Culture and Wellbeing

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In York, it is our ambition that the city is recognised nationally for its innovative work in culture for health and wellbeing, including social prescribing, which residents can benefit from throughout their lives.

Visual and performing arts in healthcare environments help to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress, while arts therapies can alleviate anxiety, depression and stress while increasing resilience and wellbeing: music therapy, for example, has been shown to reduce agitation and need for medication in 67% of people with dementia. The UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) recently found “that theatres generate an annual cost saving to the NHS of £102,234,585, by helping benefit the physical and mental health of those in their surrounding communities.”

Through York’s Creative Future, the York Culture Strategy 2020-2025, we are working to ensure that:

  • York establishes an innovative and comprehensive system for social prescribing using arts and heritage engagement, to improve the health and wellbeing of York residents
  • Social prescribing provides a support route for young people facing mental health issues
  • Evidence indicates improved engagement and less isolation for vulnerable older people
  • Enhanced data collection demonstrates the impact the arts and heritage have on people’s health and wellbeing
  • There is increased leverage of external investment to support the arts and heritage for health and wellbeing
  • York is recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in the field in the arts and heritage for health and wellbeing arena

For more information, please read the full strategy here.

© Accessible Arts & Media

Cultural Wellbeing Grants

Make It York and City of York Council award annual wellbeing grant funding to social and cultural initiatives across the city. The grants, made available via the Better Care Fund, were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. 

After the success of the first round of grants in 2020, a further £60,000 was awarded in August 2021 to 19 projects around York, in partnership with York CVS, putting two funds together to create a simpler application process. The third round of grants were awarded in July 2022.

Read about the 2021 projects in their case studies below, being published throughout Summer 2022:

Ten Hull Road residents worked with York Museums Trust to discover the history of the road, who lived there, and what life was like for historic residents. The findings have been published in a toolkit and shared with over fifty households along the street. Read more here

 A cultural education programme through York St John's Converge, which offered online learning to adults with mental health issues based on their interests and preferences. 86 learners took part over 28 weeks of Zoom sessions. Read more here

A dig at Willow House, Walmgate, facilitated by York Archaeology, open to people with experience of poor mental health. Read more here

Explore York's Creative Cafes brings creative practitioners and local communities together in safe spaces, to increase engagement with culture and creativity, and improve emotional wellbeing. The funding supported cafes at TheCentre@Burnholme and Acomb Explore. Read more here

Next Door But One's bridge activities to ensure support for community initiatives begun during the lockdowns, helping vulnerable groups transition to in-person sessions, including theatre sessions for young LGBTQ+ people, young carers, adults with experience of poor mental health, and  professional development and support for artists at risk of leaving the industry. Read more here

 Movers and Shakers is a weekly programme of music, movement and social sessions for adults across York. Participants were all adults from across the city living with a range of learning and physical disabilities, sensory impairments and/or consciousness disorders. Read more here.

Thunk-It Theatre’s ‘Common Ground: Back in the Room’ is a project which aimed to highlight shared experiences felt during Covid and build long-term, meaningful relationships to combat loneliness. Read more here

Artery for Health was developed by heritage and cultural learning consultant Karen Merrifield and the Arts team at York Hospital to create a proof of concept model to improve connections between healthcare providers, artists and cultural organisations in the city. Read more here

You can read more about the 2020 round of projects in their case studies below:

The Groves Artwalk 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 eventsRead more about the project in our case study here. 

Designed to promote physical and mental wellbeing in people over the age of 55 living in York – Mindful Movement from York Dance Space created a series of activities that participants could take part in in their own homes to positively boost mind, body and soul during lockdownRead more in our case study here. 

‘Journey Through Winter’s Heart’, led by local charity St Nicks, 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. Read more about the project and how it developed in our case study here. 

Dandelion Arts’ intergenerational project Interconnected: York’s Story Circle’ 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. Read more about the project in our case study here. 

 ‘Our Musical Family, led by charity Musical Connections, delivered 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 team looked for new and creative ways to engage with their members during the pandemic. Read more about the project and it’s outcomes in our case study here. 

Converge designed, with their partners from York St John’s and NHS Trust, ‘Winter Warmers’ Programme, to promote connections between participants with mental health problems, providing them with fun opportunities to engage as creatives, performers and audience members. Read more about the project in our case study here. 

The ‘Happiness Project – Creative Wellbeing Toolkit’, led by theatre company Pilot Theatre, explored the themes of joy and happiness, setting 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 Read more about the project in our case study here. 

Information and Opportunities

There are a wide variety of Culture and Wellbeing opportunities in York. These include: 

An information and advice community website for adults.


An up-to-date list of community activities that are COVID-ready.

Find out more about some of the projects and opportunities happening around Culture and Wellbeing in York:


community website for families, children and young people, offering information, advice and wellbeing opportunities.

The Cultural Commissioning Partnership’s Role

© Accessible Arts & Media

Alongside City of York Council and Make It York, the principal partner in delivering the Culture Strategy’s objects for Culture and Wellbeing is the Cultural Commissioning Partnership (CCP). The CCP includes representation from Accessible Arts & Media, City of York Council, Converge (York St John University), Explore York Libraries & Archives, The Guild of Media Arts, Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, Make It York, National Centre for Early Music, National Railway Museum, Pilot Theatre, Tang Hall Big Local, York Archaeological Trust, York CVS, York Museums Trust, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and York Theatre Royal. 

The aim of the CCP is to support the work of the culture sector in York in delivering health and wellbeing outcomes as framed around the ambitions, objectives and outcomes of York’s Culture Strategy. 

For more info, please contact  

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