Brighton Heath and Wellbeing Centre tell us about their Open House: Deep Time
Your project Deep Time sounds really interesting. Would you like to tell us a bit about it?
Deep Time is a partnership with the South Downs National Park. In response to participant feedback, we wanted to expand our Arts and Health social prescribing programme and find new ways for patients to get creative with nature and green space. Many of our patients do not have their own transport, and are very socially isolated. We know that creativity gives a huge boost to their wellbeing, and people were asking us how we could support them to engage with the great outdoors too. At the same time, the Park wanted to explore how they could work with the growing NHS social prescribing movement, so the timing was perfect.
At the beginning of 2020, we met with participants, arts practitioners and Park staff to co-design the project. We ran a series of visits to Seaford Head, including a talk by a park ranger, and to The Keep county archive so patients could learn about the landscape, ecology and history of the area and begin the process of making their own artworks. Although all local people, many had never visited the iconic landscape of Seaford Head before.
People had widely differing backgrounds and health journeys, with several in recovery from mental health challenges or living with extremely long-term health concerns. These experiences are reflected in extraordinary and striking work that they created on-site and in their own time.
How have the current circumstances affected the project?
Due to COVID we had to suspend physical visits to Seaford Head and workshops we had planned at Brighton Health & Wellbeing Centre – many participants were in the shielding category. However, we made sure that they could still be supported with their work in online workshops, and we created a website where they could get tips, resources and advice on how to continue their own artistic process. We added an additional digital workshop in the autumn, and the arts facilitators made a separate return visit to Seaford Head to develop additional work for the Open House exhibition to run over the winter at BHWC, which is largely in the windows and visible from Western Road, so can still be viewed by the public in the context of pandemic regulations.
Can you tell us about resulting exhibition at the Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre, and about the artists who will be taking part?
‘Deep Time’ was a phrase used by the SDNP’s Cultural Heritage officer to describe the unimaginable depth of time visible in the landscape of Seaford Head. We used it as a jumping-off point to explore how our minds and bodies responded to the natural space, and to the famous view of the white cliffs which has so many associations. The experience of time can be affected by many things, including pain, suffering, migration, isolation and our location. The exhibition is a collective effort of both participants and artists. Suzie Poyntz, Dan Blomfield, Emma Drew and Genevieve Smith-Nunes led Visual Arts, Photography, Creative Writing and Digital Coding workshops respectively. They supported participants to develop new skills and take inspiration for their creativity and wellbeing from intersecting experiences of health and nature.
Which days will you be opening for visitors to the Centre to view the exhibition in person?
We came to the decision not to open the exhibition space to the public. Our venue is a busy GP Practice and subject to strict COVID restrictions. Much of the work is though visible from the street, including a screen with scrolling images that runs 24/7. We will leave it in place throughout the winter – when restrictions are relaxed people will still be able to visit as we are normally open six days a week.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Thanks to funding from Brighton & Hove City Council, our partnership with The Old Market, Creative Future and Diversity & Ability has allowed us to expand our participatory arts programme to anybody registered with a Brighton and Hove GP and who is living with a longstanding health concern. And we are planning more projects that support wellbeing with creativity lead by professional artists.