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Leeds, culture & mental health

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Linda Boyles, Arts & Minds Network and Chris Sharp, Leeds Museums & Galleries delivering the Museum Minds workshop at Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent. Photo credit: Simon Bequoye & Iedereen Leest

There is an increasing recognition of the positive role cultural engagement can play in achieving and maintaining good health and wellbeing.

Our wonderful colleagues in Leeds Museums and Galleries' Community Team and their partners in the NHS Arts & Minds Network have been sharing the great work taking place in Leeds at an international conference for Culture and Mental Health in Ghent, Belgium.

The event in November 2022 was organized by Iedereen Leest and Museum Dr. Guislain, and explored the important role arts and culture can play for the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Chris Sharp (LCC, Leeds Museums and Galleries) and Linda Boyles (Arts Development Manager for NHS Arts and Minds Network) went to represent Leeds and the ways in which the city’s cultural offer continues to be utilised as a tool for improving mental health within our communities. Chris’ attendance at the conference was possible thanks to Arts Council England funding.

Leeds Museums and Galleries' community team are integral to driving this important work, and often partner with different organisations to widen their impact and to create deeper connections with participants.

Leeds Museums and Galleries and the Arts and Minds Network have a long and successful track record of working together in partnership to provide positive experiences for people, and providing the circumstances for them to improve their own wellbeing.

Chris and Linda delivered a 90 minute workshop ‘Museum Minds’ which shared the learning from creative sessions held in 2020, 2021, and 2022. A toolkit was created along with conference participants following workshops and a discussion of case studies led by Linda and Chris.

These workshops took place across Leeds, at Temple Newsam House, Leeds Discovery Centre, Leeds City Museum, Leeds Art Gallery and Leeds Industrial Museum. Creative activities have included printing workshops, online talks and art activities during lockdown, and recreating the most expensive wallpaper in the world (familiar to many visitors to Temple Newsam!)

These sessions, run in partnership with Arts & Minds, brought people together on their own terms in safe and welcoming venues. Using the skills of both organisations often complemented by engaging freelance artists, hundreds of participants have benefited from the programme.

"Attending the conference provided great opportunities to listen, participate, and learn from our peers" says Chris. "Applying learning from others back in Leeds will benefit the cultural life of the city and the ways in which this can be further used to help people’s wellbeing."

"A particular highlight was reconnecting with a contact from National Museums Wales who has undertaken a similar journey to us, using gardening activities for community wellbeing, along with listening to an inspirational keynote speech from Liz Atkin, who is an advovate for mental health with lived experience."

"It was also brilliant to see work on the theme of culture and mental health on display in the Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent that had been created by artists in communities local to Leeds and Bradford!"

An unexpected outcome of attending the conference and networking in the sector is the intention of bringing an international week long training event to Leeds in 2024, working in partnership with conference hosts Dr Guislain Museum and organiser Bart de Nil.

Leeds Museums and Galleries are now discussing how to make this further event a reality and to continue and deepen relationships being formed.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of culture in health and wellbeing and the work of Leeds Museums and Galleries and the Leeds Arts and Minds Network, please contact us for more information

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