpatients and hardworking hospital staff over the coming weeks." 

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