Arts & Health
Around 25% of GP consultations can offer no medical solution for the patients’ concerns
because at the root of their worries are problems that are social in nature rather than
medical. In response the NHS have rolled out a new social prescribing service in the
UK. Social prescribing is the process by which GPs and others refer someone to a Link
Worker, who is a new professional in the health system who can spend more time with
the patient identifying what matters to them and help put things in place that might
ultimately improve their health and wellbeing. This often involves referring the patient to
social solutions such as arts and culture, sports, nature, financial support and housing.
Arts Derbyshire are undertaking development work, funded by Public Health, focused
on how the culture, health and wellbeing sectors can work together to ensure that social
prescribing clients have good access to the County’s cultural offer. We are aiming to do
this in a strategic but nuanced way.
At the time Covid 19 hit the UK, the first tranche of NHS Link Workers were just about
on board. A new type of worker within the NHS family…a small army of people excited
and hopeful about the prospect of bringing a social model of working to sit alongside the
medical one, and at being able to use their skills to help people figure out what matters
to them. But what happens to Social Prescribing at a time of social distancing? When
the social is shut down, how can social be prescribed? And when a role that is
fundamentally about connection between people and the social fabric of the world
around them, can’t be done in the way that it was intended, where does that leave the
Link Worker? What happens to all that excitement…and that hope?
Based on conversations with a number of Link Workers, Arts Derbyshire developed
Cultural Prescriptions, a creative programme designed specifically for Link Workers in
Derbyshire. An artist driven programme, it was designed to support and enrich the Link
Worker interactions with clients through creative approaches. Conducted through a
series of zoom gatherings on Zoom over six months throughout 2020, it drew on some
of the essential qualities of the artist such as agility, imagination and curiosity. It
encouraged Link Workers to follow passions, notice what others don’t and experiment
and adapt in order to see how these might be maximised within their own Link Worker
The Link Workers realised through their work that for most people it’s easy to notice the
gloom. It often turns up without invite, wandering in and taking a seat before we know it.
But, they thought, what about the joy? Sometimes the most joyful things come along
when and where we least expect them. The surprise and interruption to routine gives it
an energy that it might not otherwise have. But too often it seems we have to work
harder for the joy. So they did. Together with some of their clients they treasure hunted
the joyful interruptions that bring us to life when we need it. They are now held within
the Joyful Interruptions Zine. It should be used as a jumping off point to find more.
As Social Prescribing fundamentally relies on cross-sector, collaborative working, in
which the medical model sits alongside the social, the Manifesto is ultimately intended
as a provocation to ask whether there is real collective vision for this work is and to
question whether we are all on the same page, locally, regionally and nationally. During
these sessions Link Workers discussed and debated what the link worker role is. As a
result they co-produced a Link Worker Manifesto to share their thinking with others. It is
an expression of why this group of Link Workers believe their role exists; what they think
the potential of their practice is and what they need in order to achieve that potential.
Cultural Prescriptions Link Worker Support Programme Trailer:
Cultural Prescriptions Link Worker Support Programme, Full Film:
Link Worker Manifesto Video:
Below are links to digital versions of our printed manifesto and our Joyful Interruptions Zine.
As a result of Cultural Prescriptions and the Link Worker Manifesto, Arts Derbyshire have been
commissioned by Derbyshire Public Health to undertake a next phase of work. One aspect of
that work is to undertake an artist’s inquiry into social prescribing. The intention of this is to
gather ideas, insights, and perspectives, from across the range of sectors of people involved in
social prescribing in Derbyshire; to understand what they believe social prescribing is and what
it has the potential to be.
This is because as we develop the link worker manifesto and as we develop work across
Derbyshire, it’s not clear that we are united in vision, understanding, and ambition. The artist’s
inquiry is designed to go deeper and to get under the skin of the issue in a variety of ways and
bring all that together to inform how we develop social prescribing in Derbyshire for the future.
Arts Derbyshire are also currently trying to secure resources for a cultural programmer who will
work across the cultural sector and with other voluntary sector organisations to create offers and
uncover offers that can be made to social prescribing link workers and their clients. We think of
this as a live mapping of the resources and activities that are out there, with a deliberate
mechanism to bridge different sectors.
Artist Kate Genever has been commissioned to investigate by Arts Derbyshire and DCC
Public Health. Her job is to conduct a cross sector inquiry. She will do this through
conversations; making; provocations; debates and convened shared spaces. From this, the
insights that can move us forward will emerge.
Social Prescribing is a challenging new area of work, but it is also a massive opportunity to
respond to the growing complexity of demand on health services. We have a responsibility
to the Derbyshire population, to get this right. To be part of this inquiry or to nominate
someone who you think we should involve, please contact us:
Read about our festivals development work Image courtesy of Buxton Fringe
Find out more about film development projects supported by Arts Derbyshire.
Events, information, and opportunities for readers, writers and poets. Image: Courtesy of Derbyshire Literature Festival
Arts Derbyshire has supported many performing arts projects over the years. Image courtesy of Junction Arts Tapton Lock Festival
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