Ed Vaizey: Arts leaders come together to support a strategic centre to coordinate research and shape thinking

Ed Vaizey led a debate earlier this evening at Westminster Hall, presenting the results of two years research into the benefits of the creative arts on health and wellbeing.

A little dry yes, but on the whole it was a reassuring and strangely reaffirming watch, if such debates can be. Vaizey is a passionate advocate whose stylish enthusiasm is beguiling.

He has a track record of calling out innovative projects, legitimising and endorsing them in the process. He endorsed the OAE’s Night Shift gigs a couple of years back, and delivered a rousing call-to-arms at the St John’s Smith Square season launch in 2016 as I recall. He has an uncanny knack of making you feel as though he’s got the back of the thing you care about.

Maybe I’m projecting. Tell me if you think that’s the case.

Much of the debate was about delivering top-line messages from the report (start with the summary doc before moving onto the 99 page document). Some of my personal highlights included below.

  • The report examined the way the creative arts can help individuals stay well, recover faster, manage long term conditions, and maintain a better quality of life.
  • 850,000 children suffer from mental health problems. Some manifested before 14. Some can be prevented or mitigated through early intervention. For example, the Alchemy Project – youngsters work with dancer; both cohorts demonstrated clinical improvements.
  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Stroke Rehabilitation project with the Humber NHS Foundation – saw a reduction in their stroke victims symptoms and increased social awareness
  • Aldeburgh gets a mention from Vaizey – “work done by them using music as a powerful change in the field of social health and wellbeing.”
  • Vaizey: “Innovative solutions are needed – they must play a vital role in the public health arena. The evidence shows that the arts can play a significant role in managing illness.”

At the end of his statement, Vaizey summed up with the recommendations from the report, calling for a culture change and fresh thinking. He said that the report recommended that arts leaders come together to support a strategic centre to coordinate research and shape thinking.

“We need greater engagement from policy makers,” he said. “We need people to engage from across health, education, communities and local government to support the delivery of arts-based interventions across the country.”

And the real shocker in a debate was left until last. “It is a matter of some sadness to me that the last Health Secretary to come here was Alan Johnson. The current Health Secretary should be here to listen to this debate.”

There was no-one there from the Department for Health. Shame on them. This stuff works. It worked for me.

Watch the full debate on Parliament Live (17 minutes 35 seconds in from the beginning of the full broadcast)
Read the summary of Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing
Read the full Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

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