A PROGRAMME of arts and culture activity is keeping Wearsiders fit and healthy – in both body and mind.

The busy programme is being delivered by Sunderland Culture throughout the month of June.

“Our arts and cultural venues may be closed, but at this difficult time it’s more important than ever that we offer activities,” said Sunderland Culture Producer Vicki Kennedy.

“The evidence that reading, drawing, singing, playing music or any other artistic activity can improve our physical and mental wellbeing is overwhelming,” she added.

A recent Arts Council England (ACE) report was the latest in a long line of evidence to confirm the impact of the arts and on health and wellbeing. It reported the positive impact activity can have on mental health, particularly depression, anxiety and dementia. It concluded that arts and culture can also improve isolation, reduce loneliness and increase individuals’ confidence and self-worth.

“Each day in June we’ll be sharing creative ideas, stories, videos and workshops across our social media channels that focus on the impact on our health and wellbeing. Our programme of activity is all online, and has something for everyone, for people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Vicki.

“Each week has a separate theme and we started last week by putting the programme into context and describing what was going to happen throughout the month. We also had a session from writer and performer Kirsten Luckins on how creative writing can be good for your mental health,” she explained.

Last week was themed ‘Children and young people’; this week the theme is ‘The health and wellbeing of artists,’ and next week will look at how we can be ‘Kind to the Mind.’

“We’re working with partners from across the region to deliver the activity. These include Washington Mind, We Make Culture, New Writing North and Sunderland Music Hub, as well as local venues such as Arts Centre Washington and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

“Artists contributing to our programme include graffiti artist Frank Styles, Kirsten Luckins, singer Lucy Garnett and New York-based artist and designer Emilie Baltz.”

Activity includes printable worksheets and learning packs; The Big Sing with Sunderland Music Hub; a photographic gallery of ‘kindness captured pictures; support surgeries for artists and artistic organisations; a showcase of artist Frank Styles, and videos busting the ‘myth’ of Van Gogh and celebrating ‘difference.’

Vicki added: “Throughout the month we’ll also be exploring social prescribing, which is the referral of patients to artistic activity instead of – or in addition to – more conventional forms of medicine.

“One in five people visiting a GP does so for reasons that aren’t fundamentally medical – including loneliness and isolation. Up to another one in five people live with a condition or symptoms where medicine isn’t the sole, or even the best, solution. We think ‘prescribing’ arts and culture can make a real difference in many lives.”

Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly, said: “Taking part in art is good for you – it makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Now, more than ever, art can lift us and cheer us.

“The programme of vibrant activity I’m sure will do that and I’d like to thank all of the partners who’ve put together such an imaginative and wide-ranging programme to keep people busy during the month of June. Hopefully it will be an introduction to the benefits of artistic endeavour to some, and confirmation of how it can improve health and wellbeing for others – and lead to people increasing their participation with the arts.”

Funding for the programme has come from the Unleash strand of Sunderland Culture’s Great Place programme. Unleash celebrates health and community in the Coalfields area of Sunderland, and the Great Place programme is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.

For more information, or to download the activities, go to www.sunderlandculture.org.uk or follow Sunderland Culture on Twitter (@SundCulture), on Instgram (@sunderlandculture) or Facebook.