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Arts & Health Board

We collaborate with partners to develop arts on prescription approaches

A group of seven people of different ages, some seated and some standing, smile as they all sing together in the singing for memory programme.

We believe that the arts has an invaluable role to play in people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. darts chairs Doncaster’s Arts and Health Board and works alongside key partners in the health sector including Doncaster Public Health and Doncaster Social Prescribing Service.

We are currently developing arts on prescription models focused on mental health, dementia and physical activity in older people, directly responding to population need. Creative delivery is also provided by cultural partners, Cast and Heritage Doncaster and evidence of our impacts is fed into the Borough Strategy.

We  have a number of funded programmes that offer GP referrals and we are building our relationships with GPs and health professionals to promote the ‘arts of prescriptions’ offer. Programmes include:

Creative Directions

We deliver weekly opportunities for adults aged 18+ with a wide spectrum of diagnosed and undiagnosed mild, moderate and severe mental health issues. Regular positive activity, support and signposting responds to individual need. Beneficiaries who are isolated and lonely, lacking in confidence, with low emotional resilience engage in activities that, over time, enable them to develop practical, social and personal skills, empowering them to make positive changes in their lives. All art forms including drama, ceramics, drumming, music technology, felt making, painting and film-making.

I’ve tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, counselling, anti-depressants and nothing has worked until now…this [darts] is the only thing that works for me.

Singing for Memory

This group provides a safe space for people with dementia and their carers to make friends, have fun, sing songs they know and write new ones. Professional musicians and choir leaders facilitate the sessions, making the most of people’s talents and ensuring there’s also time to drink tea, chat, share stories and celebrate achievement. For the family members and carers, it’s a vital opportunity to meet with a network of others in similar situations. The sessions help people feel less isolated and, by attending alongside the person with dementia, they are doing something enjoyable together and creating shared memories.

Dance On

Dance On is a collaborative project with Yorkshire Dance and One Dance funded by Sport England. Fun, social dance sessions across the borough targeted at inactive over 50s.


We commissioned Arc Research to deliver academic research on the above in order to build a robust body of local evidence to make the case for mainstreaming arts on prescription longer term.

Evidence from partners tells us our approach works because activity is non-clinical and we work with people identified as ‘falling through the gaps’: ‘I think the beauty of this place is that it’s not just open to people with mental illnesses…so there’s all walks of life coming in here and they’re not segregated or judged.’ 

Our outcomes are on target as evidenced by our ongoing consultation with participants, peer volunteers and partners, including our use of the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being scale. For example, for the Creative Directions project, recent evidence shows that:

  • 58% of participants feel less isolated and more connected through increased access to regular positive activity 
  • 59% of participants have built their own strategies to prevent crisis and maintain good mental health & wellbeing 
  • 42% of participants have increased independence, with social/personal skills required to volunteer or access new life opportunities  

arts and health

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