28/10/2021 Crocodiles in the community – a day out with The Health Tree

A group of people of a range of ages and ethnicities laugh and clap towards each other during a communications workshop. Other people sitting down look on
The Health Tree project in London

I’m sat in a hall with about sixty people, and we all have our arms out in front us, furiously snapping away like crocodiles. We’re, obviously, trying to tell someone through the medium of mime that their handbag has been eaten by a crocodile. There’s laughter in the air. The atmosphere is pure joy. It is a community of people, revelling in the chance to finally be together again.

This is The Health Tree, one of 37 Thriving Communities projects funded by the National Academy of Social Prescribing and its partners. An innovative partnership between St Margaret’s House, Social Action for Health, Spare Tyre Theatre, Fevered Sleep, London Arts in Health and Outside Edge Theatre Company, the project aims to promote wellbeing and alleviate social isolation, depression and mental health issues. It provides affordable yoga, Pilates and dance classes, an acupuncture clinic, legal advice sessions and many more wonderful workshops and events. 

It’s why I’m in Tower Hamlets today, to see how social prescribing is changing lives on the ground.

The people here come from all over one of the most diverse and underserved communities in London, from all walks of life. They’re linked by a desire to connect, and to celebrate the incredible work that is emerging from one of the most challenging years of all our lives.

So we hear from partners such as Arts Council England, local GP services and councillors, laying out their dedication to supporting social prescribing in the communities in which they work. And then the floor opens out in front of us, and we begin to move, and laugh, and connect once again.

Outside Edge deliver the crocodile communication workshop, a riotous affair dripping with energy. We learn how woodwork is connecting people through Woodwork for Wellbeing. Dancer and performer Showmi Das, in partnership with Social Action for Health, demonstrate how dance can aid movement and wellbeing – with the help of some incredibly brave volunteers! The day is at times hilarious, and at times it is deeply moving to hear these stories, and to see the work that is happening.

Social prescribing is making a clear difference in the community. The hard work and passion on show through projects like this are an absolute credit to everyone involved and the VCSFE (voluntary, community, social, faith and enterprise) sector as a whole. Grassroots organisations across the country are delivering programmes of work such as this on a daily basis, proving that out of great challenges can come incredible things. Long may it continue.


Joshua Ryan is the Head of Thriving Communities at NASP. He visited The Health Tree, a Thriving Communities funded project.


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