Join us for an online festival exploring the impact of arts and creativity on health and wellbeing

As members of the Creative Health Alliance, exploring the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing is a central part of our work at the Belgrade, so we’re delighted to be supporting People Like Us, a “community-powered creative health festival” coming to Coventry next week.

Running from 6-12 July, People Like Us will invite artists, community groups, creative practitioners and members of the public to come together to celebrate the power of arts and creativity. Through a series of online workshops, discussions and more, the festival aims to shine a light on the Creative Health movement in Coventry and Warwickshire, championing local creators and change-makers and sparking conversations that will lead to positive community action.

Organised by Melissa Smith, a community organiser with Grapevine and founder of Feel Good Community, People Like Us will be the city’s third Festival of Creative Health, building on the success of previous events at Fargo Village and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

“The name for this year’s festival came about after hearing lots of different people express their concerns that their voices were not being heard,” Melissa explains. “People who were using creativity to help self-manage the everyday stresses of life alongside their long term health condition or disability. Everyday people trying to move forward with their lives by using their creative skills and building communities.”

The programme will kick off at 8.30am on Monday 6 July with the latest in our #CityWarmUps series. This week’s warm-up will be led by Mel Ahern, Creative Director of Moving Space Co, a performance collective which runs dance, movement and yoga sessions for people of all ages and abilities, including adults and young people with a range of disabilities, learning difficulties and sensory and emotional impairments. Led by the community’s needs, the organisation’s guiding principle is that “everyone can dance”.

Then at 6pm on Monday, author and award-winning activist Sarah Corbett will lead an online seminar on Craftivism and the Art of Gentle Protest. As the founder of the global Craftivist Collective, Sarah has helped to change laws, policies, hearts and minds around the world, using a slower, quieter and more intimate form of activism than that we might be used to seeing.

Rooted in neuroscience and positive psychology, her methods involve using crafts to encourage people to engage deeply and thoughtfully in social issues, from sending handmade gifts to decision-makers, to creating pieces of provocative street art.

At 2.30pm on Tuesday 7 July, Dolly Sen will lead an open Zoom session, inviting participants to consider the question “What do we need to do to restore ourselves?” Dolly Sen is a writer, director, artist, filmmaker, poet, performer, music-maker public speaker and mental health consultant with lived experience of severe mental health difficulties. In this virtual discussion, you’ll have the chance to help Dolly to create a “bill of healing rights”.

On Thursday 9 July, Belgrade Youth Theatre member Cameron Austin will be exploring the theme of mental health in the context of our Telling Stories on (the Small) Screen project. Set up to keep our young participants creative and connected during lockdown, Telling Stories on (the Small) Screen is a nine-week project exploring Zoom as a platform for creating new work, culminating in the sharing of a digital performance on 14 July.

In his latest blog about the project, Cameron explores how themes of mental health are central to the performance that his group have been creating, and how engaging in the arts can benefit young people, particularly in difficult times.

Finally on Friday 10 July, young people involved in our Coronavirus Time Capsule project with Grapevine will also be exploring the theme of mental health in their video for the week.

Throughout the week, artists, practitioners and community members from across the region will be introducing themselves and their work in a series of short profiles shared via the @PeopleLikeUsCov Twitter account.

The festival also coincides with the launch of a creative packs project developed by Hayley Harman and Beth-Fiducia Brookes. The project is a collaboration between the Belgrade Theatre, our Springboard company Underground Lights, Crisis, Arty Folks, Grapevine, With One Voice, Housing First, and Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Delivered to a range of community participants including members of Underground Lights and the Belgrade’s Arts Gymnasium groups for over 50s, the creative packs include a range of items designed by Hayley Harman to spark creativity, including instructions and materials for making masks. On Monday 6 and Friday 10 July, practitioners from the Belgrade Theatre and Underground Lights will be inviting selected participants to join closed Zoom workshops, where they’ll have opportunities to use the masks they have created.

For more information about People Like Us, please visit the Feel Good Community website or Facebook page, or follow @PeopleLikeUsCov on Twitter.