Arts Health Research Intensive 2024: An immersive week of knowledge exchange and connection

In this blog we share a round up from our recent residential course bringing together students and professionals eager to deepen their understanding of arts in health theory and practice.

13 June 2024

Between 13 – 17 May 2024, we held our flagship Arts Health Research Intensive. Welcomed by warm spring sunshine, 49 delegates joined us in Suffolk at the beautiful Snape Maltings site, which is part of Britten Pears Arts. Energised and eager to learn, participants dove into the evidence base and the practical aspects of conducting arts in health research and evaluation. Read along for a recap of the week and to find out what the class of 2024 had to say about the course! 


Monday: Getting to know each other and our surroundings 

Prof Daisy Fancourt and Dr Jill Sonke opened the week with a warm welcome and an overview of the course. Delegates then introduced themselves – we were joined by a wonderfully diverse group of researchers, artists, charity leaders, commissioners, educators, among others, with several of our participants existing at disciplinary intersections. After an introductory lecture on arts in health, participants jumped straight into thinking about their own projects. The afternoon sessions were all about understanding and applying different tools; on Monday we tackled the INNATE framework, introduced by Dr Katey Warran, and logic models. To wrap up, delegates explored the beautiful Snape Maltings grounds, and we concluded the day with a drinks reception with a lovely view of the river Ade. 


Tuesday: Diving into the evidence base and research methods  

Each morning Dr Jenny Lee gently eased us into the day with creative activities ranging from poetry to movement. Afterwards, it was time for the morning lectures – Daisy Fancourt explained the psycho-physiological effects of the arts and Jill Sonke introduced some of the research methods applicable to arts in health. Following lunch and a mindfulness exercise, it was time for an afternoon of interactive collaborative work. Participants explored the Multi-level Leisure Mechanisms Framework with Dr Katey Warran and Saoirse Finn and learned about study modelling. The last thing on the agenda was opening the floor to the delegates to share their reflections or ask any questions, and with that, another day was complete.  

“These morning sessions [lectures] absolutely set my mind alight and were like petrol to the fire in my gut re: how essential this work is.”

Wednesday: Reaching the mid-way point 

Wednesday was the peak of the Research Intensive. The day started with writing; we explored our origin stories through poetry, then moved swiftly to morning lectures – learning about the behavioural effects of the arts and experimental, mixed and critical participatory methods. The afternoon practical session focused on evaluation of arts in health interventions and the day concluded with an arts-based exploration of experiences of the research intensive up until that point (see one of the creations below!)

“Easily my favourite parts of the course were Jenny’s wonderfully facilitated creative activities in the morning.”

Thursday: Applying learnings and advancing individual projects  

After an intense day, Thursday provided some respite. Jenny helped us warm up with Brain Dance, an exercise inspired by the movement patterns of early human development. Daisy and Jill then delivered their final lectures on the social effects of the arts and research methods, respectively. Participants were introduced to many research methods during the week, but Thursday’s data poems were one of the most memorable practices. After lunch and another rejuvenating mindfulness session, it was time for the delegates to apply their newly acquired knowledge – they dispersed around the site and got stuck in working on their individual projects including PhDs, theses, pitches, research proposals, funding bids and as well as developing new ideas.

“Option for one-to-one feedback from all staff was very helpful during all of these individual project working sessions.”

Friday: Project presentations and goodbyes  

On the last day, we joined another creative session, this time accompanied by a musical performance by two of the delegates! Afterwards we had a Q&A panel discussion covering practical topics such as grant applications and career paths. This was followed by an embodied exercise where participants used their position in the room to indicate their views on pressing issues in arts in heath, such as ‘Will the arts be known as a health behaviour in 5 years’ time, similarly to diet and exercise?’ and ‘In an entirely equitable world, would we still need the field of arts in health?’ Maybe the photograph below can offer some insight into participants’ takes. A short break later it was showtime – after splitting into smaller groups, each delegate had just a few minutes to pitch their project. Hearing about all the amazing work and ideas was a fantastic way to end the week. We witnessed the forging of great connections and are incredibly excited to see how the 2024 cohort will shape and influence the field of arts in health moving forward. 

“This [group sharing] was by far the best part of the entire week, [I] absolutely loved hearing about other people’s research and getting really useful feedback in a structured and timely way.

A big thank you to everyone who made this fantastic week happen – our 2024 delegates, staff team, colleagues at Britten Pears Arts and scholarship support from Jameel Arts & Health Lab!  

We’ll be hosting the Research Intensive again in May 2025 – register your interest if you want to be the first to know when applications open! To keep in touch with us, subscribe to our newsletter and follow @UCL_SBB on Twitter/X. In the meantime, you can also learn more about the effects of arts, culture and heritage on health via our free self-directed online course.