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Cultural engagement improves the quality of life for residents. Cultural programming has seen it reinvigorate the heart of its towns as a main route for regeneration. This is through the restoration of its iconic heritage.

Arts and culture play a key role in supporting:

  • Independence of mind and body.
  • Confidence and a sense of identity.
  • Community.
  • Joy throughout a person's life.

In 2017, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Well-being report 'Creative Health' was published. It was a watershed moment for those working in the area of Arts and Health.

For evidence to the impact of culture on health and well-being, please see:

The local picture

Calderdale's cultural landscape is rich and vibrant and continues to grow from strength to strength. 2017 saw the re-opening of the Piece Hall after a £20m heritage lottery fund from Historic England. Stage 4 of the Tour de Yorkshire once again started there in 2019. Calderdale has long been the home to small scale organisations and artists. They work daily with children's services, voluntary and health sectors.

The area has a significant outdoor offer. Work is done to build and preserve relationships with providers. This ensures our natural heritage, outdoor activity and sporting offer can remain. In recent years this breadth of activity has been highlighted through its burgeoning screen industries. Calderdale continues to show off its beautiful landscapes and straightforwardness in attitude through countless TV & Film adaptations including:

  • Ch4's Ackley Bridge.
  • Last Tango in Halifax.
  • Happy Valley.
  • and more recently, BBC's Anne Lister series Gentleman Jack. (Which itself touches on mental health issues).

In 2017, a City Region mapping of the cultural sector identified nearly £3.5m investment by the Arts Council England (ACE). This was invested into Calderdale arts & cultural organisations and events. Over 4 million people engaged or participated in the arts in this period. In 2009, 1,433 creative organisations and businesses were working in the area.

At the heart of the engagement is the role of culture in place-making. Using arts and creative industries to enable people to contribute to their own localities, defining their own narratives. Some of these projects in health and well-being have been some of the most pioneering in the country. Pushing this work forward through initiatives like the '50 Things to do Before You're 5' project. The project is being championed by many arts organisations and cultural services. Early intervention supports the development of language, literacy and communication skills in the under-fives. It has a profound impact on school achievement in primary and secondary age phase. This is derived from research by the Department for Education (DfE), the Education Foundation and Public Health England.

Current provision

Arts and heritage - health and well-being

  • Working with Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SWYPT). Prototyping arts in health projects feeding into the Health and Well-Being Board and strategy. This is detailed in the recently ratified 'Living a Larger Life' report.
  • Work targeting social isolation, intergenerational practice and rise in cyber bullying and self harm in teens increasing.
  • Professional Arts Network with over 50 members from cultural organisations. It links to over 200 freelance artists represented through the network. Many of whom are working in health and education.
  • Platform for sharing information on national and local initiatives in arts health and well-being. This is achieved through the Professional Arts Network, the Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEP) and Arts & Health sub groups.
  • More than 100 local festivals take place in Calderdale's public spaces. These help to support both the physical and mental health of residents. It gives opportunities for active, outdoor exercise, intellectual stimulation and well-being arising from sharing positive experiences.
  • 108 council Small Grants were awarded to 71 festivals at varying degrees in support of health and well-being in the area. Creative Minds, SWYPT use creative approaches and activities in healthcare settings.
  • For key issues relating to health in Calderdale, see:

Piece Hall

In 2017, Calderdale MBC and the Community Foundation for Calderdale funded the innovative cultural celebration of resilience. It aimed to unite those affected by the 2015 floods along the valley. The event culminated in a live performance for the public in the Piece Hall.

The first ever Well-Being Festival was held in 2019. A free, two-day, event that aimed to help the local community get active and creative. It also served to showcase the support services available in Calderdale.

Our courtyard hosted four different 'zones' for visitors to explore, themed around active, creative, support and well-being. People had the opportunity to try their hand at a whole host of sport and relaxation activities. Visitors with a creative flair could try their hand at mindful colouring and stone carving, amongst other calming artistic activities.

Hebden Bridge Arts Festival

From its base in the community owned Town Hall, Hebden Bridge Arts Festival produces Café Culture. This monthly arts event is aimed at over 65s and the harder to reach sections of the community. The events offer homemade cake and tea or coffee. An engaging speaker offers the chance for socialisation in a convivial and welcoming environment. It also acts as a conduit to the other activities on offer in the area.

The project began in 2015. It followed partnership development work with AGE UK, local residents, health partners, assisted living and supported housing schemes. It is funded by Staying Well, a micro-commission awarded by Hebden Bridge Town Hall. It is currently supported by Creative Minds, SWYPT. Through their partnership with Creative Minds, Café Culture hopes to extend their reach beyond over 65s.

Verd De Gris

These run projects that aim to improve community cohesion, health and well-being, and intergenerational practice. They work with community partners, a range of groups and people of all ages and backgrounds. Projects include:

Square Chapel

Square Chapel has been delivering high quality community outreach programmes in Calderdale for several years. 'Gig Buddies' is a project that is now in its third year. The scheme aims to reduce the barriers faced by people with a learning disability in relation to accessing social activities. These have been identified as:

  • attending the theatre;
  • cinema;
  • live music;
  • and anything else that a person may wish to engage with in their leisure time.

Our scheme aims to match volunteers who are referred to as 'Gig Buddies' with people who have a learning disability. Our "Gig Goers" are based upon shared interests. The initiative is now funded by The Henry Smith Charity and Adult Health and Social Care. It is being delivered in partnership with Square Chapel Arts Centre and the Brighton based charity "Stay Up Late".

Many Voices is a three year project that focuses on working with women and girls in Calderdale. It is being delivered in partnership by Square Chapel and Verd De Gris Arts.

For more details, see: Square Chapel - Community.


Public libraries in Calderdale make a significant contribution to the well-being of their communities, as they:

  • Can be a key partner in tackling problems of social isolation, inequality and ill health.
  • Support learning at all stages of life.
  • Inspire through books, literature, film and theatre.
  • Promote economic well-being.
  • Are safe spaces, providing free access to information and technology.
  • Have dedicated staff and are well linked with other services.

Calderdale Libraries' health offer provides community hubs offering trusted, non-clinical space. Health and wellbeing partners can engage with local people for outreach and support for the vulnerable. Assisted access to key health information sites is available plus information and sign posting.

A key element of the Health Offer is Reading Well - Books on Prescription offers. Books on Prescription helps people to understand and manage their health and well-being using quality assured lists of helpful reading.

A wide range of books on health, medicine, wellbeing and fitness are available to borrow or consult. The Library Service is a member of the Calderdale Dementia Action Alliance. All staff are trained as "Dementia Friends".

The Home Library Service is a free service offered to anyone living in Calderdale, who is:

  • unable to visit their local library;
  • and do not have anyone who can visit on their behalf.

People can apply for the service if ill-health, disability, age or frailty prevents them from visiting a library. Also, if they have caring responsibilities.

All Calderdale libraries offer free Internet access. This enables people to search for health information, including NHS Choices. Nationally 34% of people visited their GP less after using the NHS Choices website.

The service offers free access to selected subscription-only sites. It offers support, at larger libraries, for the Choose and Book NHS online facility for booking appointments.

Volunteers provide valued additional support. They work alongside library staff to provide library health and wellbeing services. A range of volunteering opportunities are offered, including partnership working with Age UK and other agencies.

Brighouse, Elland, Northowram and Rastrick Libraries are members of the Only Natural scheme, welcoming breast-feeding mums.

Health-related services, events and activities are hosted at libraries, such as King Cross:

  • NHS Stop Smoking.
  • "Breathe Easy" classes for lung cancer survivors.

There are also specific activities at other libraries, like the World Heart Day event.

The Schools Library Service lends a range of books and artefacts to support the curriculum. It also has fiction for reading for pleasure, which helps with the health and wellbeing of children and young people.


Calderdale is known as a tourist destination primarily for its landscape and heritage. Calderdale Museums contribute by preserving objects and information relating to the past and telling the story of the local area.

To visitors, this provides an introduction to the rich history of Calderdale. To residents it helps to engender a feeling of 'place'. Whether born locally, or not, it is important to understand the area in which you live.

Calderdale operates four museum and art gallery sites as well as off-site stores. All sites are well attended by a variety of users reflecting the demographics of the area.

An active volunteer programme with over 80 volunteers contributes over 7,000 hours of volunteer time per year. Volunteers are well supported to ensure that they gain practical skills and benefit from increased social interaction.

There is an active schools education programme focusing on key stage 1 and 2 activities. It attracts local schools as well as many schools from outside the area. The programme aims to enrich the historical knowledge of the pupils. Also, to make sure that the local pupils gain an appreciation of their heritage.

The Education team works closely with Children and Young People's Service (part of Adults and Children's Services). Together, they deliver tailored programmes to support the mental health of young people.

Schools Networking is a well subscribed initiative that brings together pupils from diverse backgrounds, using the museum sites as venues.

Children's activities are provided during school holidays. There are two Saturday Art Clubs at Bankfield Museum and Smith Art Gallery.

All sites are well used by local community groups who engage with museum collections and support the service. In 2016 the Museums Service started an Arts Council funded project “A Museum for Everyone”. This builds on these relationships and encourages new ones. We also provide greater support for the special needs groups who often visit our sites. This includes there being materials and things to do that are friendly to those with dementia.

User views

Cultural organisations are committed to reviewing work and providing quantitative and qualitative evaluation to stakeholders as required. Organisations collect user views through a variety of monitoring and evaluation methods on a project basis.

Cultural Services and the Professional Arts Network are about to embark on a consultation period. This is part of the work of creating a new cultural strategy for Calderdale. They will be working with external consultants such as Public Square. Libraries have also recently conducted a public consultation as part of its libraries review. The Victoria Theatre is just about to embark on its audience development survey. It is seeking capital funding to change the fabric of the building. This is so it can better build its programme and facilities around the needs of its users. They will also aim to provide a truly holistic customer experience.

Calderdale Council is currently undertaking a staying well in Calderdale consultation for adults over the age of 18.

Unmet need

There is a lack of quality data and information relating to the outputs and outcomes of cultural activity and health. For example, audits and co-ordinated information on activity in this field. There is real incentive to provide an evidence base around the fact that early intervention and prevention creates long-term savings in social care and health services.

Every effort is made to provide the curated book collections relating to health in as many libraries as possible. Unfortunately, the full range cannot be provided in all 22 libraries. However, the service does not charge the £1 reservation fee for these titles. Requested books can be collected from any site.

Projected future need

The projected future needs include:

  • Long-term health needs, identified within Joint Strategic Needs Assessment health overview for Calderdale: Health.
  • Shared vision to improve work across health and the cultural sector.
  • Long-term impact assessment.

In Calderdale, the estimated number of people (over 65 years old) with dementia is 2,299. Locally the dementia diagnosis rate is estimated to be 73%. However, this leaves an estimated 719 people with dementia undiagnosed (including people under 65 years old). It has been suggested that these individuals may benefit from access to support by way of a dementia diagnosis.

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

This is based at the University of Leeds.

  • Government is beginning to prepare its green paper on health. Organisations such as Nesta are lobbying for ring-fenced funding. This is for a new centre of innovation and research excellence. Thye are aiming to equip the UK with the knowledge it needs to improve the:
    • social;
    • behavioural;
    • and environmental determinants of health.
  • On-going dialogue between the cultural community and health. The Twitter hashtag #artshealthwellbeing is for sharing and pooling of resources, research and innovations relating to creativity, health and wellbeing.
  • Recent health mapping research findings indicate that people see their library as a:
    • safe;
    • trusted;
    • and non-stigmatised place to go for help with and information about health problems.

    Generally the ageing population will require more help and support. Libraries will be a first port of call for digital support.

  • Arts Council England (ACE) draft 10 year strategy has prioritised arts and health as one of its cross cutting themes. It has recently made a significant investment in a new Centre for Cultural Value. It will focus on the role of arts and culture in areas such as:
    • conflict resolution;
    • education;
    • health and well-being;
    • and community regeneration.

    This is based at the University of Leeds.

  • Figures show that Calderdale has a higher than national average number of people who experience mental health issues.

References and further information


Further information

Arts and heritage


Libraries Museums and Arts manager, Communities and service support, Calderdale Council (January 2017).

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