It’s official, creativity is good for us.

Take heart, friends, involving yourself in the arts has finally been recognised officially as improving our lives.  Yes, you may have missed this, I nearly did, but the All Party Enquiry into the Arts that has been investigating the latest innovations in the ‘field of arts and health’ since 2014, has released a report saying that creativity is beneficial. Wow, is that good?

David Shrigley

Illustration by David Shrigley, from The Arts Report 2017


Well, in theory, it should be, but what will happen to these findings, I wonder?


Ideally, it will be reflected in practical ways, and the value of adult learning that is not job-centred will be recognised by the funders.  According to Mark Brown, writing in the Guardian, the former Arts minister, Lord Howarth, said:

 “Sceptics say where is the evidence of the efficacy of the arts in health? Where is the evidence of the value for money it can provide? We show it in this report.

“The arts can help people take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing in ways that will be crucial to the health of the nation.”

Don’t get me wrong, learning for work is good, very good.  As someone who came late to Higher Education I value the chances to re-train, and change professions. But I also took part in creative writing evening classes for adults for several years before that, and we definitely were part of the ‘recreational’ learning provision.

Our ages ranged from early twenties to late seventies.  Some of us had jobs, many were retired.  For two hours a week we put aside our other lives and entered new worlds.  I’ve never forgotten the joy of having that space, or the way we were encouraged to share ideas and reach outside of our boxes.

If most of the students kept their classes at hobby status, that didn’t mean the courses were frivolous.    What I saw then was how the mix of ages and ambitions came together to create something enervating.

I credit those classes with giving me the confidence to get back to formal education, when the opportunity arose, even thought that wasn’t their purpose.  Classes have always been about so much more than training.

The social interactions between people who share interests doesn’t just stimulate the learning synapses, it engenders social skills.  Students exploring ideas on one subject digress onto others, share experiences, interact with people they might not have had chance to mingle with any other way.

Is it too broad a generalisation to say that learning turns us outwards, rather than inwards?  Now that I view the world from the other side of the desk, my answer is no.

So I do think these findings are important, but I’m also concerned about what might be done with them.  Let’s not think only in terms of placing creativity where it is part of a therapy system, we need to recognise that giving everyone access to creative-learning benefits the system.

It is important that the therapeutic value of the arts is recognised, and expanded on, and this report is valuable on those grounds.  But let’s not forget preventive strategies.  In other health reports, we’ve been told that keeping our minds active is one of the keys to achieving a healthy and happy longevity.

Ed Vaizey, arts minister for six years, said:

“I was very conscious as a minister that I worked in a silo and it was incredibly hard to break out of that silo, incredibly hard to engage with ministers from other government departments. The arts, almost more than any sector, is a classic example where silo working does not work.”

12 thoughts on “It’s official, creativity is good for us.

  1. Interesting, Cath. My time as a mature student returning to formal education after years of creative writing classes in universities, halls and with the WEA was exhilarating, expanded my horizons, and built my confidence.
    Here in Ireland, following on from the artistic and creative endeavours of 2016, Ireland saw no reason to commission a report as in the UK. Proof of the value of the arts was demonstrated in so many ways last year.
    Now the Arts have taken centre stage with a new initiative called Creative Ireland – a five year plan for incorporating the arts in all walks of life beginning with schoolchildren. Creative Ireland defines creativity as a set of innate abilities and learned skills: the capacity of individuals and organisations to transcend accepted ideas and norms and by drawing on imagination to create new ideas that bring additional value to human activity.
    It is a growing movement but let us hope it continues and doesn’t die out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read your blogs when they are posted and argue in my mind sometimes to put forward my point of view! I miss our weekly meetings because they really made one work and write and discuss. I would join you again if there were any meetings close by. Cheltenham and Gloucester are too far for me now – but if there were any closer – I will sign on the dotted line!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, it’s lovely to hear from you again.
      At the moment I’ve no plans for the Stroud area. It would be lovely to do something there again. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I hope you’re still writing.
      I know there are some good groups and courses in the area.


  3. Cath, Of course that is no surprise to many of us – but it is encouraging to see it in print. Even though the committee has no power, perhaps it will reinvigorate the debate.
    It was interesting to see that some studies have attempted to quantify the benefits in financial terms, relating to reduced use of the NHS for example. That is the kind of thing that might just get support from Government.
    We can wish.
    In the meantime keep up the good work – I am still trying to work out exactly what was in that shed (and even what kind of shed it was😃)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hopefully there will be more than cold comfort in the creative shed, but as you’ve noted, our best hope is what’s classified as ‘forward thinking’, so I’m not holding my breath. I think we need a Flora Poste to come and take this on.


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