New Creative Gymnasium project will use the arts to improve health in old and young

Posted on 10 February 2012

The Creative Gymnasium project will use drama and the arts to raise levels of health and well-being in two of Coventry’s priority areas for health; work with the 50+ age group and sexual health amongst young people.

Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Awards for All, the Creative Gymnasium project will be delivered by the Belgrade Community & Education Company over two years.

The 50+ project will be run in conjunction with Age UK and will focus on engaging members of the 50+ community via a number of creative workshops that will include movement work, storytelling and reminiscence theatre. Participants will work together to explore a range of exercises which will develop creative skills, build confidence and create new social relationships.

As part of the sexual health project, a group of young parents have been engaged in the production of a film showing the pleasures and challenges of parenting and have assisted in the creation of a series of relationship and sex education lessons that will be launched in partner schools before being rolled out across the secondary schools of Coventry.

Working creatively the sexual health project manager, Heather Osborne-Beder, and film maker, Chris Bradley, have joined forces with the young people of Coventry to shift the paradigm of early sexual activity and teen pregnancy by encouraging their peers to think about their actions. Honest and direct, the work is designed to challenge stereotypes and inform both young people and adults about the choices available and where they can seek both help and advice.

Throughout the Creative Gymnasium project the Belgrade will work with Coventry University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Learning Innovation Research Centre to develop an arts-based research framework that will measure the impact of the arts activity on the health of participants. The idea is that this will help to raise understanding of the extent to which the arts can play a key role in our health and well-being, and can be used to roll out the benefits of the programme at a national level.

Justine Themen, Associate Director at the Belgrade Theatre said, “Drama is a powerful tool for building self-confidence amongst participants – enabling them to explore key issues, empowering them to take control of their lives and to make confident decisions regarding their own health. The benefit of the arts to health and well-being are well-recognised, but it is not always easy to measure the extent of the benefit in concrete terms. We are delighted to be working with Coventry University to develop a way of measuring the impact of our activities. This will hopefully result in a more fruitful collaboration between the arts and the health sector in the city.”

Established in 1961, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is one of the leading independent grant-making foundations in the UK. The foundation aims to commit £30 million annually towards a wide range of work in areas such as the arts, education and learning, the environment and enabling disadvantaged people to participate fully in society.

Awards for All is a lottery grants scheme that funds small, local community based projects in the UK. By providing grants from £300 to £10,000 the programme aims to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need.

For more information or to get involved in the Creative Gymnasium project please call project managers Antonia Beck and Heather Osborne-Beder on 024 7684 6735.

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