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Arts and Culture: Social Prescribing Myth Buster Created by London Arts and Health

This guide is designed to dispel some of the myths surrounding social prescribing in the arts and cultural sector.

More than ever we need to look after our health and wellbeing and creativity can make a really big difference. Taking part in creative activities can re-connect us with our senses, body and mind. It can build social connections, support our mental and physical health and make a profound and positive difference to individuals and communities.So if you are a culture or health professional – this guide is essential reading. An easy way into this important field, lots of myth busting alongside advice from people who have been leading the way in creative health work for years. We hope that the richness of these stories will not only inspire but help to hard wire cultural social prescribing into the provision of care, supporting all Londoners’ physical and mental wellbeing in these challenging times and beyond.

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, London

Anna Woolf

Foreword by London Arts and Health Director

Anna Woolf

The Arts and Culture Social Prescribing Myth Buster has been a highly downloaded resource, which launched last year to support cultural organisations and freelance practitioners, working across the arts and health sector to understand more about cultural, social prescribing. We are really pleased to relaunch now an updated version of the Myth Buster, which we’ve developed to be a more accessible website resource and downloadable copy document. Working with the wonderful team at the Culture and Creative Industries Unit, GLA, we have been able to refresh the Myth Buster with updated case studies, podcasts and as much information that feels relevant and timely as possible.

We appreciate that there has been an explosion of invaluable resources over the last year, and the website is therefore designed to be digestible and segmented, so you can approach any sections that feel relevant and useful to you or your organisation. Case studies offer up Link Worker and Social Prescriber points of view, we hear from grass roots, community based, arts and health organisations involved in Thriving Communities who share ideas and findings covering all aspects of cultural social prescribing across London.

The Myth Buster is an ever evolving resource, so please get in touch if you think there is something to be shared and added with our community. London faces one of the highest levels of health inequality in the world. With life spans of residents living just streets apart varying greatly. Covid-19 has highlighted and increased the divide in the health and wellbeing experienced in the city.

In our current political and economic climate, arts in health offer a professional, value-for-money contribution to mainstream health care as part of the social prescribing movement and yet we know that many of our members and the cultural practitioners across the Capital are still struggling to get involved in the process.

We hope the Myth Buster offers you, your practice, your organisation or your clinical setting some personal insider perspective and resources into just how valuable cultural social prescribing can be.

The Myths

Common myths around social prescribing

View the myths

Case Studies

Great examples of social prescribing

View case studies


All the buzzwords you need to know

View the glossary


Arts and culture on prescription 

Download checklist


The animation


What is Arts and Cultural Prescribing?

Humans have long used arts as a way to make sense of the world, build connections and define themselves whilst benefiting from the arts’ therapeutic effects.

Many of us recognise that the arts and culture can make us feel better.

Social prescribing, in its simplest form, is a way to build on these ideas, through the active recommendation of arts and culture on prescription. But many people are not sure what social prescribing means, how it can benefit them, or how they might get involved in activities. Arts and culture on prescription, through NHS referral or self-referral can benefit everyone, from children to adults, older generations and families alike.

This simple guide aims to debunk some myths associated with social prescribing by providing straight-forward information for the individuals or arts cultural organisations looking to deliver social prescribing activities. We have also produced a podcast series, speaking to people involved in arts and cultural social prescribing across London.

Social prescribing and community-based support enables all local agencies to refer people to a ‘link worker’ to connect them into community-based support, building on what matters to the person as identified through shared decision making / personalised care and support planning, and making the most of community and informal support.
(NHS England Universal Personalised Care, p.21)

The Arts and Culture: Social Prescribing Myth Buster was created by London Arts and Health, and was commissioned by the Mayor of London and his Culture and Creative Industries team.

The guide has been researched and written by Interim Director Anna Woolf and Research Assistant Elena Charlton from London Arts and Health, with special thanks to the prior Executive Director of London Arts and Health: Jenni Regan. Further thanks go to the wider GLA Culture and Health teams, in particular Jacqueline Rose, Clare Lovett and Mike Clewley for all their help and support.

London Arts and Health would also like to recognise and give thanks to all the key stakeholders who contributed to the research, development and feedback on this guide; including London Arts and Health members, podcast interviewees Trapped in Zone One and Alba Frederick and Naomi Woddis from The Two of Us Podcast, members from St. Margaret’s House in particular, Breathe Arts Heath Research, UCLH, all the wonderful Link Workers, and primary care staff who consulted on the material.

The Arts and Culture: Social Prescribing Myth Buster was designed by Keith Hagan.

The website design is by Louise at Scallywag Design.

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