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The Benefits We’ve Seen Are Huge

2nd November 2020

Dr. Jenny Elliott, CEO & Artistic Director, Arts Care

Dr Jenny Elliott

Arts Care is a uniquely original health care organisation founded on the idea of giving patients, families, staff and visitors a better quality of experience through participation and access to the arts.

Every week it delivers a weekly programme of art of all kinds, including visual art, dance, art, music, film-making, creative writing, and even clown doctors across five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

But just three weeks after opening a new Arts and Health Centre earlier this year, the centre itself was forced to close.

“We responded very quickly and created an Arts Care 4U Channel,” Dr Jenny Elliott, Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director says.

“Our artists and clown doctors, who had never had experience in it before started to record themselves in their homes and facilitate their weekly workshops which were uploaded to this new channel.

“We had never been big on social media and we started off with minimal skills, but in the last six months we have uploaded around 300 videos to the channel.”

The group also began providing art boxes for older people in residential care and for children, with activities and instructions and singalongs on a DVD.

The artists have also left inspiring packs on doorsteps of the users who would come to day centres, leaving them tasks and activities, which they later return to collect.

They have also produced felt hearts for a bereavement project, with The Belfast Hospital Trust recently making an order for 4,000 of them to creatively dress their comfort rooms.

Dr. Elliott, who lives in Belfast, added: “Many of the artists are rising up in the context of healthcare, and showing a terrific strength and flexibility in meeting needs and requirements as they are coming from the core of the NHS. It’s a very powerful thing.

“Fundamentally our organisation has changed within the last six or seven months. If someone had said to the board of Arts Care, to the artists and ourselves that a lot of our services would have to be delivered online during a pandemic, and that it was going to be a main driver for us sustaining the arts, I would not have believed it.”

Arts Care receives funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is just one of the many wonderful causes that benefit from the £30 million raised every week by players of The National, which has been “the mainstay of not only supporting our programme but supporting the central core of the operations of the organisation,” Dr Elliott said.

“They’ve been tremendous throughout this, and very, very supportive.”

She adds: “I think getting the Arts Care 4U channel up and running so quickly has been among the proudest moments for me over the last few months.”

”The overall sense is that the patients have really demonstrated that the arts matter to them, and they feel that they’re not forgotten whenever we’ve been able to do that.”

“We deal with people who are probably most in need, socially isolated, while many of our trust areas have people located rurally and they might have dementia, disabilities, they may not have access to other services.

“We have seen that the benefits of people participating in the arts are huge.”