If you are working within or looking to work within the Arts, Creative Industries and Health and Wellbeing sector in Bolton, this is your first port of call.

This website brings together information on resources for anyone working with arts, health and wellbeing whether in the voluntary-community, non-profit or private business sector. If you need some extra help, contact the nervecentre team.

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Live Well Make Art Informal Exchange, Bolton

Funded through *Live Well Make Art and GM Great Places the Informal Exchange project is one of four GM projects bringing together arts and health professionals to discuss development opportunities in the Arts, Health and Wellbeing sector. In Bolton this work contributes to Bolton Vision 2030 Neighbourhood Model (health and wellbeing) and Active and Confident (participation in arts, culture, sport etc… and volunteering) supported by Bolton Cultural Leadership Group.

The Informal Exchange initial project in Bolton comprised a consultation with health professionals and an Informal Exchange Event at Bolton Museum in November 2019 with the theme-

How can the Arts and Health Sectors work together to achieve better outcomes for Bolton?

The project delivery group includes Bolton at Home, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Bolton Libraries and Museum Service and Bolton CCG.

The consultation focused on health priorities, potential for partnership working with arts and cultural organisations and links to social prescribing whilst raising awareness of the wide variety of arts and health activity already happening in Bolton. The consultation showed that there is a great interest in developing relationships to both enhance health services for patients from GP practices to community and voluntary sector health organisations and also for staff working in health services to improve their own health and wellbeing.  Bolton Public Health team have also expressed interest in including arts and health data and developments in the role out of their Start Well, Live Well, Age Well campaigns and also in the new Prevention Concordat currently being developed for better population mental health.

The Informal Exchange event, was hosted by Clare Devaney, Research Associate with the Manchester Institute for Arts Health and Social Change at MMU. The afternoon was based around 5 Ways to Wellbeing experiential activities Connect, Learn, Give, Move and Take Notice with conversations around the themes of young people and mental health, including early years, social isolation/loneliness, activism and challenging stigma and workplace health. 

Provocations resulted in rich conversation and some key themes including;  Better connectivity between people working in arts and health sectors across Bolton, with  more ‘routes in’ between the two sectors, more effective referrals from health to arts, and easier ways for arts practitioners to find the right health expertise (especially when working with vulnerable people and complex needs);  A ‘Shared language’ for arts and health and the importance of consistency in measuring, flexibility from commissioners (rather than one-size fits all) and developing a shared understanding of the ‘value’ in practice-led (rather than outcomes-led evaluation;  Better capacity and resourcing for social prescribing;  Acknowledgement of the benefits of artistic and cultural expression to mental wellbeing (and the importance of mental health for artists and practitioners)

“We need to make mental health more accessible and less scary”.

A key recommendation from the Informal Exchange is to set up a local network with regular networking meetings for arts/culture, health and voluntary sector organisations across Bolton, underpinned by a forum/ ‘shout out’ board for better referrals and signposting. Working through the network to generate a shared understanding of wants and needs, developing collaborative approaches to commissioning, funding and evaluation and to develop capacity, understanding and shared approaches, especially in the priority areas of Social Prescribing and Mental Health.

“Health is such a massive sector. My assumption is that health people are always really busy doing important things. I am never sure of who the right people are or how to get in touch with them.”

The current Covid-19 circumstances have meant that planned next steps sessions addressing key issues have been paused.  However the project group are still on board and looking at ways to make this happen currently by providing a platform for information on the website www.thenervecentre.org.uk   

If you would like your arts and health activity or news to be featured please contact Lory Povah, arts and health consultant working with the project group.


*Live Well Make Art (LWMA) is an informal network of arts professionals and activist, health professionals and activists, academics and people who care passionately about the health of Greater Manchester. We have been working together for two years as a social movement. We want a healthier Greater Manchester, where all its people can share the benefits of engaging in and enjoying the arts and creative activities with each other and we want to make our streets, neighbourhoods and communities better places to live. LWMA has received funding from GMCA, through its Great Places initiative, for a programme of work which is now nearing an end. LWMA has supported Bolton partners to deliver the Informal Exchange event.

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