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:

Art in Nature, Moray Art Centre

large painted artwork laid on table outside with several people working on this together

Who is Moray Art Centre?

Moray Art Centre (MAC) is a registered charity offering a community hub for everyone with a focus on making art accessible to all. MAC runs our many in-person classes, workshops and Summer School while exhibiting work in the beautiful gallery spaces. We are a vibrant and motivating organisation that allows people to meet, discuss and generate a community of creativity. While based in Findhorn, we champion local artists and celebrate the rich culture throughout Moray and the North of Scotland. Our aim is to provide the tools of creativity so that anyone can benefit from their undoubted health and community benefits.

Our Art in Nature Workshop Pilot

In September 2021 Moray Art Centre (MAC) led a trial Art in Nature workshop designed in partnership with the local fellow charity Wild Things, Moray Wellbeing Hub and the artist Iona Leishman to teach participants about the local environment while using creativity to manage and improve their mental health.

Wild Things set the scene in the environment surrounding MAC at Findhorn, educating participants about the local habitats and wildlife. Back in the garden at MAC, artist Iona Leishman then guided them to making a joint mural using found materials and expressing their experiences with their new art skills. Moray Wellbeing Hub connected MAC to those with mental health issues who expressed an interest in the workshop, although this was not the only pathway to the programme. MAC provided a facilitator, promotion, arts materials, participant support (before, during and after the workshop) and a teaching space.

people standing on a grassy hill listening to a speaker

Many peer-reviewed studies show how expressing creativity and spending time in nature can improve mental health, with the NHS providing prescriptions for people to partake in these activities (Arts Council 2016, Thomson et al 2020). Even prior to the impacts of the pandemic, awareness of the importance of robust mental health was growing. Now, post-lockdown, some people need help acclimatising to interacting with others and overcoming the fear of the past two years.

The Art in Nature workshop was designed with the recovery route of the CHIME framework in mind. The importance of connection is present when building relationships and cooperation with others in the workshop, especially when producing a joint art piece. The sense of empowerment participants gain when expressing their Identity by forging their creative strengths is also seen in the workshop.

large art work in progress laid out across some tables with 2 people working adding to the painting

The survey results from the trial workshop were overwhelmingly positive in MAC’s provision of the workshop and the overall impacts on participants from the local community. 60% of those at the workshop stated that the connection with other people was what they appreciated most about the experience, demonstrating the need to provide services to help people interact with others. Everyone who took part in the trial felt buoyed by the experience with one participant remarking, “Thank you so much for letting my inner arty self and child out for a play.”

MAC is now applying for grants with the hope of offering at least 3 programmes of Art in Nature workshop – one for children, one for a specific group (e.g. care homes, Men’s Shed, etc.) and one for the general public. An award from Moray Communities Mental Health & Wellbeing Fund will enable MAC, Moray Wellbeing Hub and Wild Things to launch at least one series of workshops this year and help to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community.

If you are interested in hearing more or wish to just drop us a line about any of our provisions and projects please email and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Lucy Summers (MAC Board member)

Foodbanks and Films

photo of people watching a film in a community venue

Foodbanks and Films

Is it time to start talking about ‘long covid’ for communities, as well as individuals? There is increasing evidence, such as a recent report from Community Leisure UK of multiple challenges in reopening and staffing community venues and spaces. Many of the local groups that we work with in Regional Screen Scotland are reporting difficulty in recruiting enough volunteers to be able to get up and running again. Undoubtedly, a whole range of community activities and events have not restarted and many may perhaps be permanently lost.

We need an urgent national dialogue about this problem and what it may mean for long-term personal and communal health. But, is part of the problem that we lack the evidence, the metrics and even the language to appreciate and talk about the potential scale and impact of what’s happening?

As my field is community and local cinema let me cite one excellent example that we work with – the film screenings organised (pre-Covid) by North Ayrshire Foodbank. As Coordinator Craig Crosthwaite explains:

‘North Ayrshire Foodbank has been operating a mobile cinema project for 6 years. The aim is to address the aspiration of the Scottish Government to have communities experience a large screen cinematic experience. The portable system has been in use at a weekly showing in our own base in Ardrossan (pre-COVID) and at venues across the local authority including churches, community centres, libraries and schools.

The mobile cinema was funded for three-years by Impact Funding partners to recruit and train volunteers to operate the system (how to use the equipment, food hygiene, lifting and handling, DTP, photography and Pacific Institute’s “Steps to Excellence” for personal development), who then hosted 4 showings a year in their community. We recruited 11 teams who operated 44 showings a year (pre-COVID).

We are currently working on a Young Directors’ holiday project which started this October with the aim for the group to produce a 2 minute film during Easter 2022 which will be shown at future mobile cinema events.

We call our cinema sessions “Film for Food” where the aim is to raise necessary items for the Foodbank’s emergency food boxes. Attendees have donated 8 tons of food over the years of operation. Ultimately we use the mobile cinema to raise food, train volunteers, encourage film making and to entertain by screening top rated movies.’

Everyone who hears Craig talk about this work is inspired by the model and by the simple aim that you need to feed the mind as well as the body. But how do we translate this undoubtedly special project into the language of health professionals and policymakers? How do we evidence the health benefits of a film screening in a community affected by multiple deprivation factors? As Claire Stevens of Voluntary Health Scotland puts it:

‘I’m hoping there is a way the contribution can be framed or teased out so as to spell out more overtly the health outcomes for people. There will be health improvement benefits for the community, perhaps aligned to, or complementing the health and wellbeing outcomes that the Food Bank itself is generating? There will be benefits in terms of increased personal wellbeing, reduced social isolation and loneliness, perhaps reduced stigma (less stigmatising to use the Food Bank if it is also offering cinema), and wider public health benefits in terms of increased community capacity and resilience. It contributes to the government and public health’s aspirations to create and sustain 20 minute neighbourhoods.’

But, like thousands of other community initiatives across the country, North Ayrshire Foodbank is run by volunteers, working incredibly hard to simply deliver their core purposes and bring direct benefit to their communities. How do they find the time, the resources and the expertise, to monitor, evaluate and document the health benefits that I’m sure they see, personally and anecdotally, in ways that can contribute to a meaningful discussion about how best to tackle health inequalities in some of Scotland’s poorest areas? I’ve worked in the cultural sector for over 40 years and for most of that time the debate about arts and health has ebbed and flowed, and still the crucial question of evidence has never been resolved, even though we may need the answer more urgently now – post-lockdown, than ever.

Robert Livingston, Director, Regional Screen Scotland


Anything is Possible

brightly coloured image of art work 'Kiss on the Cheek' being hung on wall

brightly coloured image of art work 'Kiss on the Cheek' being hung on wall

What are health inequalities?

Health inequalities are the unjust and avoidable differences in people’s health across the population and between specific population groups. Health inequalities mean that some people experience poorer health than average and often die younger, for reasons of poverty, deprivation, discrimination and/or disempowerment. 

Health inequalities are not inevitable, they are related to our overall social and economic system and the circumstances people find themselves in, and these unjust and avoidable differences in people’s health need to be prevented and reduced.  In the most affluent areas of Scotland, men experience 23.8 more years of good health and women experience 22.6 more years compared to the most deprived areas. 

The existence of health inequalities in Scotland means that the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is not being enjoyed equally across the population. Public Health Scotland


So, what role do the arts play in helping to address health inequalities?

The last eighteen months have been an eye opener. When the first lockdown occurred, support, kindness and inventiveness blossomed. Shelter was organised for those who had none, food was delivered to those who had little, and contact was made with those in need of friendly voice.

It also reminded us that significant inequalities continue to exist. Not only do some people not have shelter or enough food to live on, but they also don’t have enough money to heat their home, or access to digital means to stay in touch or to help get the support they need.

When lockdown hit creativity flourished. It flourished not because the right structures had been created for it to do so. It flourished because we are all inherently inventive and the pandemic was a catalyst for creativity in many different walks of life. This was not only expressed through art in the windows, but also through finding quick ways to circumnavigate bureaucratic structures, and to make what seems impossible, possible.

Working in the arts we often talk about the fact that little attention is being paid to its importance and its use in everyday lives. It takes a pandemic to dispel a myth. Creativity is inherent in all of us, it makes us who we are. It articulates what we experience, gives voice to our feelings, provides new perspectives, and can create a sense of hope where things might feel hopeless.

Art creates a space where issues and experiences can be explored from a perspective which resonate with others. It helps us make connections and lets us see experiences from different points of view, be that through writing, for example the 2018 Orwell Prize-winning ‘Poverty Safari’ by Darren McGarvey, or the visual arts practice of 2021 Turner Prize nominated Gentle/Radical.

Creative opportunity provides a space where people with little direct arts experience can come together to share something that inspires, excites or breaks the monotony of life in an institutional setting.

horse riders watching game of ping pong on a beach

So, how might you go about starting this creative or cultural dialogue? You have to get yourself out there and find ways of getting the conversation going, and that is where the creative process starts. There are many ways to create a space which is open and not intimidating. Through this dialogue we begin to understand how people lead their lives, what pressures and frustrations they face, what their hopes and ambitions are and what interests and skills they bring. Conversations start and evolve. One day you might be gardening with a group of people and as a consequence of what feels like a random conversation about beekeeping, you start on a 3 year-long journey that ends up in a re-designed Scottish Beekeepers pavilion at the Royal Highland Show.

man riding on accessible bike

How do we know that any of this makes a difference?

Well, just look at what happened and if you have to be convinced of the fact that art is important of, and in itself, then simply look at the environment it creates. One where people are valued, where skills are recognised and identities celebrated.

Although art, creativity and culture is not some kind of magic healing bullet it is intrinsically about who we are, or perhaps more importantly, what we could be.

Jan-Bert van den Berg, Director, Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians and Board Member of ACHWS.


All images are credited Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians.


Additional reading:

An excellent, short, comprehensible and up to the minute one page briefing on health inequalities, provided by the Scottish Parliament’s information team (SPICE). It also discusses why and how covid is widening the health inequalities gap between certain groups, notably rich and poor:

International Arts in Medicine Fellowship is open for applications

Flyer advertising Arts in Medicine Fellowship

The Arts in Medicine Fellowship is open for applications

Arts in Medicine Fellowship is a non-profit arm of Tender Arts Nigeria. We focus on the medical humanities and seek to promote art engagements to alleviate the pains of individuals and improve overall health outcomes of patients, families and caregivers. As an arm of Tender Arts Nigeria, we provide education, awareness, research, and practical interventions through the arts and thought leadership. We engage with those in need of healing, cultivating more functional and supportive environments in non-traditional spaces. This is important because we believe that being in good health is a precondition inextricably linked to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal – Good Health and Well-being.

Our Vision is to become a global institution that connects people to wellbeing through the arts.
Our Mission is to fuse the arts with medicine to build the capacity of key wellness stakeholders, and create frameworks for the practice of therapeutic arts.

Join our community of practitioners to help bridge the gap between the arts and health care systems internationally and become a leader in arts in health.

Applicants for the fellowship programme can be students or professionals already working in the field of arts in health practice and those who are interested in this field.  The Fellowship is opened to students in tertiary institutions and professionals, including: artists, musicians, writers,  poets, dramatists, dancers, social workers, medical professionals, administrators, researchers, clinicians, educators,  policymakers, community leaders, media practitioners, filmmakers, photographers, entrepreneurs and mental health and wellness advocates.

The Arts in Medicine Fellowship has existing partners around the world and can help support participants to find new partners for new projects in hospitals, health centers, hospices and in the community.

The fellowship curriculum includes:

  • An introduction to Arts in Health
  • Leadership in Arts in Health: Developing Arts in Health interventions
  • Design Thinking and Health Innovations
  • Arts and Mental Health
  • Creative Practice: Dance, Visual Arts, Poetry, Mindfulness
  • Arts in Health Festival: Community Engagements

Applicants will gain a rich understanding of international arts and health collaboration, education on arts in health best practices, cross-cultural engagements, recommendations for all expense paid international fellowships on arts in health-related interventions and programming, mentoring and professional development.

For more information please get in touch.

Application deadline: December 6, 2021. Make your application here.

For more information watch our film on the Arts in Medicine Fellowship.

Kunle Adewale, Founder/Executive Director Arts in Medicine Fellowship,

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:

ALISS: Finding and sharing information for wellbeing

ALISS logo (blue background, white text)

ALISS logo (blue background, white text)

There are many organisations, groups, services, and activities across Scotland which help people to live well, and it’s important that people are able to find out what’s available, however this is often challenging.  ALISS (A Local Information System for Scotland) is a national digital platform which is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) to help people find and share information that can support health and wellbeing. This very much includes arts, culture and heritage programmes and activities which is why we’d love for ACHWS members to get involved!

ALISS information is ‘crowdsourced’ meaning that organisations and individuals living and working in communities across Scotland can work together to gather, add, manage and share information about the things that matter to them. Information added is available for people to find on the website as well as a range of partner’s websites and systems, both by people searching directly for themselves or for family and friends, as well as by professionals involved in social prescribing and signposting roles.

Adding your information to ALISS can therefore help you to increase participation and reach new audiences by making your services and activities more findable through a variety of channels where different people go to find information.

Examples of some arts, culture and heritage organisations already listed on ALISS include:

Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

Theatre Nemo

Art in Healthcare

Carron Creates Craft Group

Music 4 U

To join them and add your own group or organisation, please visit, sign up for an account and then click the ‘Add an organisation’ link on the menu bar. After you’ve added it, or if it is already listed, you can also ‘claim’ your organisation to take editorial control of your information so that you can edit and update whenever necessary to make sure it stays accurate and up to date for people searching.

If you have any questions or need any assistance in adding or claiming your information we would be happy to help and we’d also love to hear from you to learn more about your work, and to consider any other ways in which ALISS could support this.

If you would like to find out more and chat about ways to get involved, you can get in touch at or call us on 0141 404 0239.

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:

Climate + Health + Arts: A new challenge?

Arts Health & Environment venn diagram

Health is one of the major areas affected by the climate crisis, now and in all forecasts for the future consequences of climate change. We see this in the form of the impacts of extreme weather, in particular heatwaves, but also as anxiety about climate change.

Health is bound up in the various Government Climate Change strategies where action on climate is also action on human health, such as relating to diet and a move towards a more plant-based diet, as just one example. Another key area is greenspace where human health benefits align closely with climate mitigation and adaptation strategies to ensure healthy, active environments for people and nature to thrive.

NHS Boards are facing significant challenges to meet #netcarbonzero targets as this affects every aspect of operations across energy, procurement, waste, transport, as well as public health dimensions of diet and greenspace.

ACHWS and Voluntary Health Scotland are planning to host a series of events at the intersection of arts, health and climate. The first event, planned for February 2022, will offer an overview of the range of relevant issues. This will be followed by further events on specific areas, such as mental health and greenspace.

We’d love to hear from you if you have relevant examples of projects and expertise you would like to contribute and share?  Please get in touch by emailing using the subject line ‘arts health climate’.

Please provide:

  • your contact details
  • an outline of the example or expertise you would like to share, including how it is informed by both health and climate/environment expertise and priorities.
  • identify potential co-presenters from either from culture, health, climate or environment sectors, individuals and / or grassroots or community organisations.

We are keen for contributions to be multi-vocal and to include arts and either/both health and climate environment voices. These might be ‘experts’ or ‘lay’ contributors and in selecting presentations we will be looking to ensure a diversity of representation and actively encourage contributions from people who may be under-represented in public dialogue regarding culture, health and climate action.

Chris Fremantle, Cultural Producer, Lecturer and Researcher and Board Member of ACHWS


some links that may be of interest

The São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health is a multi-stakeholder call to action co-created by the global planetary health community. It outlines the actions necessary for us to achieve a just transformation to a world that optimizes the health & well-being of all people and the planet.

Going green: what do the public think about the NHS and climate change? With the NHS aiming to become the world’s first ‘net zero’ health care system, understanding the views of the public will be important for developing and implementing policies to successfully transition to net zero. This Health Foundation blog explores public perceptions of climate change, health and the NHS. It highlights key findings from an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the Health Foundation and considers their implications.



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