Our well-being support programme in response to COVID-19

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by Spitalfields Music

As we launch our free practitioner and sector support programme in response to COVID-19; Charlotte Hunt (Producer at Spitalfields Music) reflects on the pandemic and what we’ve learnt about the importance of supporting artists and the communities we work with. Read on to find out more and book tickets below. 

Our work in Tower Hamlets and across East London is largely with communities that have been worst affected by COVID-19. Whilst local people are dealing with profound loss, this is compounded by factors such as insecure and exposed working environments, housing, and loss of income.

Recent reports highlight the marked lack in provision for bereaved children and young people in schools[1]. This is accompanied by a lack of understanding or insight into what children and young people themselves need in terms of bereavement support. Our work with care home residents and staff has also highlighted the incredible challenges faced by employees in protecting the rights and well-being of those they care for and to access the crucial support they need.

During this difficult time, we’ve seen some amazing examples of how the arts and creativity have been used to build communities and keep care settings connected. We know that the arts are positive for our health and well-being, and if the arts are positive for participants, so too should they be for the creative practitioners delivering them. Artists and arts and health practitioners have very much been on the frontline throughout COVID-19 pandemic, working closely with those who have been greatly impacted. We know this work is vital, and can be transformative for participants, but it can to be deeply challenging for artists; ‘there is a risk of high levels of stress, exhaustion, burn-out and even secondary trauma [2].

Spitalfields Music works with numerous artists, facilitators and teachers with varying levels of experience who work in schools, care homes and community settings, and will continue to do so for as long as they can safely, online and in socially-distanced formats. As a charity that works with such a wide scope of incredible creative practitioners, we believe we have a responsibility to support and give back to our most important asset, our people, our artists and our community.

But how? What do creatives in the sector really need during this unprecedented time?

At the start of the pandemic we knew that we needed to listen to our creative teams and gain an understanding of their challenges.

A recent survey published by the Arts & Health Hub highlighted an incredibly tough environment for artists in the current climate. 42% of respondents had lost between 50% and 100% of their income and 44% said the pandemic had impacted their mental health moderately, with 12% saying it had severely impacted them[3].

To ensure we are doing right by those we work with, we invited partners to a consultation meeting to co-design and shape these plans. The meeting was a supportive space to consult with a cross-section of our facilitators, partners and stakeholders.

The session was shaped around four core questions and considerations which provided a springboard to open and honest dialogue on the current environment for practitioners:

  • What are your concerns about going back to work (physically) and how can we support that?
  • Has working online raised any concerns / thoughts for the wellbeing of others or yourself?
  • When/ if difficult situations have happened, what could have been different or better?
  • Is there anything that would help to protect your mental health and wellbeing in your role and more generally in the future?

Key thoughts and concerns arising in the meeting aligned amongst the group, allowing us to understand where support was most needed. In particular practitioner wellbeing along with space for peer-to-peer support were seen as a critical focus for support.

Three core themes arose from the consultation

  • Practical considerations for creative practitioners

The group wanted to feel confident, well-informed and safe going to work, with COVID 19 restrictions in place. They are faced with having to develop new skills that are relevant and financially viable, and managing the expectations of employers who may expect them to have a digital skill-set in addition to artistic expertise.

  • Accessibility and inclusivity

Equity of access is a real concern. The group felt that the people they work with are missing out because they don’t have digital access, particularly vulnerable and isolated groups. This theme raised questions from the group such as  how best to adapt skills and crafts, and how to maintain creativity and quality whilst wearing face-coverings and working at a distance

  • Well-being support

Space for practitioners and staff to reflect and communicate difficult subject matter around bereavement was highlighted as critically important. The group felt that spaces to remember and process traumatic and difficult experiences, and to network and share with others who are living similar experiences, were essential.

These valuable insights have helped us to curate our practitioner and sector support programme in response to COVID-19. We’ve also embedded feedback into our ongoing Learning & Participation projects to ensure that our artist teams are supported, listened to; and feel confident going to work.

More about the practitioner and sector support programme:

We’ve partnered with specialist charities Mindapples and Mindful Music, psychotherapist Gurpreet Singh, and music facilitator Sam Glazer to launch a programme of tailored support for creative practitioners. The series consists of online safe spaces of reflection for those dealing with loss, grief and significant readjustment, workshops and training to foster resilience and adaptation, and peer-to-peer support workshops to offer networking and practical support as we work together through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme is free and open to all.

Let’s take this chance to move forward together, share our experiences and do what we do best – bring communities together so that everyone can find, explore and share extraordinary music.

How to book?

Each workshop is free, with an option of making a donation (whatever you can afford is much appreciated, we suggest £5 if possible). To book a place, see the individual events at the bottom of this page.

We are hugely grateful for The Cultural Recovery Fund to help cover the costs of these courses.