National Centre for Early Music

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Culture & Wellbeing in York

The National Centre for Early Music is delighted to be working in partnership with York Museums Trust, Accessible Arts and Media, Converge at York St John University, York Theatre Royal, Explore York Libraries and Archives, Pilot Theatre and York at Large, under the name Culture & Wellbeing in York, to explore how engagement with arts activity can positively impact on health and wellbeing. The partnership spent a year learning together as part of the Locality Project programme, led by consultant Linden Rowley, examining the role of the arts in addressing social challenges and delivering public services.

There exists a strong, evidence-based case for the health and wellbeing benefits of the arts. It has been shown that engaging with the arts, particularly with communal artistic activity, can enable people of all ages and backgrounds to feel better about themselves and about their lives. This can lead to a reduction in the need for prescription drugs to combat mental health difficulties and has been shown to reduce the frequency of people's visits to their GPs. The result being happier individuals and a reduction in pressure on health services and budgets.

The health and wellbeing of our local York community is particularly important to us. NCEM already creates significant opportunity for people to engage with all of the Six Ways to Wellbeing :
  • Be active: As an arts venue (running a multitude of live performances, talks, exhibitions, films, workshops, conferences) and as a community venue (hosting blood donations, a polling station and a wide variety of community events), NCEM offers people more than one reason to get up and out of the house. With safe and spacious indoor and outdoor areas, there is plenty of opportunity for people to be active once they are here. We run a vibrant learning and participation programme, which frequently includes music and movement activities (body percussion, early music and dance, Brazilian capoeira, Japanese taiko).
  • Keep learning: We run a lively year-round learning and participation programme for all ages, from early years to adult, providing a large number of people with opportunities to improve wellbeing through continuing their education and expanding horizons. We offer diverse learning opportunities through varied concert programmes, pre-concert talks and informative films. We are also home to the North East Early Music Forum Library and the York Mystery Plays Archive.
  • Give: People can give to the NCEM and its community in a number of ways, through donations of time (as volunteer stewards, advisors and team members), by offering books and other resources to our libraries and archives, and by supporting financially as individual donors, Friends and Patrons. 
  • Connect: We provide routes for members of the public to come together with their families, friends, neighbours and wider community, through our own events and in our role as a community venue. The impact of these opportunities has been profound, with one recent participant in our Music4U project telling us: "I feel like this group has saved my life - I don't know where I'd be without this music and these people". The space is fully accessible and inclusive practice is at the heart of our approach to connecting with our community.
  • Take notice: NCEM is situated in a beautiful and historic Grade I listed church, surrounded by an enclosed and well-maintained garden, containing historic features, cultivated wildflowers and a number of musical artworks, all encouraging visitors to relax and enjoy. The space has been described variously as "lively and vibrant" (as part of an education project based on Brazilian drumming), "calm and contemplative - very soothing" (as part of a Residents First gamelan percussion workshop) and "warm, comfy, friendly and inviting" (by a conference delegate). 
  • Care for the environment: From rescuing a medieval church from the English Heritage 'at risk' register and transforming it into an award-winning, community-centred restoration project, through to ensuring energy efficiency in all heating and lighting systems and procedures, looking after the environment is extremely important us and we seek to share this care with all who work in and visit our venue.
As part of the focus on wellbeing, NCEM has developed a number of practical and research projects, including: