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How can arts & culture support health and wellbeing during lockdown?

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Children identified as being at home and at risk from the loneliest of lockdowns are being targeted by a pioneering project to support wellbeing by delivering creativity and culture to their doors.

Arts Drop uses social workers to distribute activity packs to 1,500 children and young people who have been identified as the most vulnerable in the Calderdale area.

The Creative Learning Guild (CLG) is co-ordinating the scheme on behalf of Calderdale Cultural Education Partnership as a substitute for its plans to work with children and young people to increase arts and culture in schools.

Gilly Bryerley, Managing Director of the CLG, who leads the Partnership, said: “Since the lockdown started no one can run the sessions and we can’t work with the children via schools. But because we know the lives that these children lead, and we have an awareness of how risky their situation under lockdown might be, we are taking what we do into their homes.”

Elaine Burke, an Arts and Health Consultant who planned the activities and the content for the packs, said: “The starting point is how to support wellbeing among the most vulnerable children in such difficult times and Arts Drop, with its variety of tailored activities, is the answer.”

Calderdale Cultural Education Partnership has secured support for Arts Drop from IVE, the Arts Council’s Bridge organisation for Yorkshire and Humber, and Open Minds, which provides advice, information, support and signposting on emotional health and wellbeing services to help children, young people and families, and from the Community Foundation for Calderdale.

Business support has come from YPO, which supplies products and services to a wide range of customers including schools, local authorities, charities, emergency services, public sector and other businesses such as nurseries and care homes, and from local independent businesses Ushiwear in Mirfield and Print Bureau in Hebden Bridge.

Their input has enabled Arts Drop to work with around 20 individual artists and creative organisations who are experienced in working with schools and children.

Chris Mould, the Halifax-based author and illustrator, gave his services free of charge to design the Arts Drop logo which decorates the activity tote bags.

Ms Burke said: “The Arts Drop creative activities are specially designed to bolster children’s wellbeing – for example by learning new skills, finding calm and developing imagination. It’s about connecting children to creativity and wellbeing, connecting them to their cultural community and connecting their cultural community to them.

“The families and households we are targeting are very stressed places and we thought very carefully about how best to use creativity to support them. For example we have avoided messy materials so that children doing the activities can feel the benefits of being creative without the risk of mess and subsequent conflict, stress and upset.”

Gilly said: “Elaine has been making sure that the activities are helping the emotional health and wellbeing of the people who will receive them but the key to the project in the current climate has been the link with the local authority and the health services to make sure we can get these packs to children and young people. We run the Local Cultural Education Partnership for Calderdale but we’ve never worked on this scale or at this speed and there’s no way this project would work if we didn’t have the social workers.

“It started as a one-off idea for around 900 children but we’re already up to 1,500 and we’re being chased by other charities and organisations who want Arts Drop for their children. The answer to that will be to do with resources. We are extremely grateful to all the organisations who have helped us to make this happen and we hope the appeal on our Localgiving site will enable us to do more.”

To support Arts Drop please visit https://localgiving.org/fundraising/artsdrop/