Improving wellbeing and increasing social inclusion by providing opportunities to access arts and cultural activities

Lucinda Meredith, Progression Manager for Streetwise Opera, writes about the opportunities that we are creating for our participants:

At Streetwise we have established a range of Progression pathways that enable participants to access a program of cultural activities within their communities.

The program aims to improve wellbeing and increase social inclusion by providing opportunities to access arts and cultural activities, participate in performances and community events, whilst also experiencing volunteering at festivals and cultural venues through a network of locally positioned partners including; SAGE Gateshead, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Dickens Museum, Opera Holland Park, The Globe, Manchester Day Parade, Whitworth Gallery, Imperial War Museum. Some performers elect to take on Streetwise Ambassador roles – speaking at public events, conferences, and to the media, or by supporting Streetwise workshops by befriending new participants as they join workshops for the first time - an opportunity to ‘’give back’’ to an environment they have found personally beneficial.

The program increases a participant’s confidence and wellbeing as well as providing new and valuable cultural and social capital. Performers often say how uplifting it is to have something positive to talk about with friends, new and old – be this volunteering opportunities they have taken up, or a theatre show they may have been in the audience for, or a workshop they have participated in at a gallery or museum; Manchester Art Gallery, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, The Royal Collection, and the Peoples History Museum. Participants have the opportunity to engage with cultural activities and spaces to develop meaningful relationships with venues and peer participants through creative practice.

Across the UK we have a range of partners offering excellent opportunities in a range of cultural spaces.

  1. Being an audience member at a music or theatre event and enjoying social time through new social networks
  2. Taking part in a workshop to have a go at something new or researching in an archive or collection for a Streetwise project
  3. Volunteering front of house, in arts administration, marketing or technical theatre
  4. Joining a mentoring or training program that may provide the opportunity for a participant to take steps to fulfilling a personal ambition or increase their existing skills set.

These opportunities take place in cultural venues and festivals including; Tyne and Wear Archive Museum, SAGE Gateshead, Manchester Royal Exchange, Nottingham Playhouse , Southbank Centre, Greenwich and Docklands Festival, Manchester international Festival and Stockton International Riverside Festival to name but a few. Participants will often engage with new artists and pieces of work outside of the Streetwise repertoire through these opportunities.

Many participants at Streetwise talk about the effects of social isolation and the debilitating impact on their lives. Many people report that alongside homelessness comes an erosion of trust and with this a breakdown in community. Streetwise’s Progression program provides an opportunity to rebuild this sense of trust and community through the designated pathways.

We understand from participants that new social networks and re-engagement with community through the arts and cultural activities provides an opportunity not just to release creativity and build confidence, but also provides the social and cultural capital to become a creative and confident individual, fully engaged in the community.

By working closely with local creative networks and partners we are able to provide quality and sustainable pathways for participants to access and progress through. The program is supported by Project Co-Ordinators and Support Workers to ensure an engaging cultural journey that enriches lives, fosters independence, and builds social and cultural networks and increased wellbeing and social inclusion is available to participants ready to make positive changes in their lives.