Preventing Falls Using Dance, Dance to Health

older people taking part in jopyful movement session while seated

older people taking part in jopyful movement session while seated

The arts touch us all. Imagine a world without music, film, theatre, dance or photography. It would be bland and joyless.

We are all passionate about the arts: the music track that makes you get up and dance; the poem that feels as though it’s speaking directly to you; and those big, communal artistic occasions – Glastonbury, the opening ceremony of the London Olympics – which stay with you forever. The arts communicate to us all, bridging divides and breaking down barriers. They have the power to change, even shatter perceptions, in an instant. They can compel us to act, to change. They can transform individuals and societies.

Aesop is a charity that harnesses the power of the arts to help solve society’s big challenges.

Their lead programme addresses the challenge of older people falling. One in three people aged over 65 fall each year. In Scotland, more than 18,000 older people are admitted to hospital after a fall each year.

Sadly, having a fall is often the start of a downward spiral. Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence. About 1 in 10 older people who fall become afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.

This challenge is going to get bigger. Scotland’s population is continuing to age, with a 50% increase in over 60s projected by 2033.

Dance to Health’s approach to meeting this challenge is to recruit experienced community dance artists. They then train as ‘Postural Stability Instructors’ – the recognized qualification for falls prevention exercise. Lastly they learn how to smuggle Postural Stability into creative dance.

Dance to Health then set up classes for groups of people, in their community or online. The fun, creative nature of the classes aims to increase engagement so more people take part and continue to do so for longer periods of time.

The Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University was commissioned to evaluate Dance to Health. They concluded:

  • Dance to Health offers the health system an effective and cost-effective means to address the issue of older people’s falls.
  • Dance to Health reduces falls by 58%
  • If an older person visits A&E because of a fall, the likelihood of their becoming an in-patient is 35%. This reduces to 13% for Dance to Health participants.
  • Dance to Health’s fidelity to existing physiotherapy programmes was confirmed.
  • As a result of Dance to Health:
    • 96% of participants report becoming more physically active,
    • 96% report increased mental wellbeing,
    • 87% report making new friends.
  • 98% of participants said they would recommend the Dance to Health programme to people who have fallen or who are at risk of falling.

3 people young and older making creative movement

Equally as impressive as the evidence above is the feedback received directly from participants:

I can feel my legs are stronger. I went to a family christening at the weekend and my relatives couldn’t believe the difference in me. My entire posture has changed.

When I leave here I feel elated – it sort of uplifts you. Gives you a lovely feeling. I can come in depressed and go out feeling on top of the world.

After retirement my mobility had become increasingly compromised, by worn out, stiff and painful hips. After each session I was able to stand up straight instead of being stooped, if only temporarily, and move about more freely.

Dance to Health currently works with a wide range of organisations in England and Wales. Customers include Hywel Dda University Health Board, Swansea Bay University Health Board, Birmingham City Council Adult Social Services, Walsall Council Public Health, Anchor Care Homes and Age UK.

Dance to Health is exploring how best to support healthcare organisations in Scotland and welcomes conversations with anyone who would like to collaborate.

To find out more about Dance to Health, feel free to get in touch with Ben Worth, Head of Business Development & Marketing, t: 07723 310 714 / e:

Harmony Choir, All Together Now

Harmony Choir will be raising awareness of effects of racism on mental health and share some thoughts on how to be an active bystander.

The reason behind this event is to support people we know, who have been affected by racism, either directly or vicariously.

All proceeds will go to anti-racist organisations: ESA Scotland, which provides (amongst others) peer-support sessions to the East and Southeast Asian community, and the Racial Justice Network, which provides bystander training free of charge.

The musical show on Monday 29th November will include short talks from (guest) performers and the two involved organisations.

The event will also launch a research project on this subject, with involvement from colleagues from the University of West-Scotland and the University of Roehampton. Ethical approval for this study has been granted by the University of Edinburgh, School of Health in Social Science.

You can read a bit more about the rationale behind the event and the research here, in a blog I wrote together with a member from Harmony Choir, Christina McClure and with Jingni Ma, a colleague PhD researcher:

More information can be found here:


Liesbeth Tip, Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh

The musical event is kindly funded by the Society for Theatre Research:

Scottish Social Prescribing Network (SSPN) launch

Scottish Social Prescribing Network logo

Scottish Social Prescribing Network logo

Established in June 2020, the Scottish Social Prescribing Network (SSPN) is an inclusive network for the social prescribing community, spanning link workers, community activity providers, researchers and those individuals we seek to serve and support through social prescribing.

Over the past year the network has developed a Steering Group, organised and delivered a number of networking events, secured funding to run a future planning consultation day and launched the SSPN website

The key aim of the network is to develop the strategic direction of social prescribing in Scotland and this will include raising awareness, identifying and sharing best practice, developing training programmes reflecting the full breadth of network membership, commissioning research and celebrating and showcasing the benefits of social prescribing to individuals, communities and the nation’s health.

If you would like to know more please visit the website or contact the SSPN on . If you wish to stay up to date please follow @ScottishSPN on Twitter.

Ruthanne Baxter is on the Steering Group for SSPN  and is the Museums Services Manager at the University of Edinburgh and Founder of Prescribe Culture, a heritage-based, non-clinical initiative for those seeking support for mental health and wellbeing. She is an ambassador for the power and benefits of the social prescribing movement, with a passion for the role of heritage to be a ‘vehicle’ for effective social prescribing.


For more information on social prescribing:

See Us – the movement to end mental health stigma & discrimination across Scotland

4 young people standing in front of a bright pink See Me See Us in a city street

4 young people standing in front of a bright pink See Me See Us in a city street

See Us! – make a difference together

The last 18 months have had a huge impact on communities across Scotland.

While we as a nation are only just beginning to understand the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing we can see already is that the mental health of the nation has taken a real hit.

Now more than ever, it is important that we get talking about mental health and standing up to stigma and discrimination when we see it, to make sure that people get support and understanding when they need it.

We at See Me are launching a new campaign – See Us. We’re calling on everyone in Scotland to get behind the movement to end mental health stigma and discrimination to make real change for those who need it. It’s time to stop Seeing Me – the person struggling, and for everyone to stand up and say, ‘See Us, we’re making a difference together.’

A survey of over 2000 Scots, including 1000 who have experienced mental health problems found that more than half (58 per cent) say that their own perceptions of people with mental health problems have improved in the last 10 years.

Now is the time to build on that positive progress. The See Us campaign encourages people across Scotland – whether they have experience of a mental health problem or not – to join the movement to end stigma by getting involved in events, activities and speaking up to challenge outdated stereotypes.

The arts play a really important role in communities across Scotland and we have a new section of the See Us website dedicated to tackling stigma using the arts. Our briefing paper: Using The Arts to Challenge Mental Health Stigma and the Impact on the Audience offers key findings on different methods used through the arts to reduce mental health stigma and what components of stigma they are helping to challenge. Another example is offered by Liam Rankin who has created a choir to bring our community together and show that regardless of who we are, regardless of our mental health, we all have a voice!

I would encourage all of you to get behind the See Us movement. Visit our website to find resources to help you make change.

On the website, you’ll also find our See Us activity pack, which is packed with ways in which to engage with local people and get the conversation started on mental health stigma and discrimination.

While perceptions of mental health are improving, we know that we still have work to do. The same research found that more than two-thirds of people (71 per cent) with mental health problems surveyed have still experienced stigma or discrimination – most commonly from someone they know including: friends, people online, immediate family and work colleagues.

Stigma and fear of discrimination prevent people from reaching out for the help they need and for some, it can be the difference between life and death.

Mental health affects people from all walks of life, so I’m asking you to do your bit and take action. Whether you’re offering a listening ear for someone who needs it, sharing your own experiences of mental health to help break down barriers, or organising an event in your library using our activity pack. Everything we do matters and it all helps us get closer to ending mental health stigma and discrimination in Scotland.

Wendy Halliday is the Director of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Find out more about See Us and how you can get involved by visiting our website, and join in the conversation on social media using #SeeMeSeeUs to help others to find out about the movement.

Nick Jedrzejewski | Communications and Public Affairs Manager, See Me Scotland


Image Description: See Me volunteers as part of the See Us movement.
(Left to right) Liam Rankin, Tommy Kelly, Chloe Whyte and Sam Nadeen.
See Me is Scotland’s Programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination, funded by SAMH and the Mental Health Foundation.
Image Credit Marc Turner

ACHWS offers a platform to ask questions & bringing different voices, perspectives, disciplines & sectors together

image of someone pointing to an artwork

image of someone pointing to an artwork

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted existing health inequalities across society. A large and growing body of evidence tells us that cultural engagement has a key role in helping to helping to address health inequalities within our communities.

Many of ACHWS membership are committed to increasing opportunities to engage with the arts and culture within health, social care and community settings. There is a huge amount of expertise and innovation within this community of practice, but there is also so much still to learn as we look to tackle the shocking gaps in equity highlighted by the pandemic.

How do the arts and culture contribute to tackling these inequalities? How can we ensure that our understanding of culture is varied and diverse? How do we continue to widen access to creative and cultural opportunities to support wellbeing? As a community, one amongst many rich and diverse communities, how can we as individuals and organisations make sure that we don’t perpetuate inequalities that exist elsewhere in the system? The arts, culture, heritage, health and social care sectors increasingly overlap, so what can we learn from one another?

As a network ACHWS hopes to offer a platform to ask questions and bringing different voices, perspectives, disciplines and sectors together. For this reason we decided to use our first newsletter to focus on the role the arts and culture can play in helping to address health inequalities. Over the Winter months we will be hosting a series of online conversations exploring the role the arts and culture more generally can play in helping to address health inequalities. The programme will cover many themes and perspectives including: mental health, food poverty and women’s health.

We’re sure many of you will already be having similar conversations, and we hope that together we can inform cross-sector dialogue and advocacy for the impact the arts and culture can have on health and wellbeing.

Please get in touch if you would like to share your experiences and any work you are involved in. We would especially like to hear from people who are often under-represented within conversations about arts, culture, health and wellbeing.

image credit: Artlink Edinburgh & Lothian


Creative Conversations seeks to capture some of the experiences that youth theatre groups have come up against throughout the pandemic and challenge our understanding of what youth theatre is and can be.

In this discussion, join host Jo Sharp and some special guests as they explore and discuss the role the arts and youth theatre can play in supporting young people’s mental health during, and after, the pandemic. This session will touch on areas such as social prescription and the place of the arts in the broader health agenda, as well as offer some practical tips for practitioners to signpost and support any young people who show signs of distress.

Panellists: Angela Gray (Tonic Arts), Megan Hatcher (Art Therapist, NHS Lothian), Julie Brown (Toonspeak), Orla Murray (Youth Champion, See Me Scotland)

Register here.

Singing for Health Network Webinar | 24th February

The Singing for Health Network (UK) has emerged following several years of development and identified gaps. The Network seeks to provide a bridge between research and practice, making research accessible and useful to practitioners. It will also support and platform emerging researchers and their work.

The Network aims to support the Singing for Health movement, through supporting opportunities for sharing and consolidating intelligence and resources.

The introduction webinar will:

  • Share the aspirations and intentions of the Network
  • Outline the results of a survey we ran in the Autumn of 2020 on what people want from the Network
  • Launch the new website and its membership structure
  • Consult further on how the Network can best support the sector
  • Launch a very exciting funding opportunity from Voice Workshop (in partnership with the University of Wales Trinity St David)

Follow the link to register:

playaway games festival | health and wellbeing events

At a time when so many people are moving online, Tinderbox wanted to turn to the Games industry for inspiration – to ask how games are adapting and responding to the pandemic, and to explore what role they could play looking ahead.

What are the most interesting ways of playing and interacting both online and offline at the moment? Are there possibilities for new connections, learning & collaborations between gaming worlds and other sectors? And how can we build a more playful and creative way forward for us all in the future?

The Tinderbox Playaway Games Festival will explore  these questions and much more. There are lots of events in the programme but of particular interest from the point of view of health and wellbeing are:

  • On the 22nd of February we start off with a Key Note presentation How Games Can Make a Better World by Jane McGonigal.
    Jane McGonigal, PhD, Director of Game Research + Development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. She is the author of two New York Times bestselling books: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully. Her TED talks on how games can make a better world have more than 15 million views. She has advised companies including Disney, Mattel, Nintendo, Riot Games, Activision and EA on how to create games that build real skills and help players develop emotional and social strengths they can use in their everyday lives. She is also the inventor of SuperBetter, a game that has helped more than a million players recover from symptoms of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and traumatic brain injury.

  • On the 23rd of February we explore Gaming for Health, Education & Wellbeing.
    What can games do for education and wellbeing? Join leading industry experts Dr Carla Brown (Game Doctor), Elena Höge (Yaldi Games), Clare Duffy (Civic Digits Theatre Company), and Max Scott-Slade (Glitchers) discussing their experience in gamifying learning methods for the development and wellbeing of children & families, as well as games for supporting health, with Brian Baglow of the Scottish Games Network.

  • On the 4th of March we have Games & Empathy Mini-Talks
    A series of short talks from specialist game designers about cultivating empathy and improving accessibility in games design. 







Robbie Mcghee, Chair ACHWS and Chris Freemantle, Senior Research Fellow, Gray’s School of Art and ACHWS Committee member, are part of the Advisory Group for The National Centre for Creative Health and are pleased to announce the new website has now gone live. The website will highlight work happening in England , Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and share learning from the different systems and policy environments in the four nations.

Caring, creativity and connectedness in Tayside during Covid-19

Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust  (THAT) is a small charity with two key staff, that produces and promotes Art in Health activity across Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross. 75% of our time is focused on participatory creative engagement programmes for people recovering from and living with long term health conditions, stroke, Parkinson’s,  MS,  chronic pain, dementia and many others. We employ freelance artists across a wide range of disciplines from visual arts to creative writing, dance, singing and music making, photography and animation. We do not run a venue of any sort and work from a small office courtesy of NHS Tayside.  All our activity is delivered in partnership and as close to our participants as possible, either in inpatients, in community venues or in cultural centres.

Like most people we were not especially well organised for a national pandemic and lockdown. On Friday March 20th we bought two new laptops, downloaded some current files and tried to get ready for working from home on the Monday.

On March 23rd 2020 at the point of lockdown we should have had three artists working in inpatient Stroke Rehabilitation Units, and one in Palliative Day Care; singing coaches working with a community based stroke group and a community based MS Group; and our partnership programme with Dundee Contemporary Arts running Japanese Calligraphy and digital photography programmes. We also had a creative writing programme and a Samba Music programme due to commence within weeks.

All of these programmes had to be cancelled or postponed and agreement reached with our artists about outstanding contracts and payments. We then had to figure out what to do next! We had never run any online programmes before, always basing our work on person centred, face to face activity, mostly within peer support group scenarios.

Within a fortnight we had transferred two lead artists contracts to new Creative at a Distance online programmes, one using creative writing and the other photography.  For these first programmes we simply used an email exchange system. Eight weekly challenges were issued by the artists and participants’ submissions were emailed in return.  Artists provided supportive feedback and creative guidance. We shared work from both groups through a new Mailchimp email newsletter and also as weekly Facebook posts. This worked well and after their eight week run we secured additional funding to produce a limited edition Zine and we will now be holding an exhibition of the work and the Zine at Dundee Contemporary Arts in December.

These two programmes were a good start, but we know that a lot of our participants are not able to engage online in a significant way due to their personal circumstances or impairment level.  So, by June we commissioned another two programmes as doorstep deliveries with follow up telephone/video calls and additional doorstep visit support.  One a printmaking and the other a collage programme, both included a prepaid postal exchange element between participants, so everyone sent and received art works and messages to each other in the group.  Each programme also had a 4-page newsletter printed at the end of the programme featuring examples of everyone’s work, with participants receiving multiple copies to share with friends and family.

THAT had previously established a long term conditions choir called Vocal Chord, with Horsecross Arts who run Perth Concert Hall.  We transferred one of our singing coach contracts to run some experimental online Sing N Chat sessions on Zoom, working with members of Vocal Chord to see what we could achieve online.  We had to learn how to use the platform ourselves and be able to help our participants to learn to use it as well.  A short and successful six session experiment has now led to a much larger group of participants doing a fully structured programme, once again in partnership with Horsecross Arts.

It is clear that this situation is not going to be the short term affair that we probably all thought and that the adaptations and new models of working that we are developing are going to become a permanent part of our delivery portfolio.

We are ready to launch a new music composition programme with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in November 2020, using Zoom and sound cloud with both physical instruments and download music apps. We are also working in partnership with The McManus Galleries to deliver a new online photography programme in the new year.  It will be directly associated with a major exhibition in the gallery, ‘A Love Letter To Dundee’ with photographs by Joseph McKenzie.

We are also planning to get back to face to face working and are using our close partnership with Dundee Contemporary Arts to begin small group working sessions under strict covid protection conditions. These will also start in November and will be evaluated with the intention of running a more extensive programme in the new year  (2021). We continue to evaluate everything we do but it is still too early for us to decide what the balance of our programming is likely to be in the future.  We have learnt that we are flexible and can provide local leadership in this area and still be providing the service that we are valued for.

This post is a transcript of Chris Kelly’s presentation at the Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland online event Caring, Creativity and Connectedness during Covid-19 held on 17th November 2020. Chris is Projects Coordinator at Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust.