Veterans shaping a healthier future through art

“Social prescribing is an innovative way to support health, wellbeing and reintegration through arts and creative practice”   

As we honour those members of the armed forces who have fought and died in the line of duty on Remembrance Day – a project to help veterans improve their own health and wellbeing through arts and creative practice gets underway at National Glass Centre. 

The seven-month project will see members of locally-based community interest company Veterans in Crisis Sunderland (VICS), taking part in weekly workshops in glass and ceramics to explore how creative activities and regular social interactions can help to support health and wellbeing. There will be an exhibition of their work at the end of the programme in April 2022, at the National Glass Centre. 

The project is delivered through the University of Sunderland’s Health and Care Workforce Interdisciplinary Research Network as a collaborative social prescribing project with National Glass Centre and VICS. In recognition of the Network’s commitment to support veteran health and wellbeing, VICS was awarded Platinum Partner status. 

This is the second collaborative project to be delivered through the Network, led by Dr Yitka Graham, Head of the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute and Associate Professor in Health Services Research at the University of Sunderland. The first project, ‘Time for Tea’ saw veterans making handmade tableware created at National Glass Centre with support from artists who specialise in glass and ceramics. 

Yitka said: “We have a strong partnership with VICS and the other members of the Sunderland Armed Forces Covenant to support our city’s veterans. 

“Our Sunderland-wide partnership acknowledges the service our veterans have given to our country, and our commitment to looking after them when they come back home. Social prescribing is an innovative way to support health, wellbeing and reintegration through arts and creative practice, using one of our city’s best assets, the National Glass Centre.” 

Funding for the project was awarded by the Armed Forces Covenant Positive Pathways programme, which funds veteran activity projects. The University signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2018 – a promise to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly. The University is playing a key role in helping these veterans, young and old, get back onto the career ladder. 

Ger Fowler, founder and CEO at VICS, which aims to support veterans in Sunderland through providing a range of services and support tailored specially to their needs, said: “Working in partnership with the University through the Health and Care Interdisciplinary Research Network has allowed us to explore non-clinical approaches to health and wellbeing, which are needed and much valued by our veterans, and made us feel part of the University community.”

The veterans will work with ceramics technician Mary Watson and Professor of Ceramics Andrew Livingstone and the National Glass Centre Studio Team. Their first session will be delivered by writer and community artist James Whitman, inspiring art projects through his storytelling ideas.

Andrew, who will be delivering the sessions, explained: “The first part of the project will see the veterans coming up with their own designs to create artworks, these will be realised through working with various ceramic processes. The second half of the project will see them using several glass techniques to realise their ideas, including painted and stained-glass applications.” 

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