Landscape = Health + Wellbeing

Landscape = Health + Wellbeing was a 51 Voices collaboration with award-winning Reside Dance, the Earth Living Festival and the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Workshops were designed and delivered and a film was created using the National Parks & Access to the Countryside pamphlet from The MERL collection as inspiration.

Reside Dance CIC was born out of Reading 2016: Year of Culture and the company aims to bring individuals and communities together by developing connections to places and others through dance and movement. Jen, Anja and Emma were the creative facilitators who worked on this 51 Voices project with The MERL. They chose a 1951 object that relates to landscape and health and wellbeing as this is an area of work that Reside Dance is looking to develop.

They worked in partnership with the Earth Living Festival which has a focus on wellbeing, art, and nature, and with NHS staff at Royal Berkshire Hospital as part of their staff health and wellbeing programmes.

The film captures a connectedness with the environment that being outdoors can bring, and how this can draw upon our strong sense of inner connection.


Facilitator Reflections

For me, Earth Living is about connection… connection to other people… connection to our environment, … [to] get outside, take in what you see and take in everything around us. I think the power of a pause is [so] beneficial, everyone has quite a hectic life. [It’s an opportunity to] take a step back, take a pause, put your laptop/phone down, take some deep breaths, shake it out, so that we can connect back with ourselves and with…other people and the environment as well…thank you to everyone involved for making the workshop such a wonderful space.”

Earth Living Festival – facilitator, Emma Hill

I felt that the NHS workshop met the main aims in participants connecting personally and creatively with the museum object and carried the ethos and themes of mindfulness, health and wellbeing throughout. I am glad that this opportunity offered the chance to investigate… I enjoyed delivering the session, especially with the focus on wellbeing and felt that there were very thoughtful creative writing and movement responses given.” 

NHS Staff Workshop – facilitator, Anja Nash

Reside Dance reported that they felt the coordination of the project by The MERL was delivered in a thoughtful, detailed, and welcoming manner. They particularly enjoyed the connections with The MERL as this offered different artistic ideas and perspectives. Their work on this project focused on meeting the NHS Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing as an effective way of assessing what had been achieved and this was supported by the participant feedback.

To connect with other people, be physically active, learn new skills, give to others, and pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness).

Reside shared that they found it particularly interesting that that the wide variety of participants’ cultural backgrounds meant different experiences of ‘the countryside’. “This meant that reflections on where this may be for them were diverse and this enriched the work and responses.”

Participant reflections

Earth Living Festival:

“Thank you, that was such a freeing, embodied and wonderful practice and it was so lovely to see everyone moving”. “Thank you so much, really beautiful.”

“Everyone who gave feedback loved her workshop, describing it as joyful and freeing.”

“A wonderful workshop, embodied and liberating movement. Thank you Emma and Reside Dance.”

NHS staff:

‘Thank you, the workshop was really useful’

‘The session was paced well and I really enjoyed it’

 Another participant said that they enjoyed it, as it was an ‘interesting idea and something new that [they] had not done before’. They described the movement during the session as ‘beautiful’.

 ‘Really helpful’

‘Beautiful movements, thank you’

Landscape = Health + Wellbeing was made possible through the generous support of Arts Council England and the Culture Recovery Fund. Even when we’ve been unable to welcome our communities in to The MERL Galleries, we’ve still been #HereForCulture.

Logos final.