The aim of the project was to promote mental wellbeing in participants by encouraging purposeful observation of the sky, creating images of the sky and sharing these images to a digital community exhibition space
The idea evolved from thinking about the well-established therapeutic benefits of engaging with nature. Most research has focused on ‘green spaces’ which are not so readily available to people in urban areas. There have been a few more recent studies which examine the impact of ‘blue spaces’ and engagement with nature in urban environments. Urban Mind, an innovative smartphone app developed in a collaborative research project between Dr Andrea Mechelli, Psychosis Studies at King’s, arts foundation Nomad Projects and landscape architects J&L Gibbons, encourages users to record and reflect on how their mental state is affected by their experience of city living, and showed a positive relationship between urban sky viewing and momentary wellbeing.
Even in built-up areas, almost everyone has a view of the sky, which in the UK is a dynamic vista of colours, shapes and movement. The act of taking photos will encourage people to give their full attention to the sky even if only for a few moments and engage in a creative decision-making process as they take the picture.
There is evidence that being part of a shared, creative community can also bring wellbeing benefits. The hope is that participants in the Skyscape Wellbeing project will experience a sense of community focused on the KEATS gallery space but possibly spilling over into non-digital relationships and activities as well.
The project aspires to provide ‘proof of concept’ to the idea that purposeful observation of the sky through the creation of sky themed images and sharing these images in a community gallery space will have wellbeing benefits for project participants. If successful, the project evaluation will be used to shape further project development in the form of a website/mobile app.
Annie Holme - academic lead
Annie Holme is a lecturer in the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care. She is the faculty academic lead for work-based learning and teaches Health Politics and Policy. Her research interests are in the history of nursing. She is also a registered nurse with a clinical background in acute medicine and HIV/AIDS. She has a long standing interest in exploring different ways to improve mental wellbeing. The idea for this project evolved from reading a student essay about the benefits of nature for mental health and undertaking a course about the weather which involved taking photos of the sky. Annie recognised that purposeful viewing of the sky to create a photo was bringing similar positive wellbeing benefits as engaging with ‘green’ natural surroundings and that in urban areas sky can be a effective substitute.
Ali Winstanley - artistic lead
Ali Winstanley is an artist, photographer, curator and producer with 13 years experience in the arts, cultural and health sectors. Her creative work spans character illustration, collage, costume, photography and sculpture. She has produced her own illustrated publications and exhibited internationally; her work is also held in the Outsider Art collection of The Museum of Everything. Ali has experience in a variety of therapeutic and community arts and has worked with Trust Thamesmead, Resonate, Kid’s Company, Homerton Hospital Neurorehabilitation Unit, and Helsinki Night of the Arts Festival. She works as a portrait photographer on projects promoting healthy ageing, and her images have been used at ageing conferences hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine, The Institute for Longevity, Royal College of Art and Greater London Authority, as well as being featured by the Guardian, the humanities journal Age Culture and in the recent Pan Macmillan book How to Age. Ali currently produces community mental health, arts and well-being events for South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, working alongside artists from the Bethlem Gallery and colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s; and works part time for the Health Innovation Network at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, producing patient experience and digital health innovation projects and events. She has a BA in Psychology from the University of Sheffield and an Interdisciplinary Award in Art and Mental Health from King's College London.
You can find out more about Ali’s artistic work here, and follow her on Twitter @WellbeingEngage.
Skyscape Wellbeing is a collaboration between King's College London's Department of Adult Nursing and artist Ali Winstanley. It is supported by the university's Culture team.