Recent news that depression has doubled in adults during lockdown  - particularly affecting women and D/disabled people - has highlighted that much more help is needed for people to manage their mental health in the long-term.


Four projects taking part in an arts and health innovation funding programme in Wales have tested digital arts and health activities that aim to improve connection and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.


The programme called Health | Arts | Research | People (HARP) is being delivered by Y Lab, a partnership between Nesta and Cardiff University, together with Arts Council of Wales and supported by Welsh NHS Confederation.


The four projects were run by teams of artists, health practitioners and Health Boards who came together to design, test and evaluate the activities which ranged from meditative drawing activities using virtual reality headsets to connecting older people in care homes with their younger relatives through dance, music and art.


Each project received funding to test their idea with real participants, to see the effect they had on well-being and mental health. Research is currently underway with Cardiff University to determine the impacts of arts and health activities on well-being as well as how the individual interventions worked.


Rosie Dow, HARP programme manager, said  “It was really important to respond to the health challenges that lockdown presented for so many people. The projects brought amazing energy, care and a truly innovative spirit to address one of the biggest health challenges most of us have ever known. They have really helped a lot of people to cope better and feel better, through creativity.”

Sally Lewis, Portfolio Manager for Arts and Health at Arts Council of Wales, said, ‘We’re delighted to be partnering with Y Lab on the HARP Programme. The Sprint teams have inspired us with some wonderfully imaginative projects that have made a real difference to a diverse range of people’s wellbeing during lockdown. The HARP Programme’s response to the pandemic has been rapid, inclusive, and relevant and is helping to deepen our understanding of the crucial role that creative activities can play in supporting our nation’s health and wellbeing.’

James Lewis, co-lead and academic director of Y Lab, said “It has been great to work together with the four project teams to conduct research in this vitally important area, to better understand how the teams are responding to both new and old challenges. The work will continue to ensure that we generate and share new knowledge and understanding.”




Notes to editors:


Case studies are available for interview - details on request


About the HARP Sprint

Health | Arts | Research | People (HARP) aims to understand and increase the impact of arts and health activities in Wales. Due to launch an extensive programme of work in April 2020, the programme had to adapt quickly to lockdown and a HARP Sprint was designed to work with artists, health practitioners, Health Boards in Wales and others to plan, design and test arts and health activities that could support people in lockdown. The projects were:

15-a-Day - People at risk of loneliness and isolation were sent art packs and Google Cardboard headsets. They took part in a 7-day course of sketching activities inspired by a VR experience. Works were displayed in an online gallery.

Conversations/Future Selves - Five D/deaf, disabled and /or neurodivergent artists were commissioned to produce a piece of work about their experience of the pandemic. This project aimed to support artists’ well-being and educate people about inclusivity during a pandemic.

Family Arts Roundabout - Two families with relatives in care settings co-designed arts activities with siblings and grandparents and did these together over video call. This project aimed to increase connection between potentially isolated older people and maintain family relationships during lockdown.

Rengariffic - This project supported adults with diagnosed mental health conditions and brain injury survivors who were unable to access their normal therapies. Participants were part of a ‘story chain’, producing and swapping three piece of work per week inspired by each other. They created a connected series of works, a ‘Renga’.

The projects were supported by Y Lab and Arts Council of Wales. Rosie Dow, programme manager and Sofia Vougioukalou, Research Fellow.


About Y Lab

Y Lab is the public services innovation lab for Wales. Formed in 2015, it is a partnership between Nesta, an innovation foundation, and Cardiff University. We work to support public service innovators in Wales with funding, expertise and guidance to test their ideas. We research how and why innovation happens in public services. 


About Arts Council of Wales

The Arts Council of Wales is the country’s official public body for funding and developing the arts. Every day, people across Wales are enjoying and taking part in the arts. We help to support and grow this activity. We do this by using the public funds that are made available to us by the Welsh Government and by distributing the money we receive as a good cause from the National Lottery. By managing and investing these funds in creative activity, the Arts Council contributes to people’s quality of life and to the cultural, social and economic wellbeing of Wales.


Contact information:

Engagement and Communications Manager

+44 (0) 7511456729