In May 2022, over 50 delegates from around the globe across research, policy, and practice in arts, culture, and health met at Snape Maltings for a week-long Intensive training course. The flagship course led by the Arts Health Early Career Research Network based in the WHO Collaborating Centre for Arts and Health at University College London and the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine, was jam-packed full of group-based debates, activities and presentations. Pilar Letrondo, one of the delegates, writes about the experience.

On 9-13 May 2022, I attended the 2022 Arts Health Research Intensive (9-13 May) at Snape Maltings in Suffolk. This flagship course is led by the Arts Health Early Career Research Network (ECRN) based in the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Arts & Health at University College London (UCL) in partnership with the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine and Britten Pears Arts. The five-day Intensive provides delegates with the chance to connect with others and engage in lectures and peer learning on various arts and health topics. A wide range of people from all over the globe attended, including PhD students, medical personnel, arts programme managers, artists and researchers.

About the week

We began each morning with a creative activity led by Jenny Lee to get us energized, such as engaging in creative writing, a movement workshop or singing. The morning's creative activity was followed by an in-depth look at various areas of research and practice in arts and health led by world-leading researcher, Dr Daisy Fancourt. After a nice mid-morning coffee break and a chance to socialise with other participants, Dr Jill Sonke presented different approaches to research and research methodologies. Throughout the morning, we also had the option of writing down specific arts and health topics we wanted to talk about. Then, at lunch, we sat at tables that were ‘assigned’ these topics to discuss with others. These discussion tables were a great way to get to know other participants while exchanging knowledge and exploring new areas of arts and health. Towards the end of each lunch break, we also had the option of 15-minutes of mindfulness to help re-centre ourselves before our afternoon learning and creating.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Intensive was the chance to design an arts and health research project over the course of the week, drawing on our learning. The morning sessions provided inspiration and information on different types of research and projects, and the afternoon sessions gave us tips on research design and implementation, including useful tools such as the INNATE framework for conceptualizing and designing arts in health interventions.

Each afternoon, once we had learned new tips and tools for designing research, we worked on our individual projects. The unstructured ‘design time’ was especially useful for bouncing ideas off other participants, learning from their past experiences, and brainstorming new approaches together. Team members from the ECRN and UF Centre for Arts in Medicine were also available so we could ask for their expertise on the projects we were designing. By the end of the week, we had well thought out projects that we presented in small groups for one last round of thoughts and contributions. Presenting our projects was a fun way to learn more about everyone’s passions, whilst also sharing our projects in a no-pressure environment.

What I’m taking away

Overall, the week was about forming connections: connections between arts and health, connections between research and practice and, most importantly, connections with each other. During our time together, we inspired one another, made plans for collaboration, and lifelong friendships. It has been three months since our week together in Snape and our group chat is still quite active. Every week someone has an update on their project, interesting new arts and health news or resources to share, or a question for the group to help with. Our continued connections are an ongoing source of learning and support that denotes the significance of our shared experience in Snape. I know myself and others are excited to return next year to continue learning and forming connections.

To learn more about the Research Intensive, visit the ECRN website or follow the Collaborating Centre on Twitter.

By Pilar Letrondo (Delegate of the 2022 Arts Health Research Intensive and PhD student, UCL)