Culture & Creativity supporting health and wellbeing in North East England

13 May 2022

Participant in TWAM Community programme

To mark Creativity and Wellbeing Week (16-22 May 2022)  Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) is highlighting its community programmes and resources which fuse creativity with health and wellbeing and aim to create a healthier, happier and more equal society.  

TWAM’s five core community programmes have been devised in partnership with clinical and care professionals and are based on robust research identifying areas of need in the North East. 

The Wellbeing Programme focuses on improving mental health and was created in response to public health data that states that the North East has higher levels of mental health problems compared to the rest of England (Public Health England - State of the North East 2018 report). 

The Platinum Programme specialises in working with people over age 55 – to improve their positive mindfulness, wellbeing, physical, social, and learning needs. This was developed to meet the needs of the North East’s ageing population - in 2016 over 65s accounted for 15.8% of the region’s population. By 2066 this figure is expected to be 26%. (

The Recovery Programme is for people in addiction recovery and/or people working with the Criminal Justice System. The North East has the highest deaths linked to drug misuse in England, almost twice the national average. (

The Network Programme supports a broad range of people who live, work or study in Tyneside. It involves collaborative projects with partners that challenge the expected heritage experience inside and out of TWAM’s venues in new and exciting ways via exhibitions, events, and digital programmes.  

The Multaka Programme for refugees and asylum seekers provides development and training to increase their employability, and broaden their experiences of living in North East England.   

Evaluation of TWAM’s programmes has shown the positive impact on the health and wellbeing of participants: 

  • 89% of the 6000 people TWAM worked with reported greater social engagement beyond sessions.  
  • 83% of people TWAM worked with showed increased confidence. 
  • 98% of people who participated within TWAM’s programmes reported sharing their thoughts, experiences, and knowledge with others.  

Keith Merrin, Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: 

“TWAM has been delivering inspiring museum programmes that recognise the positive health impacts of cultural participation for over 20 years.  In the last 3 years we have worked with over 15,000 people, over 1,000 health workers and support staff and we have collaborated with over 200 different community partners and organisations. 

“Evaluation of our work shows that creativity and cultural engagement definitely has a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. In a region with high levels of deprivation we’re ideally placed to use our museums, galleries and collections to help make a real difference.” 

As well as delivering the targeted community programmes, TWAM has also introduced a range of resources for professionals and communities that can support people's health and wellbeing.  

Resources include themed Museum Object Boxes providing original and high-quality replica historical artefacts to use as part of care practice with clients. They also include interpretation related to each object and ideas for activities. 

The Museums, Health and Social Care resource created in partnership with Northumbria University, features heritage activities and identifies how these activities could specifically support quality of life, health, and wellbeing in older people, for example: pain management, speech, cognitive stimulation, mental health, and social interaction. It also includes resource kits that can be loaned which contain all the equipment the carer would need to run a session with clients and films providing guidance about running creative sessions. 

Dr. Neil Churchill, OBE, Director, Experience, Participation and Equalities Group NHS England, in response to TWAM's Museum Health and Social Care resource, said:  

“Culture plays such an important part in our wellbeing and these programmes and resources will be of immediate and practical benefit to anyone working in health or social care.”  
The most recent resource developed is Sounds Around - a game developed in collaboration with health and care professionals at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to help people with dementia and brain injury.  

The game uses imagery, facts and a variety of heritage sounds drawn from the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, an initiative that preserved, thousands of the UK's rare and unique sound recordings. It is designed to spark conversations, unlock memories, and encourage play. 

To find out more about TWAM’s community programmes and resources visit: