creativeShiftCIC is one of the leading organisations in Bristol providing Arts on Referral programmes and creative wellbeing activities, to adults who are experiencing or are vulnerable to, isolation and mental health challenges.

Together with our Bristol Arts on Referral Alliance (BARA) partners: Arts and Events Team Bristol City Council, Fresh Arts, Knowle West Healthy Living Centre, Southmead Development Trust, Central Bristol Children’s Centre and Wellspring Healthy Living Centre, we deliver in areas of under representation, partnering with organisations working locally with vulnerable people. Each programme and project is tailored to the particular community, ensuring we engage those in need.

creativeShift aims to:

  • Improve wellbeing through involvement in arts activities
  • Focus on those who are experiencing or vulnerable to isolation and mental health challenges
  • Bring together different communities through the arts; using arts to create bridges between people, their communities and culture
  • Develop collaborations with relevant organisations in response to need
  • Continue to advance the practice of arts for wellbeing

Our programmes connect individuals more with others and encourage them to take greater notice of the world around them; improve individuals’ wellbeing, self-esteem and confidence. The benefits of our work are that people become more active and engaged; share, give and work as part of a group; provide peer support and learn new skills.

Participants are referred to our project by organisations which work with vulnerable people experiencing a range of mental health challenges and health issues, and who are in need of support. For example:

  • homeless people living in supported housing
  • people living with persistent pain
  • people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction
  • people with mental illness
  • people experiencing workplace related stress, anxiety and depression
  • women affected by domestic violence, post-natal depression and other support issues.
  • adults through the social prescribing remit

Our projects offer an opportunity to both individuals and the referring organisations, to progress an individual’s wellbeing through creative activity in a safe supportive environment.

Typically our programmes offer participants weekly 2 hour group workshops for up to 18 sessions.

These relaxed and friendly art sessions are led by an artist with a background in socially engaged practice and experienced in facilitating Arts on Referral groups. Participants are gently introduced to a range of ideas and techniques to help them explore their own creativity and learn new skills at their own pace. No previous arts experience is necessary.

Sessions are focused on arts and wellbeing and are different to counseling or therapy.

The workshops can be based at a venue to suit the participants.

What positive changes do our activities and projects make?

Our latest evaluation data on participants has shown:

80% will have decreased levels of stress, anxiety; positive distraction from pain, life issues and illness

70 % reduce depression

60% feel less isolation and lonely

90% increased confidence, self- esteem, achievement, and satisfaction

45 % have greater problem-solving skills inspiring life changes

15% take up new opportunities of volunteering/employment

Participant quote. “It wasn’t just about being creative, the personal benefits were much wider reaching. It helped to: Challenge my anxiety in a new social setting and environment, and gave me new evidence of coping, building a sense of resilience and hope to build upon. Provide a mental break from my eating disordered thoughts; an opportunity for my body to feel relaxed and safe.

Build my confidence meeting new people and engaging in conversations with others from diverse backgrounds and ages. Gain a greater acceptance of my mental health and be more open with others about my struggles. Gave me positive structure in my week and something to look forward to each Friday.

I started volunteering with Brandon Trust charity shop. Initially, I found the volunteering really anxiety provoking, but by attending the Wellbeing Arts session in the morning it helped me to sustain the

volunteering opportunity”.

How do we measure and report on the positive changes made?

Our projects are subject to robust evaluation using recognised quantitative, (e.g. Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale WEMWEBS, equality and diversity monitoring forms), and qualitative (e.g. participant feedback forms, interviews, focus groups, visual documentation), techniques to monitor the impact of our work on individuals.

In a recent project 74% (40) of participants reported an improvement in wellbeing; 7 took up employment/training/volunteering; 16 engaged with other arts groups in their community.

In our endeavour to improve evaluation methodologies and research we have developed SWATCH, an accessible visual evaluation method using colour to describe personal experience of participation in Arts on Referral interventions.

Currently we are working with UWE, Mshed Museum and Holborn Museum as part of a new study ‘Arts for health interventions: Developing a state approach to evaluation’. Led by Dr Nicola Holt, Senior Lecturer and Level 2 programme Leader in Health and Social Sciences at UWE, this is a mixed-method evaluation for arts on referral groups locally that will enable results to be pooled with those of other evaluation. Further, it plans to examine shifts in mood pre and post art workshops, rather than solely relying on wellbeing measures at start and end of art programmes. The final evaluation examines long-term benefits of participating, at three, six, twelve-month intervals, participants will be asked to complete the WEMWBS again.

The initial findings were presented at the 1st International Social Prescribing Network Research Conference in June 2018: Available from:

Our track record

The three Directors of creativeShift are Barbara Disney, Beki Lines and Julie Matthews, each are professional artists with over 25 years’ experience of delivering socially engaged arts practice and arts project management. For over 12 years we have been integral to the development of Arts on Referral in Bristol and Gloucestershire. In 2016, we formalised our working relationship to form creativeShift, taking a proactive role in the development of Arts for Wellbeing in Bristol, co-founding Bristol Arts on Referral Alliance, (BARA) in 2016 bringing together Public Health Bristol, Wellspring and Knowle West Healthy Living Centres, to promote and advocate for the role of Arts on Referral.

In Feb 2018 we became a Community Interest Company.

Together we have an excellent track record of management and delivery of Arts on Referrals programmes, i.e. ARThur (management and delivery), Artshine (delivery), Wellbeing Arts (management and delivery), Artlift (delivery), Art Ease (management and delivery).

creativeShift directors Julie Matthews and Barbara Disney were commissioned by Bristol Public Health to set up, develop, manage and deliver the Wellbeing Arts arts on referral programme from 2014 to 2018. Now managed by creativeShift, this is currently delivered across 3 host centres in Central & East and North Bristol.

Beki Lines has managed and delivered the Art Ease Arts on Referral programme based at Knowle West Healthy Living Centre since 2008.

We extend our offer to participants of our Arts on Referral programmes through devising one off creative wellbeing projects shown in high profile accessible venues, working in partnership with host organisations, i.e. The Vestibules, Southmead Hospital, GWR trains, Knowle West Health Park, Barton Hill Festival, St Paul’s Children’s Centre, the Hub Lockleaze, and Greenway Centre Southmead.

We are currently working with the Local Authority and our BARA partners within the SPEAR (Bristol Social Prescribing Service for Equality and Resilience) programme, to identify the areas of Bristol in greatest

need, the gaps in our services and devise a plan to expanding our offer citywide.

Our ‘bespoke’ services.

We are able to offer a more tailored service as needed, for example we have designed and run team building days, sessions at conferences and festivals, workplace wellbeing sessions for employees, public sessions on trains and in hospitals.

Contact us directly to discuss your needs.