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Newbury Corn Exchange receives £29,600 funding to develop arts on prescription across West Berks

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The Corn Exchange has received major funding to develop a project that will develop a network for arts on prescription.

The Newbury arts organisation has received £29,600 for a new programme of work called Links to Thrive, which will support health, wellbeing and resilience through the use of creative activities in West Berkshire. The funding has been jointly awarded by West Berkshire Council and Greenham Trust as part of the Surviving to Thriving Covid-19 Mental Health Fund.

The project will prioritise supporting the wellbeing of those who have been most affected by the impact of Covid-19 and whose mental health has suffered as a result. It will work across ages and geographical locations in the district by increasing the amount of access to wellbeing-enhancing activity and by strengthening pathways and improving existing provision.

All the art and cultural activities available will be designed around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing framework and participants will be able to join these sessions for free on the recommendation of their GP or healthcare provider. Although some of the sessions will take place at the Corn Exchange and its Learning Centre, others will take place across the district within the community to make it easier for everyone to access these sessions.

As well as improving the wellbeing of members of the community, the funding will be used to create a new network of connections between arts organisations, volunteers, support workers, GP surgeries and social prescribers.

Corn Exchange engagement manager Hannah Elder said: "We’re excited to be at the beginning of a new relationship with local healthcare professionals and cultural partners, working hand in hand to establish this new network for arts on prescription.

"The Links to Thrive project will be offering access to all kinds of creative opportunities for those seeking support in improving an aspect of their wellbeing.

"Whether it be through joining a regular painting class, or through referral on to a creative arts for wellbeing course, we hope to develop a diverse range of options for people of all ages to access.

It’s an ambitious collaborative project and one which we hope to see develop and thrive itself!"

Social prescriber Anthony Roots said that he has the opportunity to work with many people about many issues. "For many who face health challenges the projects within Link to Thrive would be invaluable to access for both management and improvement of the self," he said.

"When I read about it, not only did I have multiple patients come to the forefront of my mind as service users, but also ones who I feel could contribute to the service and benefit just as much. I for one am very keen to see this programme develop and become a valuable asset to people, the community, and services alike."

Greenham Trust chief executive Chris Boulton said that the Surviving to Thriving appeal was set up to address Covid-related mental health and wellbeing issues across different vulnerable groups and ages in West Berkshire and the trust was "delighted that some of the funds are being used to run this innovative programme that has wellbeing at its core".

Charities, community groups and voluntary organisations that are providing Covid-recovery, mental health-related services ar encouraged to apply for grants from the Surviving to Thriving Fund via The Good Exchange platform here: https://app.thegoodexchange.com/project/18741/greenham-trust/surviving-to-thriving-post-covid-a-mental-health-and-wellbeing-fund-for-west-berkshire

West Berkshire executive member for health and wellbeing Graham Bridgman agrees that art and creative activities provide effective therapy, helping people to feel better. "We’re delighted to have been able to support this innovative service and look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring to many people," he said.

The Corn Exchange is a regional leader in delivering participatory arts for wellbeing, with projects such as Ageing Creatively, Contactless Creativity and Wellbeing in the Family, increasing social connectivity and improving the health and wellbeing of thousands of participants.

In the year before the pandemic, its engagement programmes worked with over 28,000 people, and across 2016-2019 engaged 8,000 older people through its Ageing Creatively programme. With funding secured for the next five year phase of Ageing Creatively, it aims to reach a further 15,000 older residents of West Berkshire.

If you are interested in finding out more about Links to Thrive, would like to volunteer as part of the project, or are an artist or practitioner keen to take part, please email getinvolved@cornexchangenew.co.uk or call (01635) 582666 and ask to speak to Hannah Elder.

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