Arts, Mental Health and Wellbeing

  • Exploring arts, health and wellbeing

    Sometimes life is a bit upside.

    Maybe you’re feeling bored, fed up or a bit worried? Maybe you’re missing your friends and the people you can’t visit,
    or maybe, you’re actually loving lockdown and don’t want to go back to go back to ‘life before lockdown.’ Whatever your feelings, they are all important and they’re ok. Everyone is experiencing lockdown in different ways and there’s no right or wrong as to how you should feel right now. Some days might be good, some bad, some awful and some brilliant.

    We’ve created a workbook full of creative ways that you can take care of yourself during this time. You can use it as a schools resource or simply at home.

    Download the work book here: Exploring arts, health & wellbeing



  • Mindful Mowbray Colouring Sheets

    Sometimes we all need a bit of time out and mindful colouring is a great way to stay in the moment and forget our worries for a while. Enjoy these colouring sheets and find out some fascinating facts about the statues, sculptures and buildings in Mowbray Park!

    Each one has a reminder of simple ways we can care for each other and nourish our own wellbeing…

    Download your Mindful Mowbray Colouring Sheets

  • Film: 50/50 by Amelia Turner
    50/50 by Amelia Turner 

    Lost in her mind, found in her home.

    Though the world is in isolation, it is from the confines of her bed that Turner’s Grandma, Millie,
    fights on… off, on, off, on, off. This constant flick of the switch is also known to their family as
    Cyclothymia; the lesser known strand of bipolar.

    As a Granddaughter, this project has been a way for the photographer to communicate with her
    Grandma. The tradition of a physical diary has transformed into a digital one containing CBT records,
    phone call conversations, video clips and little acts of encouragement to help lift the duvet.

    Projection onto a bed sheet alludes to a place of safety for Millie in her darkest moments.
    Suspension onto a washing line relates to her instability with slight movements of the sheet
    combined with clips fading reflecting the alteration of her mood.

    About Amelia:

    Amelia Turner is a recent graduate from the University of Sunderland having studied ‘Photography, Video and Digital Imaging’. 50/50 is Amelia’s  final University assignment.

    Amelia is a Sunderland Culture volunteer and regularly volunteers with our Creative Age groups. She has also volunteered at Hetton Carnival 2019 and Celebrate Different 2019 and is looking to develop her own practice as a community artist.

    You can also see the final video projected, as the artwork intended, here:


  • Hetton Carnival 2019

    One of our four Great Place projects, Unleash, explores how arts and culture can improve health and wellbeing for individuals and communities. For two years, we have delivered a health and wellbeing culture village at the wonderful Hetton Carnival, testing new and innovative ways to engage the community in the Coalfields area of the City.

    From nursing baby vegetables, to hugging hens and swinging on a trapeze, the community have embraced this project and we are now successfully developing a social prescribing programme in the area.

    Watch our short video to hear about the project, as we look back to the Carnival from June 2019!

  • Blog: Frank Styles

    Hi my name is Frank Styles and I am a spray painter/mural artist.

    Where do you live?

    I have lived and worked in Sunderland since 2003. Most of my murals can be found dotted about Sunderland from the East End to Silksworth, North Hylton to Hetton. I do branch out from Sunderland, though as a lot of my work is through word of mouth its been mostly around the North East. With this latest project in London I’m looking forward to doing more things further afield.

    Tell us what creativity means to you:

    Creativity is a very human thing, its what sets us apart from most other animals. How can I improve something? How can I make something more beautiful, more functional? Creativity for me simply does not stop. Even when I am not painting I am cooking, inventing new recipes, trying out new techniques or learning new DIY skills often using reclaimed materials. When painting I am always trying out new techniques and effects in creating imagery, learning new photography or filming techniques, 3D image manipulation etc.

    Tell us about your recent mental health project: 

    Mind (the mental health charity) got in touch a while back when I was commissioned to paint Sunderland’s best ever goal scored by Carlos Edwards. This was a one day commission and it was painted on the side of ALS near the Stadium. It was part of a project featuring 6 different clubs in the EFL and a photo of the work was exhibited in London. I went down and met Carlos himself, a real nice guy who gave his time to come and support the event. Anyway, this put me in touch with Mind and when they had an opportunity to provide the artwork for the Spanish Steps at Wembley, they added me to the list of artists invited to tender for artwork.

    I jumped at the chance as not only is it a great place to showcase my work, try something new (its a vinyl artwork not a painting), it’s also a cause close to my heart as my brother passed away a few years ago. He had suffered with severe mental health issues. So, I wrote out a tender and really did my homework and spelled out my ideas for the artwork. Then, they picked me! So off to London I went.

    Image: Carlos Edwards project

    I had many ideas for the steps but the one that really stuck was using the 1 in 4 statistic, that approx 1 in 4 people have had experience with mental health problems. There are 12 flights of stairs in 4 rows of 3. So my idea was to take portraits of football fans and have 1 in 4 of them viewed at a different perspective, the 3 are best viewed from the adjacent steps.

    Photographing portraits was a new thing for me, I invested in a fold up green screen budget soft box, bought a second hand camera body, borrowed a lens (Thanks Mud!), and set off taking some snaps. I knew what I was looking for as I know how I liked to light a painting subject but actually photographing people and looking like I knew what I was doing was a little nerve racking.

    I listened to a lot of peoples experiences with mental health and would say that more than 1 in 4 of the people I spoke to had something to say on the matter. It’s interesting listening to peoples stories and different methods of copying with it. Some of the best advice to come out was that it’s OK not to be OK and chances are there’re people who are going through something similar to what you are going through and you can find someone to talk to it about and realise that you are not alone.

    I wanted this artwork to be thought provoking but also positive and I just had to get some painting in there so I painted 2 abstracts on wood using acrylic and spray paint, I used these images as backgrounds and had the colours running through the faces.

    How do you maintain good mental health?

    Personally I do suffered with mild depression from time to time. Its nothing like some people go through but sometimes its bad enough to keep from from going out or starting painting. Its like a voice in my head that says “you are not good enough”, “you’re wasting your time” etc. It is very hard to work creatively through these times. I have found that for me, getting exercise really makes a difference. It’s doubly hard to get out there when feeling depressed, that’s the hardest step. BUT after getting home from a 15 mile bike ride or a 10 min dip in the North Sea, the endorphins kick in and really help me to naturally relax.

    A positive phrase that you love:

    This written on a wooden wall hanging at my Grandmas when I was a kid:

    Smile a while, and when you smile, another smiles.
    And life is worthwhile, when you smile!


  • The Little Book of Wellbeing Wisdom


    As part of our Mental Health & Wellbeing Month, we’re sharing The Little Book of Wellbeing Wisdom – a fantastic book created in the second of our ‘Who do you want to meet?’ projects which brought together community groups from across Sunderland, to explore a creative project in a style and theme of their choice.

    The Little Book of Wellbeing Wisdom was made by watercolour artists from Grindon Community Church Project and writers from the tea & talk group members from Impact NE ( a mental health charity) in Sunderland.

    Looking at things that helped them look after their own mental health, and with the support of local artist Stephanie Smith and writer James Whitman, they created stories, poems, and paintings and brought them together in this beautiful booklet.

    We hope you enjoy it and find it a useful resource for your own mental health and wellbeing.

    Read the Little Book of Wellbeing Wisdom here: Little Book of Wellbeing Wisdom

  • Blog: How is creativity shaping Sunderland’s mental health services?

    “Being creative gives us a chance to express our feelings & reflect on them”

    A photograph focusing on a table covered with art materials and refreshments, with the hands of the people sitting around the table doing craft activities

    In our latest blog post, Jenny Carter of Washington Mind’s Young Peoples Project talks about creativity as self-care & how that idea informs her work with young people to shape mental health services in Sunderland.

    Read Jenny’s blog post

  • Blog: How can creativity and community help you to thrive?

    ReseAbstracted, heavily patterned pen and ink drawings of trees laid out on a tablearch has shown that regular creative activity is linked to positive psychological functioning, while engagement with arts and heritage is associated with improved life satisfaction. This can have a number of dimensions, from the stress-reducing meditative quality of creative activities, to the social support derived from being part of a creative group.

    Julia Wysocka of the International Community Organisation of Sunderland (ICOS) shares with us some of the approaches she uses to stimulate her own mindful creativity, and also tells us about the Eastern European Women’s Group whose programme of health and wellbeing activities includes creative workshops.

    Read her blog post

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