New Cultural Wellbeing Grants Awarded to Seven Local Community Projects

As part of the launch of York’s new Culture Strategy ‘York’s Creative Future’, Make It York and City of York Council have today announced wellbeing grant 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 have been made available via the Better Care Fund, have been set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation and social distancing. Supporting a range of new social and cultural initiatives to help residents live well during the winter months, the grant scheme aims to boost wellbeing across the city and reduce isolation through cultural engagement. 

Applications were sought from York-based charities, social enterprises, voluntary and community groups and individual artists with seven projects successfully receiving funding. The projects include: Pilot Theatre’s ‘The Happiness Project’, Converge’s ‘Winter Warmers’, Musical Connections’ ‘Our Musical Family’, Dandelion Arts’ ‘Interconnected: York Story Circle’, St Nicks’ ‘Journey Through Winters Heart’, York Dance Space’s ‘Mindful Movement’ and the Groves Artwalk.

Helen Apsey, Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Make It York said: “The pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant impact on people’s mental and emotional wellbeing and it’s crucial that we take action to address this. Our new grant initiative with City of York Council has been created to support a wide range of cultural wellbeing activities, which engage with local communities and are accessible for all. The seven projects we are supporting all have incredible potential, and cover a breadth of different forms of cultural engagement – from music and art through to dance and storytelling.

“Through the implementation of the Culture Strategy, we’ve committed to supporting people’s health and wellbeing through engagement with the arts and heritage, as part of a joined-up and whole-person approach to healthcare provision – so it’s really meaningful that we’ve been able to award these grants today, as part of its launch. We’re looking forward to seeing how these projects develop over the coming months and residents getting involved.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure & Communities at City of York Council, said: “The launch of the culture strategy today has shown again how important it is to come together and work together to put York’s cultural offer at the forefront of recovery. We’re pleased to be one of the partners who together have created an accessible and vibrant cultural strategy for York that will leave a lasting legacy for so many residents – including children and young people.

“The Cultural Wellbeing Grants reflect how the creative and cultural sectors can support communities across York, helping to lift spirits and bring people together during the winter months to help maintain or improve people’s emotional wellbeing. Congratulations to everyone involved and I hope everyone involved in the projects whether producing, performing or watching, are uplifted and inspired to do more.”

Chris Bailey, Clerk of the Guild of Media Arts said, “If lockdown has taught us nothing else it is that having creativity in our lives is an essential part of our wellbeing. The grants we’ve awarded to these projects are tiny in relation to their value, to participants and the whole city, in reducing isolation and loneliness, lifting moods and building new friendships. They bring voluntary and health organisations together with artists in productive partnership. What’s more, we will discover we have more artists in our midst! It’s exactly what a UNESCO Creative City is all about.”

The seven projects to be supported include:

  • The Groves Artwalk which aims to reduce isolation, increase community spirit and enhance residents’ wellbeing within the Groves area. It will take place during January to March, creating an online community of up to forty makers and an art trail across the area. Read more about the project in our case study here.
  • Mindful Movement from York Dance Space is an audio series guiding people through creative dance exercises, which they can do in their own homes. The project will target people over the age of 60 living in York, who are isolated due to the current pandemic or for social or health restrictions, improve physical and mental wellbeing in their own spaces and their own time. Read more in our case study here.
  • St Nicks will be using their wonderful green spaces for a “Journey Through Winter’s Heart” to increase social connection. They will offer a menu of indoor and outdoor, virtual and face to face activities; all co-ordinated by their staff to suit a range of individual needs. These will be within Covid restrictions; providing safe ways for up to 147 people living anywhere in York to get active and enjoy nature. Especially for vulnerable families, those at risk of poor wellbeing and isolation, being marginalised and disadvantaged, and other local residents – with many more enjoying the programme’s experience through recordings. Read more about the project and how it developed in our case study here.
  • Dandelion Arts’ ‘Interconnected: York’s Story Circle’ has a vision of creating an intergeneration project that bring care home residents and school children together, plus raising the visibility of the elderly in the city. This will involve the children writing letters to the residents and asking them questions about their lives, memories and experiences. An appointed care home staff member will record the responses – with a professional transcript being  made of those monologues and young students will be filmed around the city of York, acting out those experiences. A DVD will then be provided for the home to show. Read more about the project in our case study here.
  • Musical Connections ‘Our Musical Family’ aims to help their 150+ music group and choir feel less isolated by enabling them to participate in a range of tailored musical and social activities during the winter months. Activities will include regular Facebook Live (‘Singstream’) sessions, including virtual concerts involving performances from members, school children, university students and musicians. Read more about the project and it’s outcomes in our case study here.
  • Converge have designed, with their partners from York St John’s and NHS Trust, ‘Winter Warmers’ an online ‘festive festival’.  This will be curated and delivered by, and for, participants with mental health issues by providing them with opportunities to engage as creatives, performers and audience members. This programme will include an open mic night, featuring participants from Converge’s music, theatre and creative writing courses, choir sessions culminating in a Christmas Concert and a Theatre and Storytelling Performance. Read more about the project in our case study here.
  • The ‘Happiness Project’ from Pilot Theatre will co-create a wellbeing toolkit with a group of young people who belong to the LGBTQ community, to help support and promote their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Participants, through guided supportive prompts, will be encouraged to keep a journal where they will reflect on their current daily routines, habits and stresses. Find out more about the project in our case study here.

Matthew Harper-Hardcastle from Converge said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that the world has been focusing on ‘hunkering-down’ or ‘getting through’ which doesn’t provide much opportunity for hope or aspiration. We have been doing everything we can to combat this. This funding will enable us to celebrate the achievements of our students with mental health problems, keep them connected to a creative community during the winter months and provide important space and support to think about the future. It will keep us and our students moving forward!”

Tom Waring, Chief Officer, St Nicks Environment Centre said: “We at St Nicks know how important it is to keep healthy and avoid isolation during this lockdown winter. We also know first-hand the magic of creative activities to connect us with nature and each other. That’s why we are delighted to be awarded the Cultural Wellbeing Grant to help our community, especially those who can feel marginalised. We look forward to developing our existing Ecocraft activities as well as reaching out to people who may not know St Nicks to take an inspiring “Journey through winter’s heart” together, with activities from December through to Spring.”

Fiona Chapman from Musical Connections said: “We are thrilled to have received a Cultural Wellbeing Grant to help us provide musical engagement and social support through the winter months to 150+ vulnerable older people who have been living largely in isolation since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Under normal circumstances, they would be attending one or more of our weekly music groups or choirs, and this grant will help our musical family to keep connected and engaged until we can all enjoy singing together once more. It will also enable us to reach out to others who may wish to join our growing community.”

Katie Matthews Creative Director, Dandelion Arts said, “We are so delighted to have received funding to develop Interconnected: York’s Story Circle. It is great to be part of a forward thinking city. A City that values culture as an integral part of wellbeing. What an opportunity. We can’t wait to get started”.

Mandy Smith Executive Producer & Joint CEO at Pilot Theatre said, “Pilot are delighted to have the opportunity to reach out to a new group of young adults to participate in our wellbeing project – The Happiness Project – an everyday toolkit for wellbeing trying to changing the world one step at a time…“


Notes to Editor

Make It York

Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally – as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

One of Make It York’s strategic aims is to promote York as a brilliant place to do business, helping to support business growth and innovation across a range of business sectors, such as financial & professional services, rail and high value manufacturing and to stimulate greater inward investment.

For further information please contact:

Amy Goodman – Consumer Communications Manager

Sign In


Reset Password

Please enter your username or email address, you will receive a link to create a new password via email.

Skip to content