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Spotlight on: Inspiration Award nominations

The arts and humanities can be a route towards better health - as these notable projects show, from exploring the experience of breathlessness, to finding ways to use artistic practice to improve young people's health and wellbeing.

Each of these projects have been shortlisted for the ‘Inspiration Award’ as part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Wellcome Trust’s Health Humanities Medal 2018.

This inaugural award has been set up to celebrate the contribution of the arts and humanities to improving healthcare, health and wellbeing.

Life of Breath

Professor Havi Carel, University of Bristol (in partnership with Professor Jane Macnaughton, Durham University)

Already nominated for the Best Research category, Life of Breath (LoB) is funded by a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award held by Durham and Bristol Universities, and explores breathlessness from a health humanities perspective through interdisciplinary collaboration.

LoB takes a critically engaged approach to breathlessness, seeking to interact with those affected in their own communities rather than in clinical spaces.

The project is led by Havi Carel who is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol, where she also teaches medical students, along with Jane Macnaughton, Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University.

Lob is an interdisciplinary collaboration of scholars and practitioners across clinical medicine, physiotherapy, neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, history, literary and cultural studies, and the visual and performing arts.

Havi said: “This nomination is a reflection of the dedication, originality and enthusiasm of the entire Life of Breath team. We have placed huge importance on seeking out and documenting the voice of those who are unable to breathe freely and as a result are often unheard: respiratory patients, who are often isolated, lonely and invisible. The nomination shows that these efforts were worthwhile and we are delighted to be considered for the award.”

Healthy Conservatoires

Professor Aaron Williamon, Royal College of Music

Musicians have long called for better prevention, treatment and support for playing-related physical and psychological disorders. Yet, tangible change is not seen by those on the ground.

This situation led to a successful £1 million AHRC bid for Musical Impact, a project investigating the physical and mental demands of making music with the aim of enhancing musicians’ health and wellbeing and enabling them to build sustainable careers.

The project was the first-ever research collaboration among Conservatoires UK (CUK) institutions.

Healthy Conservatoires brings together stakeholders from across the wider performing arts community to assist in supporting health promotion and occupational wellbeing. The network meets twice a year and now includes members from the UK performing arts sector, conservatoires, schools and universities who share a vision to support and promote health and wellbeing among performing artists.

Aaron Williamon, Professor of Performance Science at the Royal College of Music (RCM), is founder of the International Symposium on Performance Science, chief editor of Performance Science (a Frontiers journal), and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the UK’s Higher Education Academy. In 2008, he was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Music.

Aaron commented: “It is an honour for Healthy Conservatoires to be nominated for the Inspiration Award and to be shortlisted alongside so many fantastic projects. The nomination is wonderful recognition of our community approach to supporting and improving the health and wellbeing of performing artists. I am delighted that this award exists to raise the profile of the valuable work being done by arts and humanities researchers in the UK to enhance public health.”


Dr Candice Satchwell, University of Central Lancashire

Stories2Connect is a participatory community-led project funded by the AHRC from 2015-2018. A multi-disciplinary research team worked with a core group of 13 ‘young researchers’ associated with Barnardo’s, who had disabilities and/or experience of the care system.

The research team used narrative and arts-based methods to collect and create stories with other disabled/disadvantaged young people, resulting in around 100 transcribed interviews, many peer-to-peer, which were then turned into various multimedia outputs.

Creative writers, artists, illustrators, animators and filmmakers, mainly volunteers from the student body and community organisation, the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, worked with these young people to craft fictionalised short stories to represent their experiences. 48 authentic yet uplifting stories have been produced as books and audio-videos, which also provide resources for professionals and practitioners who work with children and young people.

Dr Candice Satchwell, Reader in Education and Literacies at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “It is wonderful to have this recognition of the collaborative work we have been doing with young researchers from the Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation at UCLan. Stories2Connect has worked in participatory ways with children and young people, keeping their voices central at all stages. The resulting stories have been crafted through meticulous and complex processes involving many wonderful people. I am so excited to have been nominated, but the project is absolutely a team effort.”

TR14ers dance group

Retired Sergeant David Aynsley, TR14ers Community Dance Charity

TR14ers is a peer-led dance group that demonstrates how creativity and engagement can create the conditions for transforming the physical and mental health of young people.

The underpinning research which supported the development of the TR14ers was carried out by a transdisciplinary group of academics from the University of Exeter. A series of case studies of exemplars of sustained, transformational change were conducted in order to develop a transformative engagement approach, Connecting Communities (C2), which seeks to create the conditions for health and reducing health inequalities.

Based in an economically disadvantaged town in England, and recognising that standard interventions and arresting more and more young people for their anti-social behaviour was having no effect, the police stated to employ the C2 approach. Retired Sergeant David Aynsley explains more: “In 2004 my police team joined the Connecting Communities programme at the University of Exeter Medical School and we set up free dance workshops for children in Camborne. In 2009 we became a registered company and charity and now operate with the support of BBC Children in Need as TR14ers Community Dance Charity.”

Over 1500 young people have participated in these workshops which have been attributed to a 90% reduction in truancy, a 50% increase in educational attainment and a significant decrease in anti-social behaviour.

David continues: “I am constantly inspired by the young people and volunteers that make up the TR14ers. Without their dedication, drive and resilience, often in the most challenging personal circumstances, TR14ers would have ended years ago. I am thrilled and humbled to have been nominated for this award and hope that the research results will go some way to helping TR14ers achieve its goal of owning its own dance studio.”

Hearing Aids for Music project

Dr Alinka Greasley, University of Leeds (in partnership with Dr Harriet Crook, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust)

By 2031 20% of the UK population will have a hearing loss. It is estimated that the socio-economic costs of this could be as much as £30.13 billion per year.

Hearing Aids for Music is the first project of its kind to look at music and hearing aid use across England. Research shows that engagement in musical activities has a direct impact on health and wellbeing, particularly among older adults.

The aim has been to keep hearing aid users at its heart and improve access to music through research that has practical and immediate day-to-day application for hearing aid users and audiologists.

Hearing aid users have reported positive changes in music listening practices as a result of par-ticipating. Deaf musicians report increased knowledge; audiologists have gained insights that have changed their clinical practice while hearing aid manufacturers have reported that this has facilitated new productive working relationships.

This interdisciplinary project is led by Dr Alinka Greasley (Principal Investigator) with Dr Harriet Crook (Co-Investigator) and Dr Amy Beeston (Postdoctoral Research Fellow), supported by an advisory board who are leaders in their field.

Alinka comments: “Hearing aid technology has been primarily developed for speech perception, and not music perception, and the project highlights that people want better solutions for music – something that hearing aid manufacturers have taken on board, yet more work needs to be done. Ensuring that the experience of music through hearing aids is positive also has the potential to improve the uptake of hearing aid technology in general, which is important since delays…have been linked to poorer health-related quality of life and negative psychosocial effects such as social isolation and withdrawal from activities. Being nominated raises awareness of this timely research which is offering immediate help to those with hearing loss and who wear hearing aid technology to engage in musical activities.

"I would like to thank all the participants who have given up their time to contribute to the project. As PI, I have been supported by a truly excellent team of scholars and industry professionals, and I would like to thank them for their knowledge and insights."

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