Health and Wellbeing

2021 offers Wandsworth the opportunity to not only embed arts and culture into the emerging Local Plan and the Smart Growth Plan, but also into the new Joint Strategic Needs Assessment – the process by which the local authority and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) assess the current and future health and care needs of the local population. Now is the time to develop a more sustained and strategic approach to utilising arts and culture to support health and wellbeing.

Case Study: Supporting People With NeuroDivergent Needs

CoDa Dance Company is a unique contemporary dance company specialising in thought-provoking outdoor and site-specific performance, participatory community work, and utilising dance as a physiotherapy tool for neuro-disabled people. CoDa has been creating work for, by, and with the local community in Wandsworth since 2013, with a specific focus on Roehampton and Putney wards.

In 2018, using funding from the Wandsworth Grant Fund, CoDa established a pilot programme at Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in Wandsworth. The workshops were designed to give patients, family members and carers a space to increase their physical activity, improve mood and wellbeing, and increase social interaction within the hospital. The sessions were also designed to help family members and carers gain insights into the lives of people living with neurological conditions. Three years on, the pilot programme has turned into an established programme, funded by the hospital, and delivered regularly in a number of wards and in two of the residential wards to 100+ patients a year.

Most recently, and partly in response to Covid-19, CoDa is creating work that will be able to be viewed through digital technology. They will continue to develop work that sheds light on the unique and unusual symptoms experienced by people living with neuro-disabilities. CoDa works closely with Creative Consultants who are people living with neurodisabilities to enhance audience experiences, the stories we tell, and how they are told.

Case study: Stuart*, who is in his 70s, fell off a ladder, sustaining a head trauma and severe brain injury. He has been a residential in-patient in Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability for a number of years, living with complex physical and cognitive disabilities that severely limit his ability to actively participate in everyday life. Stuart’s severe mobility and communication issues makes it difficult for him to join in activities or interact with others. He has been taking part in CoDa’s weekly dance sessions at RHN for the past 12 months, providing the gentle stimulation that Stuart needs. With the support of his wife Nora, Stuart moves his arms and hands in time with the music and makes eye contact with others. Nora initially accompanied Stuart to the sessions to support him. However, she has found them an enjoyable way to spend time with him and continues to attend each week. “It is good to see him interact with other patients on the ward and I like to see his movements.” Nora also observes that Stuart likes the attention he receives from the dance leaders, and has a favourite! “I’d go mad without it [dance sessions]. They use inspiring and inventive ways to encourage everyone to take part, including myself. I’ve also got to meet other patients on the ward and know them by name. It’s a social lifeline, not just for Stuart but also for me.”

* Names and identifying features have been changed to maintain patient anonymity

Case study: Moving Kinship

The Moving Kinship hubs have been developed by Dr Beatrice Allegranti from the University of Roehampton for people and their families affected by young onset dementia.

The programme offers a combined artistic and psychological service to support these people and their families. Her research investigates the use of choreography and dance as a way of processing trauma and challenging life experiences.

In stark contrast to biomedical prognoses of silence, language impairment, and individualism, Dr Allegranti’s work offers something previously unknown in dementia care: through choreography, performance, and participation both the person living with young onset dementia and their family carers are able to communicate and examine the emotional and physical life-shifts that have been brought about by dementia.

The performances are followed by an opportunity for everyone to respond and reflect creatively through movement improvisation, live music, and words. The project’s ethos of mutual recognition has resulted in feelings of empowerment and improved the wellbeing of the participants. The success of the hubs has led to them becoming part of the social prescribing model currently being rolled out within London. Within Wandsworth, St George’s NHS neurology unit has bought into the programme, along with Haringey and Merton Councils, Dementia Action Alliance, and Alexandra Palace.

Case study: Wandsworth Music Community Choir

Wandsworth Community Choir (WCC) was formed in April 2018 after demand from the many parents and carers, teachers, and Head teachers who had engaged with Wandsworth Music singing projects in schools. The choir was established by Wandsworth Music in partnership with Lifelong Learning as a community choir open to all, and is made up of people who live or work in Wandsworth.

There are no auditions, no fees and no previous experience is required. Members come from all walks of life and with varying degrees of singing experience – some have sung in choirs all their lives whilst for others it is their first taste of being part of a choir. The choir is run by a dynamic team from Wandsworth Music who facilitate a fun, safe and friendly environment in which to learn some great songs, take part in performances and enjoy the many positive mental health, social and wellbeing benefits of singing together with others.

Since its formation, WCC has taken part in a variety of events, including community events such as the Tooting Food Festival, the Furzedown Festival, and Wandsworth Music Academy Summer Fair. WCC has also taken part in Borough-wide events, such as the Lifelong Learning Annual Awards Ceremony, Winter Sounds at Fairfield Halls, and Brighter Sounds at the Royal Festival Hall.

Over the last two-and-a-half years the choir has steadily grown in numbers and there have been 90 members on the register since the choir formed. The choir offers a space for connection, collaboration, a sense of wellbeing, and a real feel-good factor. This is evident in the feedback from members who openly share the impact that coming together and meeting once a week for a good sing has had on their mental health, wellbeing, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic sadly meant an end of face to face rehearsals in March 2020, the choir have continued to meet weekly online. Although all the benefits of coming together as a singing community can never be entirely replicated online, the joy of meeting, seeing each other’s faces and sharing a joint love of singing is felt every week.

WCC has continued to meet online throughout lockdown They have recently produced their own lockdown video and participated in the virtual Wandsworth Music Winter Sounds concert in December 2020, performing alongside singers from the National Opera Studio, Wandsworth Music Academy, and schools from across Wandsworth.