New phase of creative wellbeing programme for Wales’ artists launches

Cygnor Celfyddydau Cymru - Arts Council of Wales,
22 October 2023, Wales

Wales’ artists working with people experiencing mental health problems can access free creative reflective practice sessions to support their own wellbeing as part of a new phase of support from Wales Arts Health and Wellbeing Network’s ‘How Ya Doing?’ programme, funded by the Baring Foundation 
Artists Alison O’Connor, Jain Boon and Cai Tomos, are delivering the creative reflective practice programme for peers across Wales.  

Creative somatic exercises 
Jain, a theatre-maker and somatic experiencing practitioner, will join Alison, an integrative therapist and clinical supervisor with 25 years of experience. They’ll offer a set of creative somatic exercises to tend to and support artists’ nervous system and offer a series of exercises, inviting them to reflect on their work and wellbeing through a compassionate lens. 
Meanwhile, Cai will offer one-to-one online sessions to Welsh speaking artists who would like support to reflect on their practice and the impact of their clients and context or organisation on what they do and how they do it, using a psychotherapeutic and trauma-informed supportive framework. 
Freelance creatives can sign up for this very low-cost opportunity and once they have completed the initial courses, they can continue access a monthly drop-in session to maintain this support.  
The programme is in line with what colleagues in England (Arts and Health Hub) and Ireland (Minding Creative Minds) are doing to support freelance artists’ mental and emotional wellbeing. we're delighted to once again be working with arts and health expert Jane Willis, to embed creative evaluation throughout this programme. 
“It’s been a difficult few years for freelance artists in Wales and beyond, with the financial, physical and emotional impacts of the pandemic having been compounded by rising costs,” said Angela Rogers. “We’re delighted to have stellar professionals like Cai, Jain and Alison involved in this new phase of work and to be working again with arts and health expert Jane Willis to embed creative evaluation throughout this programme. 
“Being a freelance artist can be wonderful but it can also be lonely, particularly when you’re working in mental health settings or with people experiencing mental health problems. So many artists said they gained something valuable from the pilot programme so, we’re thrilled to be able to offer another two years of new and innovative creative wellbeing options to build on that support.” 

Building on success
Jain, Alison and Cai are delivering one strand of the two-year, Baring Foundation-supported programme. How Ya Doing? aims to build on a successful pilot phase in 2021-2022 funded by Arts Council Wales, when freelance artists accessed a range of free support for their emotional and mental wellbeing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This latest phase will not only support individual freelance artists but also the wider infrastructure by supporting arts organisations to develop robust wellbeing strategies and plans. 
“Our intention [with this programme] is to create a safe, confidential space in which artists can reflect on the work that they do,” said Jain. “Previous participants have said that their creative reflective practice sessions have been permission giving. A place of acceptance and a safe place to share. Individuals have noticed a softening of the body.”