Medley supports wellbeing through art, music and nature
Isobel Murdoch, the founder of Medley, an online arts initiative, talks about the benefits and challenges of online delivery
When I started Medley in autumn 2020, my objectives were to explore how art, music and nature can boost health and wellbeing, to share these with others, and to combine art, nature and music wherever possible for an intersectional, multi-sensory approach. I have run 3 art-for-wellbeing projects, produced regular themed Creative Ideas – mainly used by care homes – and write a blog.
Medley began as an online initiative partly because of the pandemic, but I plan to continue this way.
I believe there’s still real scope for online programmes and initiatives. Some major barriers to participation – mobility or transport issues, or caring responsibilities – become less of a barrier or no barrier at all. Other people may have agoraphobia or still need to shield. One clear irony stands out: some of those who could most benefit from home participation are elderly and so are less likely to be online or digitally literate. Encouraging and enabling digital inclusion is more important than ever.
As well as continuing to run wellbeing projects, I’m also developing more specific outreach. One example is setting up an art for mental health Facebook group, Think Art. I hope this will be a supportive space for people experiencing issues like anxiety and depression to experiment with how art and craft can help. My aim is to attract not only people who already enjoy art, but also those who are totally new to creativity so that they can discover its benefits for themselves. I also plan to run more online workshops for people with specific issues like hearing loss.
[h2] Drawing people in online
One challenge I’ve found specific to online delivery is reaching participants. So many arts for health and wellbeing organisations and initiatives focus on one physical location, so publicity centres on local venues, word of mouth, posters or flyers. Online, participants could come from anywhere at all, but you’re less likely to build up local contacts in particular areas. Social media has proved very helpful, especially Facebook groups. I also hope to reach people more now through social prescribing.
Another challenge in art for wellbeing is lack of confidence. Many people feel art is not for them, that they can’t draw. The growth in popularity of colouring for adults is helpful here, as it can be a way in to enjoying art.
What would be my tips for others from what I’ve found so far? Be open to experiment as you see what people’s particular needs or preferences are. Going with the flow doesn’t come easily to me, I like to feel I have a plan. But I’m learning to be more flexible and adapt what I do! Feedback from participants is so helpful in highlighting what matters most, and some responses stand out. Variety and new ideas help engage people. Others take part more to connect with other people and to enjoy a sense of community. These people may not want or need ideas to follow – they prefer to come up with their own, but welcome a forum where they can share artwork and support each other. The most common way art and craft help people is by absorbing and focusing their minds, enabling them to silence or set aside for a time whatever thoughts or issues may be plaguing them.
It really is a journey, and one which uplifts me every day.
Isobel Murdoch is the founder of Medley.
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