Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports Pilot Theatre’s ‘Happiness Project – Creative Wellbeing Toolkit’

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, through the Better Care Fund, Make It York and City of York Council awarded funding of more than £10,000 to seven social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health during the winter months. 

The grants were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. 

One initiative the grant scheme supported was the ‘Happiness Project – Creative Wellbeing Toolkit’, led by theatre company Pilot Theatre. Exploring the themes of joy and happiness, the project set out to create a wellbeing toolkit for LGBTQIA+ young people aged 18-26 which would help support and promote their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Over six sessions held weekly during February and March on Zoom, Pilot Theatre worked with Mindfulness and Movement practitioner Lizzie Wiggs and a group of young LGBTQIA+ people to develop the toolkit. In the sessions Lizzie worked with participants to discuss all things wellbeing and explored the best ways to effectively identify and support self-care needs. The sessions were practical and creative, offering a supportive, safe environment for the sharing of experiences. 

During these six weeks, the young people were encouraged to keep a journal, and through guided prompts were tasked to reflect on their current daily routine and habits.  Weekly creative tasks were also set to help increase connection and engagement away from the screen. These included fun tasks such as  designing their own positive affirmation to be put by their bed, recordings of mindfulness meditations, blackout poetry and free writing, growing sunflower crest seeds, and daily walks in nature. 

From the discussions, activities, and creative responses of those involved in the sessions, a Creative Wellbeing Toolkit is now being created which will be freely available for other young adults and LGBTQIA+ organisations to utilise.  The toolkit resource will be fun and engaging and designed to help improve the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of young people across the country.  

Amanda Smith, Executive Producer & Joint Chief Executive of Pilot Theatre said: “The Happiness Project focuses on exploring what it really means to be happy and this is hugely important in the lives of young people today. With this particular initiative we set out to create an interactive and engaging toolkit that could benefit LGBTQIA+ young people across the country to enhance and improve their wellbeing.  

The sessions we ran with Lizzie were a great opportunity for the young adults we worked with to take time out to reflect on their wellbeing and share experiences in a completely safe space. Over the six week we saw that participants became increasingly more able to notice their habits and behaviours, signs of being stressed or anxious, and could then effectively apply the tools we had been sharing to support them through this.  

We are really pleased with how successful the project was – with feedback from all the young people involved showing that their wellbeing was positively changed by their involvement in the sessions.  It was also fantastic to hear that those we worked with intended to continue exploring their wellbeing creatively in the future, showing the long-lasting impact this kind of work can have.  

We are really excited to launch the Creative Wellbeing toolkit over the coming months which will be shared widely with our cultural and community networks so that it can be utilised by young people across the country.”  

Feedback from participants has been very positive with comments including: 

“This has made such a massive difference in my life, how I start my day affects my mood so much and having a structured time for myself first time has made me feel much calmer and in control. It has also helped me so much with my own self-esteem and boundaries, taking the mornings entirely for myself and giving myself time before anyone else has been really empowering!”

 “The six weeks has absolutely flown by and it’s been an absolute treat to sit down and decompress from the week with such a great group of people! I’ve taken the most away from the meditation practice where I’ve become more aware of my thoughts and accepting them as they arise.” 

Pilot Theatre will be hosting a ‘Tenacious Women’ an online panel event for York Festival of Ideas on Wednesday 16th June. You can register to attend here: https://pilottenaciouswomen.eventbrite.co.uk 

To follow any of Pilot’s other upcoming projects and participation opportunities please go to pilot-theatre.com.