Arts for the Blues

Haslam, S., Parsons, A.S., Omylinska-Thurston, J., Nair, K., Harlow, J., Lewis, J., Thurston, S., Griffin, J., Dubrow-Marshall, L. and Karkou, V. (2019). Arts for the Blues – A New Creative Psychological Therapy for Depression: Pilot Workshop Report. Perspectives in Public Health. Volume: 139 issue: 3, page(s): 137-146   Arts for the Blues – a new creative psychological therapy for depression: a pilot workshop report

Parsons, A.S., Omylinska-Thurston, J., Karkou, V., Harlow, J., Haslam, S., Hobson, J., Nair, K., Dubrow-Marshall, L., Thurston, S. and Griffin, J. (2019) [online] Arts for the Blues – A New Creative Psychological Therapy for Depression. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. Available from:

To explore more about this study including the development of the therapy and videos depicting the key elements of the therapy in practice please visit Publications to date are listed below

This study is co-led by Edge Hill University and University of Salford, It involves academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines including arts psychotherapies, health and social care, performing arts, as well as NHS-based counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists from Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. A number of other Universities are involved including University of Cambridge and University of Hull.

Arts for the Blues is a collaborative study that developed a new evidence based integrative model of group psychotherapy that uses creative methods. The therapy is primarily for people with a diagnosis of depression and originally emerged from work in Improving Access to Psychological Treatment (IAPT) services in the NHS. The study now has funding from the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group to develop this work further for other client groups in the NHS and in charities in the North West. The therapy is currently being offered as both twelve-session packages or as one-off experiential sessions. Plans are underway to submit a bid for NIHR funding for a larger multi-site trial.

ERA Study

The largest NIHR funded study in arts therapies in the UK involving a multi centre randomised controlled trial of group arts therapies compared to group talking therapies in community mental health care.

Collaborating institutions: EHU, Queen Mary University, Imperial College, Brunel University, East London NHS Foundation Trust and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

Co-researchers from EHU: Prof Vicky Karkou

Dancing the Blues

Dancing the Blues paved the way for the larger Arts for the Blues study. This study shared key findings from systematic reviews, surveys and case studies in dance movement psychotherapy and related fields, in the treatment of depression.

The dissemination took the form of performative material with the piece ‘Getting Out Of My Own Way’, which explored four key concepts from the research in the effectiveness of dance movement psychotherapy for people with depression : embodiment, relationality, movement metaphor and narrative. Developing out of improvisations between a dancer/choreographer, a poet and a musician, these concepts were translated to movement, text and sounds and back again. This performance piece was presented at Edge Hill University, Manchester Fringe Festival, University of Bedforshire, Riga Performance Festival in Latvia and New York.

From both the research findings and the interdisciplinary work, developed a new type of intervention combining principles of evidence-based counselling for depression, dance movement psychotherapy and creative interventions such as creative writing, visual art, dance and music. This led to the Arts for the Blues study which saw this intervention being delivered in IAPT NHS services and subsequently other community and NHS services.

Dancing with Health

Edge Hill led the UK pilot of this European funded research project at Merseyside Dance Initiative Liverpool, which involved the delivery of a sixteen week therapeutic dance programme designed for women who are in recovery from breast cancer, to support both their physical and psychological health. The participants were introduced to a range of dance styles over the course of the sessions; bachata, merengue, cha-cha-cha, salsa, rumba and tango, which also incorporated exercise components to support physical recovery. In total over 60 women aged between 30-65 years old, were enrolled from five European countries: Italy, Bulgaria, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the UK.

Edge Hill also hosted a free training weekend for dancers and exercise professionals who were interested in delivering the programme independently, and will hold a public dissemination event when findings are released. A publication on the project is currently underway.  For more information visit

Collaborating institutions: EHU, Foro Italico, Incontradonna, ISES, UMC Utrecht, Klaipeda Region Women Information Centre Lithuania, Bulgarian Sports Development Association. This project was funded with support from the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.

Co-researcher:  Prof Vicky Karkou

Black History and Prisons

Black cultural awareness training in prisons

This grant was awarded to enable further dissemination of the research undertaken for Dt Sally-Ann Ashton’s MPhil in Criminological Research and during the AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship. Outputs included:
44 workshops on Black history and culture attended by 134 members of prison staff and 494 prisoners in 8 Prisons; the development and evaluation of a Black Cultural Awareness course for prison staff and prisoners at a category C prison in South East England; a review of the Equalities procedures at category C prison in Nottinghamshire and the implementation of recommendations.   

ERSC Impact Acceleration Report

Collaborating Institutions: University of Cambridge

Principal Investigator: Dr Sally-Ann Ashton

African-centred resources for prisoners and staff

AHRC Knowledge Transfer fellowship 

Collaborating institutions: University of Cambridge, HM Prisons Manchester and Edmunds Hill

Principle investigator: Dr Sally-Ann Ashton

Culture Cures

Culture Cures is an annual cultural investment scheme overseen by Wakefield Council’s Culture team in conjunction with the Health Improvement team, which looks to support arts and cultural projects that can support the delivery of health and wellbeing outcomes. Arts and culture organisations within the Wakefield area are invited to bid competitively for funding to provide projects that use creativity to address specific issues within the local community.

The annual programme which ran in 2017/18 ran arts projects across three specific areas targeting issues around school readiness, intergenerational friendships and community building, encouraging participants to feel a sense of pride and connection with their neighbourhoods.

Using the Government recognised ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ document produced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) Prof Owen Evans evaluated the scheme against a person’s ability to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. The final report made 14 recommendations for how Culture Cures could be developed and improved for future years.

Wakefield Council have responded to the report and implemented many of Owen’s suggestions. Find out more about the project with links to download a number of reports.

Alternatively review the Wakefield MDC Culture Cures Evaluation Project (2017-18) (Full evaluation report, Culture Cures documentary and programme overview and summary).

Collaborating institution: Wakefield Council

Principle investigator: Prof Owen Evans.

Project XXX

Project XXX was a four year creative project funded by the Arts Council England and Lime Arts, the aim of which was to create a piece of multimedia theatre that would explore the effect the availability and mainstreaming of Internet porn might be having on the lives of young people.

During 2011 and 2012 Dr Kim Wiltshire (writer and lecturer at Edge Hill University) and Paul Hine (multi media theatre maker) worked across the North West running workshops and discussing the issues with young people, using theatre as a public forum for discussion of a sensitive subject that was very much in the public consciousness at the time. The material was collated to create a multimedia play. In January 2012 The Octagon Theatre, Bolton, supported them to present a rehearsed reading and later that year audiences were invited to two scratch performances, one in the Octagon’s Studio theatre and one at the Axis Arts Centre in Crewe. Audience feedback was welcomed, leading to a redraft and recreation of the piece of theatre for a performance tour of the North West of England in 2014.

An article was published in 2015 in the Journal of Applied Arts and Health, which explores the process for the artists in researching and creating a piece of work on this subject, as well as considering the outcomes and findings from both the initial stages of the research into the issue and the creative issues faced in bringing this piece of work to the professional stage.

See the publication.

A book has also been published.

Hospital Arts Social Club

A pilot creative project to encourage positive mental health among NHS staff is being trialled by an Edge Hill University academic and partners.

Dr Kim Wiltshire, Programme Leader for Creative Writing, has launched online writing sessions for NHS staff as part of a new response to supporting local hospital trusts during Covid-19.

Partnering up with Lime, the art department for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, together they have developed the series of new online workshops aimed at enhancing mental wellbeing through creativity.

Participants so far have ranged from A&E doctors, nurses and midwives to pharmacists, therapists and support staff, who have been creating short stories and poems exploring their experiences either during the pandemic or focussing on something completely different that delves into their imaginations.

Dr Wiltshire explained how the project came about and the mental health benefits creative writing can have: ‘I’ve worked with Lime for over 15 years now, and I sit on the advisory board. When it became clear that because of Covid they would no longer be able to run their participatory arts programme, we decided to try online workshops, because all you need to write is a pen, paper and a quiet space. The workshops have been truly joyful experiences for all of us, with so much lovely work created!’

Initial feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive saying that the workshops give them “me time”, that they are “accessible and fun” as well as “inspiring”, with “no judgement”, allowing them to be more creative. Many have also said they were surprised at the work they had been able to produce.

The workshops have also encouraged more internal networking with NHS workers from different wards, specialisms and hospitals making new connections and sharing their experiences.

The unique stories captured through these workshops will form part of a Lime exhibition at Manchester Royal Infirmary in 2021.

Listen to the podcast.

This article was originally featured on the main Edge Hill University website. Credits to the communications office.