This report discusses the impact of a very successful six-month programme of dance and mental health interventions led by Mean Feet Dance across Somerset.
The programme took place between January and July 2013, and culminated in a performance and conference for family and friends, arts and mental health professionals, and the wider general public, in July 2013.
The project was funded by Arts Council England, Yarlington, Aster Communities, Somerset Skills and Learning, Sedgemoor District Council, and by participants’ own financial contributions. The total project cost was £21695.
Mean Feet’s delivery team consisted of Viv Gordon (Artistic Director), Penny Caffrey (Lead Artist), Katie Hall and Fran Bowler (Trainees), and four volunteers.
Delivery consisted of a range of taster sessions, short courses (4-6 weeks) and extended courses (8 – 10 weeks) of creative dance, dance technique, and choreographic work. The programme aimed to reach and engage with adults of all ages who wanted an opportunity to improve their mental wellbeing. 149 participants engaged with the project, and adherence to the programme was strong with participants attending an average of 67% of sessions available to them. In total, 147 hours of dance work was delivered in eleven towns across the county.
The project was user-led; both in that sessions were co-created in a collaboration between the Mean Feet team and the participants, and also as Artistic Director Viv Gordon is herself an artist with a history of mental ill-health.
Effervescent’s brief was to measure the impact on the beneficiaries by engaging with them and mental health professionals, and to make recommendations for the future development of this work.
The evidence indicates significant benefits to the mental and emotional wellbeing of the participants: particular benefits were felt in terms of a distinct sense of uplifted energy and motivation; new found inspiration and creative stimulation; and feeling considerably less weighed down by troubles, worries, and absorption with their own illnesses or unhappiness.
Additionally, the research evidenced a similar set of benefits to the wellbeing of the artists taking part. Practitioners mentioned a sense of purpose and pleasure in sharing their skills, and a sense of being part of a network of likeminded artists where before they had felt some isolation in their work; the two graduate trainees in particular noted that the project had given them purpose and opportunity when their careers were struggling to start and their own mental wellbeing was consequently becoming fragile.