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12 June 2023

'It's about hope' Symposium advocates for lived-experience ambassadors in Creative Health

The symposium advocated for the powerful role of lived experience ambassadors in the health and social care system

Let Silence Speak Web 1
Brain Odysseys Ambassador Pauline Boye addresses the room at the symposium as part of a presentation about her role as a lived experience ambassador

‘Let Silence Speak’ saw lived experience ambassadors gather at Science Gallery London alongside researchers, charity representatives, artists, clinicians and other healthcare professionals for a symposium aimed at understanding and advocating for the role of creative ambassadors in improving healthcare pathways.

The afternoon began with a welcome from Dr Tony Woods, SHAPER Programme Manager at King’s, who outlined the work that SHAPER (the large-scale study funded by the Wellcome Trust that aims to explore the impact and scalability of arts-based interventions for physical and mental health in South-East London) has delivered in the four years since the founding of the multidisciplinary team. SHAPER works with three key partners; Breathe Arts Health Research, English National Ballet and Rosetta Life

The first session saw a panel discussion showcasing examples of where creative voices of people living with long-term conditions have led to the development of meaningful performances as part of their path to rehabilitation, including the effective work through Rosetta Life’s Brain Odysseys programme, and the Dance for Parkinson’s programme run by English National Ballet. Advocates from both programmes spoke about the importance of learning from their lived experience as experts, and working to embed their work into clinical pathways.

SHAPER aims to inspire NHS organizations and commissioners to expand the scope of social prescribing to include routine provision of evidence-based art interventions.

We were delighted to see the mix of people at the Science Gallery for this event, all speaking so powerfully about the need to mobilise the patient creative voice as an asset for health and social care. One of the main aims of the event was to explore how we might embed the ambassador model in the local health system and many important conversations were had, and relationships forged, towards this goal.

Nikki Crane, King’s Programme Lead for Creative Health

A representation of ambassadors from Brain Odysseys - Pauline Boye, Jawad Mohammed, Gareth Jones and Lil Sullivan, who were responsible for co-founding and co-designing the programme at Rosetta Life - spoke about their work encouraging other people to engage, spreading joy and enthusiasm for the programme. The initiative forms part of Rosetta Life’s decade-long work, which has been at the forefront of developing scientifically and clinically- validated arts programmes for people with long-term conditions.

English National Ballet presented first-hand testimony and findings from their 12-week programme, Dance for Parkinson’s. Ambassador Ian Temple shared his experience of the programme.

It's about hope. Pushes me into the now. In that class, that safe space I lose myself for an hour. It's quite magical. I feel part of a company.

Ian Temple, Dance for Parkinson’s Ambassador

The rest of the day explored how ambassadors can be supported to hold the role of leading and advocating for change in healthcare, and best practice for true co-creation – meaning it is led, designed and conducted by ambassadors trained via the arts programmes. Speakers including Heather Campbell, Dr Kiruba Nagaratnam, Catriona O’Neil, Joan Darell, Laurie Allen, Professor Helen Chatterjee and Kiz Manley spoke about their experiences of research, commissioning and working as ambassadors in clinical settings. The symposium concluded with a panel discussion chaired by Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty CBE explored making the case for the added value of lived experience ambassadors in health and social care settings.

This ground-breaking event celebrated the transformative power of diverse, creative voices in healthcare, as people with long-term conditions not only showcased meaningful performances as part of their path to rehabilitation, but also eloquently explained how engagement in the creative process is effective in preventing mental health issues associated with such devastating diagnoses.

Dr Tony Woods, Programme Manager for the SHAPER programme

What’s Next

‘Let Silence Speak’ was the first in a series of dissemination events aimed at taking the outcomes of the SHAPER programme to wider audiences. Future events addressing  specific topics such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke and post-natal depression are being programmed for the upcoming nine months, in addition to the planning a large conference that will cover all aspects of SHAPER later in 2023. 

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In this story

Tony Woods

SHAPER Programme Manager

Nikki Crane

Nikki Crane Lead of Creative Health

Anne Marie Rafferty

Professor of Nursing Policy