Case Study: The Culture Club Wellbeing Project, by Jo Atherton

Back in October, I was invited to join the Culture Challenge team as an Associate to primarily help with the project management of a Wellbeing Project which has been running across three schools in the Bedford region – Cauldwell School, Shortstown Primary and Shackleton Primary.

Throughout the project, we have been referring to the Leuven Scale as a means of assessing how focused, engaged and interested pupils are in a range of different creative activities, with the aim that participating in arts projects will increase confidence and wellbeing.

Pupils have enjoyed a weekly Culture Club where they have had the chance to participate in a wide variety of creative activities, from cross stitch with Mr X Stitch, street dance with Boogie Bop, and into 2018 they will take part in needlework with Anwyn from Evie & Lola, explore dance and words with Motus Dance and finally prepare their entries for The Harpur Trust art competition with local artist, Anne-Marie Stijelja. All of these activities will count towards every child’s Discover and Explore Arts Award.

In addition, pupils took part in a Wellbeing Retreat at the peaceful Chellington Centre in the north Bedfordshire countryside. This was the ideal setting to explore the rural environment through three engaging workshops: campfire storytelling with Jane from Wassledine, making wooden Christmas decorations with Rhonda from Sunny Coppice Forest School and my own clay workshop where we created a variety of pottery hanging ornaments impressed with hedgerow plants. They will also attend an inspiring day with The Philharmonia Orchestra at the end of January.

My role in the project has been to liaise between the three schools and artists, along with providing support as an Arts Award Adviser. This has been an invaluable experience to learn more about how schools work and the many demands on teachers. Speaking as an artist, using the Leuven Scale has been fascinating to actually discern a measurable benefit of our creative practice. To experience first hand the benefits of the arts to improve pupil’s wellbeing has been a privilege, as I have watched the children grow in confidence and blossom whilst participating in our Culture Clubs.