- Heritage activities to engage local communities for health and wellbeing
- Pilots have shown impact of engaging with heritage for health benefits
- Funding will support communities hit by COVID-19
- 30 volunteer Community Hosts, Curators and Trail Guides, 220 participants in 18 St David’s Trails and 3000+ visitors to events and exhibitions
All’s Well is a project run by Exeter Community Centre Trust (ECCT), Exeter Historic Buildings Trust (EHBT) and Devon & Exeter Medical Heritage Trust (DEMHT), aiming to show the benefits of engaging with heritage for health. They will use funding from the Thriving Communities Fund to support vulnerable communities through history and heritage.
“Engagement with heritage can change lives. It makes people proud of where they live, and inspires them to participate in their community. Our pilot projects have shown how volunteering, sharing stories, and engaging with heritage has an impact on personal health and community wellbeing. This funding will enable us to establish long term solutions through the power of history and heritage,” says Hannah Reynolds, Chair of Exeter Community Centre Trust.
The Trusts plan to recruit and train local Volunteer Trail Guides to show visitors round the heritage and history of the St David’s area of Exeter. Through a range of activities such as training and workshops, presentation, welcome, curation, story telling skills and personal development activities for goal setting, confidence and resilience building and training in using spaces therapeutically they will develop the resources available to increase social prescribing in the area. Open days, community events, exhibitions, artefact handling sessions in Exeter Community Centre and St Nicholas Priory will all provide ways for the community to engage.
In March 2020, ECCT set up St David’s Community Help Scheme, taking referrals from Wellbeing Exeter – the social prescribing hub. The scheme highlighted potential to engage the community in deeper cultural awareness of the area, its heritage and diversity as a way of promoting health and wellness. All’s Well will build on this, engaging more people and shaping the experience of heritage with health benefits.
It’s something that will be welcomed. “The Heritage and Cultural project will be a fantastic opportunity for the residents not only of St David’s but of the whole of Exeter. When in such uncertain times, just seeing groups and organisations come together to support residents and the community – demonstrates the resilience and future of the community,” says Bernice Endacott, St David’s East Community Builder.
The Exeter Historic Buildings Trust is developing St Nicholas Priory as a hub for the creative, cultural and social engagement of the community. In the Benedictine wellbeing tradition, the Trust will open a ‘Modern Medicinal Garden’ at the SNP in summer 2021, a volunteer-led project following a process of community garden design workshops. The St David’s trails and events will promote the Priory as a living example of a community welcome to all. By training volunteers, the Trust will develop understanding of wellbeing through plant-based remedies and medicines – their past and present uses.
The team have some ambitious targets, aiming to have 30 volunteer Community Hosts, Curators and Trail Guides, 220 participants in 18 St David’s Trails and 3000+ visitors to events and exhibitions.
Those taking part will experience improvements in confidence, feeling less lonely, a greater sense of community belonging, more frequent contact, and better physical health. But as well as this they want to see people understand the local community places and spaces, and grow their knowledge of the heritage and distinctiveness of the neighbourhood.
As a result of its community engagement activities ECCT developed a volunteer ‘community researcher’ programme. Local residents are now researching the history and heritage of Exeter Community Centre and the neighbourhood of St David’s, and producing Lockdown Lowdown stories of local residents. The stories from this community research will feed into the St David’s Trails and the training of the volunteer Trail Guides
Aims for community action intersect with those of the new research programme of the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures & Environments of Health (WCCEH). This project will see WCCEH to identify ways which its research and the Exeter community activity can connect in ways to add value and increase the evidence base for social prescribing.
In the long-term, social prescribing will be transformed, with increased collaboration between public, voluntary agencies and community groups, for co-commissioning and co-delivery of services. The goal is that by March 2022 they will form St David’s Community Wellness Network of public and VCSE organisations.
That commitment to partnership and joint working will result in the establishment of sustainable wellbeing network that works for local people, from COVID-19 and beyond.
Hannah Reynolds, Chair of Trustees, Exeter Community Centre Trust
Lead partner – Exeter Community Trust
Region – South West
Pillar – art, culture and heritage
For the full list of partners, projects and funding visit https://socialprescribingacademy.org.uk/thriving-communities/thriving-communities-fund/