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Southbank Centre’s Creative Health Conference

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By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 05 June 2020

On Monday 10th June 2019, Southbank Centre’s first Creative Health Conference took place, bringing together artists, practitioners, funders and policy makers in the arts and health sectors, and officially launching National Creativity and Wellbeing Week (10 – 16 June 2019).

The UK’s largest Creative Health Conference was expertly led by Choirmaster Mark De Lisser who recently appeared in BBC’s two part documentary Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rebecca Pow, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Simon Stevens CEO of NHS England and Southbank Centre’s Director of Music Gillian Moore CBE were among the speakers at the conference, which focused on innovation in arts and health, social isolation and loneliness and exploring the benefits that arts can bring to health and wellbeing. These include:

  • An arts-on-prescription project which has seen a 37 percent drop in GP consultation rates and a 27 percent reduction in hospital admissions.

  • A report conducted within deprived communities in London has found that, of those people who engaged with the arts, 79 percent ate more healthily, 77 percent engaged in more physical activity and 82 percent enjoyed greater wellbeing.

  • Music therapy has been found to reduce agitation and the need for medication in 67 percent of people with dementia.

  • Growing evidence suggests that participatory arts activities help to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress both within and outside of work. Arts therapies have been found to have similar benefits for cancer patients and people recovering from brain injury, as well as increasing resilience and wellbeing (Source: Creative Health: The Arts for Health Wellbeing report).

  • A recent study shows that cultural engagement predicts changes in cognitive function in older adults over a 10 year period where cultural engagement included going to the theatre, opera or concerts. Results revealed attendance was associated with a lesser decline in cognitive function. (Source: Fancourt D, Steptoe A. Cultural engagement predicts changes in cognitive function in older adults over a 10 year period: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, 2018)

The conference was presented by Southbank Centre in association with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, London Arts in Health Forum, Arts Council England, and the Centre for Performance Science (Royal College of Music and Imperial College London).

The Rt Hon. Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “The arts and social activities are life enhancing and have been proven to have a demonstrable impact on health and wellbeing, including reducing reliance on medication.”

“Our Long Term Plan for the NHS aims to harness this incredible power through a roll out of social prescribing so 900,000 people will be referred to schemes by 2024. We are also building a National Academy for Social Prescribing which will champion social prescribing and grow the research base so even more communities can benefit.”

Rebecca Pow MP, Minister for Arts Heritage and Tourism, said: “Engagement with the arts and culture can have a transformative impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Not only does it make us happier and healthier but a strong arts and culture offer makes our towns and cities better places to live, work and visit. We are committed to supporting social prescribing to ensure that help is available to those who need it.”

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England, said: “The arts enrich our lives and our shared humanity. They also can promote social connection and positive health and wellbeing. That’s why the NHS is supporting approaches such as social prescribing which help people get involved in something they enjoy, while improving their health at the same time.”

Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “There’s a growing body of evidence showing the value that creativity and the arts can bring to improving people’s health. We’re working with healthcare practitioners and researchers to increase the insight that will help us to better understand the ways in which artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries can play their part in helping everyone to lead happier, healthier lives.”

Gillian Moore CBE, Director of Music, Southbank Centre, said: “The evidence for the benefits of the arts on mental and physical health at all ages are clearly documented and the earlier this starts, the better. Young people need access at an early age to creativity and culture to gain the wellbeing benefits that will last them their whole lives. At a time when opportunities for transformative experiences in art and culture are diminishing for young people, this conference – the biggest gathering so far in this country on arts, health and wellbeing – is timely.

“These are important issues which Southbank Centre is committed to addressing in its day to day work. This conference is the first of what will be an annual event at Southbank Centre, so that we continue to share the considerable expertise across all sectors in this vital area of work, and to ensure that the role of arts in improving the lives of people is fully understood and implemented.”

From its conception with the 1951 Festival of Britain – at the time seen as a tonic for the nation’s wellbeing – through to the present day, Southbank Centre has long been an advocate of the role of the arts and culture in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Southbank Centre is committed to presenting an annual conference on Arts & Health and will be working with Aesop on the 2020 conference to take place on 30 June.