Case Studies

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: 

To follow any of Pilot’s other upcoming projects and participation opportunities please go to  

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports ‘The Groves Artwalk’

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 project the grant scheme supported was the ‘The Groves Artwalk’, which aimed to reduce isolation, increase community spirit and enhance residents’ wellbeing within the Groves area of York through building a community of makers and developing a series of art trail events.

Focusing on reaching the most vulnerable and isolated members of the community, the initiative set out to engage with residents through creativity activity prompts and putting together a trail that the wider community could enjoy.

At the start of the project, participants received a pack with an assortment of art materials and weekly prompts to help inspire their artwork. From drawing and clay modelling to collages and painting, the weekly activities were designed to cover a broad spectrum of different art forms. At the end of each week, the makers displayed their works in the windows, with a map created to show the art trail promoted via social media.

Participants could also get involved in weekly video calls to share their work and discuss ideas, helping to boost social contact and interactions between the group.

Natalie McKeown who led the project said “The arts are proven to have a hugely positive effect on building a sense of community and enhancing wellbeing, and with this project we really wanted to harness that to help improve the lives of local residents.

Loneliness is a known problem in the area and reducing isolation was really at the heart of this initiative, as well as giving people a chance to try something new and be creative. The weekly prompts were designed to encourage people to work with different art forms and develop new hobbies that they can easily do at home.

Feedback from participants was really positive and it was great to see that by the end of the project, 75% of participants reported that felt they were part of a community. Before we started, almost half (43%) of participants reported that their average mood during the week leading up to the project had been somewhat low or depressed. However by the end of the project, zero participants reported feeling low or depressed during the previous week which was really great to hear that the activities had had such a positive impact.

Despite the necessary restrictions with Covid meaning we couldn’t deliver the sessions face to face, it was really lovely to see the participants coming together virtually and making

meaningful connections. Over the weeks the group really bonded, sharing their art pieces and ideas and keeping in touch via messaging between sessions.

Thank you to the Better Care Fund for enabling us to put on this project and to all the participants who took part so enthusiastically and created some amazing pieces.”

For updates on future Artwalk projects, join the mailing list by emailing Natalie at and keep an eye on

Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports St Nicks ‘Journey Through Winter’s Heart’ Project

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 project the grant scheme supported was Journey Through Winter’s Heartled by local charity St Nicks. The project set out to boost spirits during the winter season and increase social connection through promoting the power of nature and creativity.  

Offering a series of fun craft workshops and creative nature explorations sessions, participants were able to learn about nature and get involved in a range of activities – from candle making and willow crafting, to poetry and games.  

One hundred York residents were involved in these sessions which were aimed at increasing social connection – particularly within marginalised or disadvantaged groups and those negatively impacted by the pandemic. The charity worked with groups such as the York Mosque, LGBT Forum, Wilberforce Trust, York Carers and Changing Lives to ensure the sessions were as inclusive as possible and were tailored to meet the different groups’ needs.  

Despite lockdown restrictions, the St Nicks team quickly adapted to create a blended offer – incorporating both online Zoom calls with opportunities for people to get out and find objects in nature. Craft materials were hand-delivered to participants helping to encourage more people to get involved and the team worked hard to remove any barriers to inclusion, even providing technical support for those who had never used Zoom before. 

Esther Smith Charity Support Manager at St Nicks said “We’ve been aware for a long time of the powerful impact that connecting with nature can have on people’s mental wellbeing and we wanted these sessions to be a really inclusive way to give residents across the city opportunities to get creative and enjoy nature. We were really keen to promote the message that connecting to nature doesn’t necessarily mean going out for a long hike – it incorporates all sorts of things, such as crafting and getting out to forage for materials, writing poetry, nature journaling or simply being outside feeding the birds. 

“Our aim with this project was to really help local people feel as connected as possible this winter – both with nature and with each other, and to help beat the winter blues. We wanted to offer fun, creative activities that would also give opportunities for socialising and online discussion to help people forge lasting links with each other and their local community.  

Feedback from participants has been hugely positive and we are really proud that 100% of those who responded to our survey said the sessions reduced their isolation and improved their physical and mental wellbeing. We found that the conversation really flowed in the sessions and it was a great way of connecting people and giving them opportunities to learn more about nature and the work we do here at St Nicks.  

What has also been lovely about this project are the continued links we have with the groups that we partnered with – being able to develop these relationships is really important to us and allows us to tailor our ongoing activities using their feedback.  

Thank you to the Better Care Fund for helping us to put on these sessions which really allowed people to come together virtually to enjoy nature and be creative, creating some much-needed social connection, especially over this winter period.” 

St Nicks have a number of ongoing projects and opportunities for residents to be involved with – these include: 

  • Bushcraft: a hands-on, practical experience for those aged 14+ to develop skills and knowledge that can be applied to survive and thrive in a natural environment.  
  • Green Influencers – a scheme to support young people aged 10-14 years to make a difference to the local community and environment through youth social action projects benefitting schools and communities in the area. 
  • Access to Inclusion- St Nicks is working alongside local partners and stakeholders in order to provide mentoring, training and engaging activities for participants, helping people to develop their own skills and moving them closer to employment market.  

For more information about the charity visit 

Meet the Shambles Market Trader: Zulia Finnigan

Trading on Shambles Market since 2016, Zulia Finnigan is a local artist who creates beautiful and unique feather-based paintings.  Combining her love of nature with her creative talent, Zulia has a wide range of intricately hand-painted feather designs for customers to choose from – depicting everything from birds and flowers to animals and insects.  

During lockdown, Zulia continued to receive commissions and sell her artwork via her Instagram and Facebook pages and has now returned to trade at the r Shambles Market three days a week – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Over the lockdown period, Zulia also developed a new passion for crochet and in her spare time has been crafting some stylish and vibrant handbags that customers can also now purchase from her stall at the market. 

A long-time artist of landscapes and city views, Zulia has been painting on feathers for over 5 years and has a real passion for using this rare medium for her beautifully colourful designs. Initially starting out by selling her artwork at craft and art fairs, Zulia found the feedback from customers was so positive that she was keen to progress to taking a regular stall every week on Shambles Market.  

Zulia explains: “I absolutely love creating my feather paintings and offering my customers something really unique and different. With my pieces I’ve been inspired by my passion for nature and I love to create intricate paintings of my favourite birds and animals. I often get feedback from people that they have never seen art pieces like this before and over the years I’ve had such positive reactions to my work which has been really lovely.  

I have many customers who return again and again to buy my feathers and I am very proud that they have flown all around the world – reaching countries like Canada, Australia, USA, Indonesia and China. I also have a lot of York residents who buy my paintings, as well as tourists looking to pick up something a little different as a memento of their visit to our lovely city.  

During lockdown I’ve been busy working on lots of new designs to restock my stall and have also found a new hobby in my crochet-work! The crocheting is something I really enjoy and it’s lovely to be able to share my passion for this with my customers too.  

It’s been great to return to the market and getting back out to chat to my customers in person. Building relationships with my customers and the other traders is one of my favourite things about being on the market and I am so glad to be back. Please do come on down to my stall and have a chat with me about my artwork!” 

See more of Zulia’s amazing designs by heading to Shambles Market on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.  

Case Study – THOR’S Tipi

THOR’S Tipi, a national well-loved brand, will be familiar to many as one of the staple experiences at York Christmas Market and other Christmas markets across the country and was originally founded right here in York. The organisation first started as a company providing tents for special occasions and events, such as weddings – and whilst the weddings business was successful in spring-summer time, winters were a traditionally quiet period. This is how the idea for THOR’S Tipi offering drinks and a cosy place to relax after busy Christmas shopping during the festive period was born.  

THOR’S Tipi first approached Make It York in 2015 with the idea of doing a ‘tipi bar’ at the York Christmas Markets. This was a start of the long-lasting relationship that has seen THOR’S Tipi grow and expand over the years. By 2019 the company was operating within seven Christmas markets from London to Edinburgh, with each site offering unique features. Special attention is paid to every detail, and the experiences are designed to offer the best experience to all customers.  

Amanda, the co-owner of THOR’S Tipi, says: 

“The name THOR’S came from York’s Viking history. We see York as our home and wanted to have a connection between our business and the city’s heritage. The team at Make It York have actually helped us with the choice for the name, and it’s been fun to work with them on different projects and collaboration ideas. Dominic and Rachel in the events team are knowledgeable, creative and constantly push us through the innovation process motivating us to come up with new concepts every time”.  

To THOR’S the Christmas Market is everything, as the business was born to create a place for people to dwell and relax during the busy and exciting festive period. The cancellation of the 2020 York Christmas Market due to the pandemic was unfortunate, however THOR’S supported the decision that put people’s health & safety first and are looking forward to returning to their “home” – Parliament Street, in 2021.  

2020 was a year of reflection, however, THOR’S continued to work with local organisations on new projects and opportunities. During summer 2020, THOR’S worked with the York BID to create an outdoor hospitality place at College Green. This year, from April 12th and the beginning of the relaxation of the national lockdown in the UK, THOR’S are operating an outdoor seating space on Parliament Street for customers from nearby businesses to use – right in the heart of York city centre. 

Photo credit: THOR’S and Joe Dodsworth Photography

The relationship THOR’S have created with Make It York over five years, helps to bring together various York businesses, opening the door for THOR’S to use a network of suppliers, at the same time supporting local producers. Dominic Berry, Senior Health & Safety Event Manager and Rachel Harvey, Development Manager from Make It York have been working closely with THOR’S for many years, offering support, sharing knowledge and expertise of city centre events and making connections.  

Amanda adds: 

“Events experience is undoubtably one of Make It York’s strengths. Dominic and Rachel are like a font of knowledge, they can advise on health and safety, support with licensing and planning proposals and help to transform our idea into a successful city centre event. Over time, THOR’S has grown into a national, much loved brand – whose roots belong in York. And ultimately without Make It York’s trust in our offer and ability to deliver, we wouldn’t be here today.” 

Find out more about THOR’S Tipi here:  

Meet the Shambles Market Trader: Kevin Tuohy from Bags of Style

Trading on Shambles Market for over six years, Kevin Tuohy runs ‘Bags of Style’ – a business selling stylish handbags and purses, with a diverse variety of designs and colours on offer. Sourcing the very best quality products from trade fairs across the country, Kevin is passionate about providing customers with a wide range of choice and the opportunity to show off their own unique style.  

During lockdown, Bags of Style has continued to operate as an online business with new products regularly added to When the market reopens later this month, Kevin plans to be back welcoming customers every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday – with a wide variety of new products available.   

Kevin Tuohy owner of Bags of Style comments: “I’m really looking forward to returning to the market and meeting up again with colleagues, friends and customers. Things will undoubtedly be different, however I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things and doing what I love most – trading.  

“One of the biggest draws for me is that no two days are ever the same – I love meeting the other traders and forming bonds, and of course interacting with my lovely customers. We get lots of regulars who return time and time again – looking for gifts for loved ones or a treat for themselves. We are happy to get feedback from our customers and will always do our best to accommodate requests for different colours and order them specially in for collection the following week.”  

In addition to running Bags of Style, Kevin is also a part of the York Market Traders Forum –  taking on the role of Chair in 2017 and working alongside the other traders and Make It York to develop the market.  

Kevin continues: “Before the pandemic hit the market was really flourishing and it’s fantastic to be a part of that. Over the years the market has really developed, with a hugely diverse range of traders and a real quality offering. From established traders, to brand new innovative businesses, the market offers a real varied mix for customers and we are very proud of this diversity.   

Since 2017 I’ve been a part of the York Market Traders Forum and this has been a very enriching and rewarding experiencing – I’ve learnt a lot about how a market operates and have enjoyed working together with my fellow traders and the Make It York team.   

What I think is really important to point out is that the Shambles Market traders are really like a sort of extended family to each other. Trading is a way of life and we all look out for one other – offering support through thick and thin, a real sense of camaraderie and a close social network. It’s lovely to be part of the community of traders on Shambles market who are all so passionate about what they do and I can’t wait for us all to be reunited when we are able to reopen again.”  

Find out more about Bags of Style here: , follow on Instagram or Facebook.  

Cultural Wellbeing Grants Supports ‘Interconnected: York’s Story Circle’

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 project the grant scheme supported was ‘Interconnected: York’s Story Circle’ led by arts organisation Dandelion Arts. The intergenerational project set out to share the life stories of some of York’s amazing older residents – working with young people across the city to create interactive video content based on real interviews which were then shared in nine of York’s local care homes.  

Full of memories, heart and song, the project focuses on bringing to life the stories of York residents – sharing their lives, memories and experiences. The first episode features Maureen’s story, who is an 80-year-old York resident, as she reminisces about growing up in the city in the 1940s and 50s. Maureen’s story was captured and turned into a monologue, which is then acted out by 24 year old student Annie. Talking points based on the story are also filmed with pupils from Fulford School and Vale of York School (12-15 year olds), so that care home residents can then reflect, reminisce and discuss the themes explored together.  

Packs with reminiscence resources are also delivered to each care home to bring the stories to life and spark conversations. The packs include a range of interactive resources linked to the life stories being shared – from ration books and Terry’s Chocolate oranges to Blackpool rock, memorabilia, photos and more – all carefully curated with the aim to engage and inspire those taking part.  

Katie Matthews Creative Director at Dandelion Arts said, “All life lessons come through stories, and this project has proved to be a really engaging way to bring together younger and older people across the city to share some of the fascinating stories of York residents. Raising the visibility of the elderly in the city and learning from them is incredibly important to us. Additionally we have found that this project goes some way to both reduce isolation and loneliness among older residents.  

Feedback shows that for our care home residents the stories really help to light up a part of their life that may not have been shined on for some time – sparking opportunities to reminisce together and talk about their experiences. The young people have also gained a lot from being involved – learning new things and developing a form of creative mentorship. 

We had already been running ‘I See You’, a project that took the stories of care home residents and made them into theatre performances with groups of local young people, but the grant from the Better Care Fund helped us to expand this concept, reaching more care homes across the city and developing the interactive video content and resource packs.  

Our resource packs are carefully curated with the aim of capturing the imagination and triggering memories for discussion – and it’s been lovely to get out to deliver these to care homes across the city and build those relationships. 

Thank you to the Better Care Fund for helping us to grow the project and to all the care home residents and young people who’ve gotten involved with such enthusiasm and passion over the last few months.” 

The second episode launched at the end of March – focusing on Irene’s story, who at 99 is one of the oldest people involved in the project. Irene tells her story of living in Fulford – with Izzy (aged 15) acting out her experiences. 

In addition to ‘Interconnected: York’s Story Circle’, Dandelion Arts are working on a number of other projects with opportunities for people in the city to get involved – including the ongoing ‘I See You’ project to bringing together young and old people to explore life stories through drama. ‘Community Smiles: Bigger Picture Project’, is also currently running in partnership with Local Area Coordinators to give individuals who may be suffering from anxiety or other mental health issues the opportunity to create bespoke pieces of art. The art is printed onto cards, given to school groups, and sent to residents in care homes across the city.  

For more information about the charity visit or email for more information.  

Meet the Shambles Market Trader: John Mannion

From as far back as 1906, the Mannion family have held stalls on York’s city centre – and in 1970, John Mannion took over the business from his father, offering a wide range of fresh, locally sourced fruit and vegetables.

Now John and his wife Jean are on Shambles Market every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, providing customers with high quality goods and friendly customer service.

Throughout all the government lockdowns over the last twelve months they have remained open in all weathers and have worked hard to ensure local people could get their fresh produce each week. With their fresh deliveries coming in from Leeds market, John ensures he has a choice selection of the very best goods from all over Europe and beyond for his customers.

John Mannion comments:

“We’ve seen a lot of change over the years but my favourite thing about trading on Shambles Market has always been getting to meet so many new people and chatting to our customers. I’ve lived in York all my life so have lots of knowledge about the local area and love to chat to people and share info and expertise about the city.

The market has a really unique blend of traders and an outstanding fresh produce selection. With the likes of Cross of York offering fresh fish that is second to none, and the wonderful fresh meat and cheese counters – the market has such a fantastic offer for local people during lockdown.

Whilst the pandemic has had a big impact and has been tough, we’ve continued to provide high quality produce for our customers throughout. I love what I do – being out in all weathers, meeting new people and seeing our regular customers come back each week.

I’d like to thank all of our loyal customers for their ongoing support and to continue to encourage local York people to come down to the market to do their shopping and see what there is on offer.”

Find out more about Shambles Market here:

Case Study: We Drifters

We Drifters is a York-based premium clothing brand specialising in bamboo sleepwear with anti-insect technology to help keep bugs at bay. We Drifters founder, Naudia Salmon, first came up with the idea when travelling around South East Asia, exploring locations previously unknown to her. The place was infinitely beautiful, however one thing kept bugging Naudia – insects. Tired of spraying insect repellent, wearing restrictive head nets and squeezing into sleeping bag liners, she came up with an idea to create pyjamas with anti-insect technology to solve the problem. 

The business soft-launched in summer 2019, targeting UK travellers going abroad. However, with the coronavirus pandemic restricting international travel, Naudia decided to broaden the customer segments and target UK staycationers and the camping/glamping market. In summer 2020, We Drifters relocated to York due to its perfect position with a thriving start-up community, good links to other major cities in the UK and nature right on the doorstep. 

After relocating, Naudia focused on developing the B2B side of the business and started building relationships with wholesalers and travel agencies. To make connections and grow, Naudia has reached out to York’s business community by working with Make It York. 

Naudia says: “After moving our business to York, first and foremost we wanted to become a part of the city’s business community and networks, for which Make It York served as a perfect gateway. Christine Hogan from the Make It York business team helped us to better understand the place and offered crucial support in growing our business by introducing us to key contacts and organisations.” 

Louise Saw, Business Growth Manager at Make It York, has also introduced Naudia to Alice Ingram from the Ad:Venture programme, who in turn encouraged Naudia to apply for the BUILD accelerator programme for young businesses. The project has been designed to support early-stage founders to develop investable ideas which have a positive potential impact on people, planet and profit. It is one of the projects inspired by Leeds City Region’s involvement in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) prestigious Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) – a global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth through innovation-driven entrepreneurship. 

Naudia adds: “During the pandemic it is more important than ever to be able to talk to key people in the industry and get mentors’ support when growing your business. The programme also mixes purpose with profit, which was a perfect fit for We Drifters. On top of offering comfort and peace of mind, we aim to encourage social change in the field of travel health and wellbeing. We donate £2 from each of our sleepwear set sales to Malaria No More and plan to expand into more charitable initiatives as well as creating educational content around relevant topics.” 

The BUILD accelerator programme has proved to be the perfect match for us, and without Make It York and their networks, we would never have known about it. The Make It York team are the best at directing you to the right information and contacts that can help accelerate and grow your business. They open doors to so many new opportunities to develop and grow.” 

We Drifters currently sell their products online and have also been part of the Visit York Virtual Christmas Market during the 2020 festive season. Featuring on the virtual market and joining Visit York membership, helped We Drifters to become more prominent in the York community and make new connections to develop the B2B side of the business and for possible future collaborations. 

This year We Drifters are focused on developing their products, with the aim of introducing new versions of the sleepwear and adding a children’s product line to the portfolio. The company is focused on expanding and securing orders as well as making the product accessible to more people through using key channels in the staycation market. 

Looking into the future, Naudia has an ambition and desire to grow the company by creating more product categories and expanding to the global market. As a socially conscious organisation, We Drifters also aim to grow their charitable initiatives and drive innovation in fashion technology to help improve people’s lives. 

To find out more about We Drifters, visit: 

To learn more about the business support Make It York are offering and how our team can help your business, please visit or email

Cultural Wellbeing Grants Supports York Charity Musical Connections

As part of the launch of York’s Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, 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, which were made available via the Better Care Fund, 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 charity the grants supported was Musical Connections – an organisation which aims to empower people to lead happier, healthier lives through participation in music. First conceived in 2008, the organisation became a registered charity in 2016, offering a diverse musical programme which challenges age-related stereotypes and engages with older, vulnerable people in a fun and interactive way.  

The culture and wellbeing grant from City of York Council and Make It York enabled the charity to deliver a diverse package of social support and musical engagement to over 160 vulnerable older people, both on-and off-line, throughout the winter months. From online concerts and Christmas carolling to advent calendars and posting cards – the Musical Connections team have looked for new and creative ways to engage with their members during the pandemic.  

The diverse programme of activity over the last few months has included a fun virtual, intergenerational Christmas concert featuring contributions from members, musicians, local school children and university students. The concert was made available to watch online and was also sent out on DVD to members without internet access. The grant also enabled several days of doorstep carolling with 110 sheltered housing tenants, people living in the wider community and volunteers, entitled ‘Carols on the Road’. The Christmas joy continued with the creation of an online advent calendar, featuring contributions from members, schools, students and the Musical Connections musicians. Christmas cards and decorations were also sent out to members to help lift their spirits in the run up to the festive period.  

 The grant also enabled the charity to continue their regular Zoom coffee morning and singing sessions, as well as weekly Facebook Live singing sessions. A fabulous video round-up of 2020 was created, featuring Musical Connections photos, footage and themes, alongside key news events of the year, all set to a track, ‘These Days’, that the musicians recorded for their ‘Our Musical Family’ CD. Recently they also sent out to all members ‘Family Tree Photo Album’ cards in the post as a boost for the gloomy February months. Working with students from York University’s Music Education Group, the charity are now planning a virtual Spring concert which members can watch online at home.  

Fiona Chapman from Musical Connections said, “It was hugely important for us that we found new ways to continue to engage with our members when the pandemic hit, and the grant funding has really helped us to deliver this. Activities like the doorstep carolling where we could get out and see our members (at a distance!) were just fantastic and a great way to reconnect with the community. We have had such lovely feedback from our members about the work that we’ve been doing and how it has made such a huge difference to their wellbeing and mental health especially during lockdown.  

The pandemic has meant that we’ve had to look at innovative ways to engage with our members and be creative about the way we deliver our activity. This has included taking risks and learning new skills to help us create virtual content and videos for our members to enjoy from home.  We have such an amazing team that are really dedicated to supporting our members and they’ve worked so hard to adapt and find new ways to engage with our community.  

Looking ahead we are hoping to be able to building on our ‘MC on the Road’ activity and hopefully bring back our group sessions very soon when lockdown restrictions ease and it’s safe to all get together again.  

We call ourselves a family and whilst the pandemic has kept us apart physically, ‘Our Musical Family’ has continued to remain close – with musicians, members and volunteers coming together to keep each other going during this challenging time. We’d love our family to continue to grow in 2021 and anyone interested in joining our groups is always very welcome!”  

For more information about the charity visit or call 01904 373011 to find out more about how to participate with their activities.  

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