COVID-19 CARE: Culture and the Arts, from Restriction to Enhancement: Protecting Mental Health in the Liverpool City Region (August 2020-January 2022)

Cultural Sector Partners: Bluecoat, Choir with No Name, Collective Encounters, DaDaFest, FACT, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, National Museums Liverpool, The Reader, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Merseyside Dance Initiative/Together, METAL, Movema, Open Eye Gallery, Tate Liverpool, Writing on the Wall.

HE Partner: The University of Liverpool

Other Partners: Mersey Care NHS Trust Life Rooms

This study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, assessed the impact on mental health of restricted access to arts and culture in the Liverpool City Region during pandemic lockdowns and the reach and effectiveness of innovative modes of arts provision (including digital).

We found the response of Liverpool’s arts scene was highly imaginative and collaborative, creating new programmes or adapting existing programmes to reach usual as well as new audiences. Online provision proved essential in addressing social isolation and enhancing psychological wellbeing during lockdown, and many beneficiaries referred to this alternative provision as ‘a lifeline’.  At the onset of the COVID crisis, arts and cultural organisations often proactively met the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable people, picking up the pieces when statutory services were under pressure or falling short.

A key finding was that those who accessed arts and culture during full lockdown had significantly higher levels of wellbeing and there was a strong appetite among vulnerable people for continued online provision. However, many at-risk individuals remained out of reach due to digital exclusion, and our study has emphasised the crucial importance of digital training for both providers and beneficiaries.

Cultural organisations which worked closely with health partners had most success in reaching vulnerable populations. In fact, the research has demonstrated the value of coordinating local initiatives and the need to support sustainable partnerships between arts and health providers to improve the effectiveness of cross-sectoral decision-making by service providers and service-users.

Full COVID-19 CARE Report here.

Arts practitioners spoke of the need for a ‘backbone organisation’ or ‘register’ so that local initiatives could be ‘pulled’ or ‘held’ together and targeted more efficiently. In response, the project team worked in partnership with the Liverpool City Region Culture policy team, and in continued collaboration with our arts and cultural and health partners, to co-create a digital resource showcasing best practice in inclusive arts-in-mental-health provision, ‘Liverpool Art of Care’.

LivCare celebrates the work of cultural organisations, creative practitioners, and health and social care providers working in partnership to support the health and wellbeing of people in the Liverpool City Region, particularly those who are vulnerable or marginalised. It also addresses our key recommendation – the need to foster cross-sectoral co-operation – by providing a space to reflect on key issues of concern for stakeholders participating in arts in health partnerships. Expert contributors from local cultural organisations, healthcare settings, policymaker and service user communities share their reflections on the value and challenges of arts in health partnerships.

Researchers: Josie Billington, Katia Balabanova, Joanne Worsley, Tonya Anisimovich, Megan Watkins, Wendy Asquith, Melissa Chapple, Richard Snowden-Leek.

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