Arts and Health

Here at Tamalpa UK we believe that creativity can support healthier lives and communities.  We have witnessed first hand how movement based expressive arts has the potential to transform participants lives and their embodied sense of self and wellbeing.

Every year increasing levels of evidence and robust research is being published, backing up what artists, practitioners, creative therapists and participants have known and experienced for decades.

“The power of the arts to heal, transform and be an avenue for change and growth.”

Creativity matters and in our view should not be a luxury or ‘nice to have’ add on.  It is central to who we are as human beings to have the ability and opportunity to express and know ourselves in a safe, non-violent way.

Before I had cancer, I lived my life for my art. After had cancer, I lived my art for my life. I’ve always said dance is the breath made visible.

Anna Halprin

The Tamalpa work has a long history and heritage of working with embodied creativity to support health and wellbeing.  Anna Halprin the Co – Founder of the Tamalpa Institute used her Life Art practice to support her own healing and recovery from Cancer in the early 1970’s.  She went on to work further with Cancer Survivors and other life threatening illnesses, supporting hundreds of participants to explore how creativity and movement could inform their quality of life and work expressively with what was happening to their bodies. 

Anna also worked with dance and the psychokinetic imagery process to help young men afflicted with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in United States in the 1980’s.  By ‘dancing their disease’, they were able to  express their pent up fear, grief, anger, and frustration, as well as their support and love for each other in a safe environment.  Anna observed that the sense of community and strength gave AIDS victims a sense of belonging and peace, whilst reducing social isolation. 

Read more on Anna’s approach on how to understand the emotional processes of a health crisis, with clear guidelines for how to work with these insights in her book Returning to Health: With Dance, Movement and imagery by Anna Halprin  

In the UK and around the world recognition and respect for the impact of creativity on health and wellbeing is continuing to grow. With increasing levels of scientific evidence, international conferences, symposiums and peer reviewed publications continuing to support the field.  

Over the past few years there have been some key landmarks in this development in the UK.

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The launch of Culture Health and Wellbeing inquiry in 2017 was the outcome of The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) which was formed in 2014.  The inquiry aims to improve awareness of the benefits that the arts can bring to health and wellbeing. During 2015–17, the APPGAHW conducted an Inquiry into practice and research in the arts in health and social care, with a view to making recommendations to improve policy and practice.  As a result, the Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance was formed and launched in 2018.

The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance is a national membership organisation representing everyone who believes that creativity and cultural engagement can transform health and wellbeing in peoples lives.

Since 2012 the London Arts and health forum as a membership organisation has developed the role of culture in wellbeing and actively promoted and supported the arts in health activity across London and nationally.

Tamalpa UK has supported their annual Creativity and Wellbeing week, by running a free Tamalpa Class each year as part of their festival since 2012.   More recently the London Arts and Health Forum have teamed up with the Cultural Health and Wellbeing Alliance to expand the National Creativity and Wellbeing Week to be a national event.

The Repository for Arts and Health Resources  launched in 2017 as a timely online resource.  At the heart of the Repository is an online, searchable database, housing over 578 documents that chart the development of the Arts and Health movement in the UK and internationally, from 1996 onwards. Most are directly available as free downloads and are accompanied by the relevant citations.

In 2019 a key publication from the WHO – World Health Organisation, launched with their Health Evidence Network Synthesis report 67, What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?  A scoping review Dr Daisy Fancourt and Saorise Finn.  The report synthesizes the global evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being, with a specific focus on the WHO European Region. Results from over 3000 studies identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan.

In 2020 the UK Government published their Evidence Summary for the policy of the role of arts in improving health and wellbeing. In response the findings of the 2019 WHO publication.

The National Centre for Creative Health launched in 2021 and was formed in response to the Creative Health report in 2017.  Its main objective is to play a pivotal role in promoting collaboration to enable creative health to become integral to health and social care and wider system.

With the recent launch of  The National Centre for Creative Health it is our hope that further opportunities, funding, further research and accessibility for all continues to grow nationally and support international recognition and development further to.

The Arts & Health field is continuing to gain momentum and now more than ever creativity and its place in our lives is being recognised.  It has been particularly encouraging to see how Social Prescribing is becoming more embedded into our local health system here in the UK.  

Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, and many schemes are focused on improving mental health and physical wellbeing. Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with mild or long-term mental health problems, people with complex needs, people who are socially isolated and those with multiple long-term conditions who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.”

Government Report 2019 Social Prescribing: applying all our health

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