Imagine East Greenwich: evaluating the impact of the arts on health and well‐being

Publication Date01 Dec 2005
AuthorFelicity Callard,Lynne Friedli
SubjectHealth & social care
Felicity Callard
Independent researcher/
Honorary visiting lecturer
Queen Mary,University of
Lynne Friedli
Public mental health
Correspondence to:
Felicity Callard
Flat 2/17
Northwood Hall
Hornsey Lane
London N6 5PQ
journal of public mental health
vol 4 • issue 4
© Pavilion Publishing (Brighton) Ltd
‘[B]eing involved with the arts can have a lasting
and transforming effect on many aspects of people’s
lives. This is true not just for individuals, but also for
neighbourhoods, communities, regions and entire
generations, whose sense of identity and purpose
can be changed through art.’ (Arts Council
England, 2004a)
The evaluation of arts/health projects is challenging and
raises complex questions about the way in which health
is defined, the validity and reliability of different
indicators for measuring impact and, ultimately, whose
definition of success counts. There is a growing policy
interest in how cultural activities can contribute to
changing residents’ perceptions of where they live,
developing community confidence and organisational
capacity and developing local partnerships. There is also
a growing emphasis on well-being generally, and how a
‘well-being focus’ might influence the future direction
of UK policy on the economy, health, education,
employment, culture and sustainable development
(DEFRA, 2005; NIMHE, 2005). These developments
provide an important opportunity to sustain and expand
debates about the role and value of the arts, notably in
deprived and fragmented communities.
This paper both describes the evaluation of a
particular arts/health initiative in London
(foregrounding factors that appear to be most significant
in achieving positive outcomes), and reflects on some of
the complex methodological and theoretical questions
surrounding the process of arts/health evaluation.
Imagine East Greenwich
Imagine East Greenwich (IEG) aimed to enable the
communities of the neighbouring Caletock and
Flamstead estates in East Greenwich to examine their
own health and to identify what they felt was important
in improving their health and well-being. Through the
production of displays, books, a calendar, a film,
artworks and other health-related material, it also aimed
to maximise health awareness in the community. The
evaluation, which was conducted retrospectively by two
external evaluators, aimed to:
provide an overall assessment of IEG to allow those
involved to learn from the project and also inform
the future development of IEG
consider IEG in the context of the evidence base for
arts/health initiatives
contribute to national discussions concerning
arts/health theory and practice.
The evaluation included findings from the existing
individual project evaluations (which had been
conducted internally), as well as extensive qualitative
data from a series of interviews with key stakeholders.
The interviews provided the external evaluators with a
retrospective account of the impact of IEG from a range
of perspectives and also contributed to the development
of indicators to measure the achievements of IEG.1
IEG was an estates-based arts/health project
initiated and managed by Independent Photography
(IP), an independent organisation that develops digital
Imagine East Greenwich:
evaluating the impact of the
arts on health and well-being
This paper describes the qualitative evaluation of Imagine East Greenwich (IEG), a series of arts/health
projects developed as part of a regeneration programme on two housing estates in a London
borough.The evaluation seeks to identify (through consultation with various stakeholders) indicators
for measuring the impact of arts/health on communities, and to itemise some of the key factors that
appeared to influence the success of IEG’s arts/health projects.The paper reflects on some of the
challenges that attend arts/health evaluations and, in so doing, contributes to ongoing debates about
the role and value of the arts, notably in deprived and fragmented communities.
Key words:
arts in health
mental health promotion
qualitative evaluation
community development

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