Doing Things Differently: Creative Health Innovation in Greater Manchester


At the recent World Health Congress Europe 2019, leaders championed the roles of culture and the arts in the region-wide health plan for Greater Manchester.


Devolution enables the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, population of 2.8 million people, to fund and direct health and social services independently. Driven by the digital revolution and the ability to map a large area and target solutions at scale, GM is undergoing collaboration between sectors and an emphasis on locality needs. In this context of rapid, scaled-up positive change, arts and cultural interventions are increasingly gaining attention as versatile, effective and desirable means of engaging the population in healthy behavior change.

Addressing delegates from all over the world, Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England, said that he had never before had the opportunity to address a health audience. Welcome to Manchester!


Arts and Mental Innovation in Children’s Services

THRIVE is the national transformation of children’s services. The redesigned model aims to enhance interagency working, increase choice for service users, and to direct efforts towards the existing resources of young people themselves. We know that current services for young people meet the needs of only half the families who access them – and access itself is an issue. Cultural and creative options help shape the experience of care to suit individuals in their personal contexts, and are less demanding on medicalized services. This system-wide approach, in which all stakeholders support recovery, shifts the focus away from ‘fixing’ the child; a dangerous notion with regards to working systemically as required to effectively support their wellbeing.

THRIVE is helping systems to reimagine a broader clinical offer advocated in THRIVE in which people are empowered to identify their route to recovery for themselves, in ways that are meaningful to them. Arts-led methods can significantly improve any interactions, and by their very nature, support creative problem-solving. Moreover, arts-led options are safe. I need not worry about the girls I work with overdosing on their choir practice, but I know this practice provides all-important peer support and improves their mood.


Around the Corner

In GM, the borough of Rochdale have opted for a blended service ‘Around the Corner’, co-produced by clinicians, artists and young people, schools and families. These innovative partnerships offer a range of creative ways to engage in mental health support. On the south coast, Hampshire has a similar programme which includes film-making, dance, poetry and photography.

Back in Gorton, a dense and diverse part of Manchester, Company Chameleon uses bold and compelling contemporary dance to help schools deliver mental health education. This method of understanding and expressing feelings, using the whole body, can touch and connect people in ways very difficult to achieve using language alone.


”Think social before medical. Think cultural before pills.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of GM, and John Rouse, CEO of Manchester’s NHS Foundation Trust, have each declared their vision for an important role of the arts and culture in improving the lives and health of the population. Instead of working to fix problems by fixing people, there is a move towards problem-solving by engaging people as active citizens to protect community wellbeing.

Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University is among the many beacons in GM propelling this human right to its rightful place in wellbeing agendas. If we continue to take the ‘bold and radical steps’ encouraged by GM leaders, who have made the arts and culture are integral to their health strategy, we cannot fail to improve GM.

Children’s mental health services risk overmedicalizing young people’s distress, while neglecting the ingredients required to flourish. Unique to GM iTHRIVE is an Arts and Mental Health Innovation Programme, and my aims to secure more creative options in line with the ambitious changes GM have already made.

We will fund several promising pilots later this year, with the aim of informing commissioning decisions. The arts and culture have a vital role in reimaging how we provide healthcare, and the national agenda is reflecting this more and more. Last week, London’s Southbank Centre hosted the UK’s first Creative Health conference, covered on NHS England’s website and featuring a talk from Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England.


Kirjoittaja: Katherine Taylor

Katherine Taylor began work as a psychology researcher in 2005 at the University of Manchester, before joining the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University. In 2010 Kat undertook clinical psychology doctoral training, where her research into extremes of mood continued and her journey into creativity, arts and health started. Upon qualifying, Taylor took a 3 year post with the pioneering Arts for Health at MMU, on the innovative mixed-methods research programme, Dementia and Imagination. Taylor now works clinically in Children’s Services (Lancaster & Morecambe CAMHS) alongside her GM iTHRIVE arts innovation role, which was developed as a result of a 2017 Churchill Fellowship.

Kuva: Katherine Taylorin kotialbumi