Cultural engagement improves the quality of life for the residents of Calderdale. Programmes and initiatives based around arts and culture improve, for example, personal wellbeing, mental health, confidence, pride and skills.

For evidence to the impact of culture on health and well-being, please see:  The role of culture and leisure in improving health and wellbeing .

The local picture

The Culture sector in Calderdale is vibrant and growing. It includes galleries, libraries, museums, theatres and an outstanding heritage sector. Calderdale is home to a thriving independent community of small scale organisations and artists who work in the heart of communities, education and health.

In 2003, the University of Leeds mapped the cultural sector and identified 845 creative businesses. Another study in 2009 identified 1,433 creative organisations and businesses working in the area.

The role of culture in place-making and health and well-being is well established. Cultural organisations often work with partners in the voluntary and statutory sectors to design and deliver a range of projects supporting health and well-being agendas and local people.

Current provision

Arts and heritage - health and wellbeing

  • Cultural projects and programmes underpinned by health and well-being objectives are developing;
  • Work targeting older residents, intergenerational and diverse communities is increasing;
  • Calderdale’s Professional Arts Network includes 47 members from cultural organisations and representatives working in health and education;
  • Through Calderdale’s Professional Arts Network, information is shared on national and local initiatives in arts, health and wellbeing;
  • Cultural activities and festivals are recognised for supporting positive connections within communities and creating pride of place. In 2016, 21 local festivals were funded by Calderdale Council;
  • Cultural projects are supporting recovery and resilience in communities after flooding;
  • Between 2014 and 2016, Calderdale Small Grants Fund funded 48 projects using cultural activity at varying degrees in support of health and wellbeing in the area;
  • Adult Health and Social Care commission a broad range of cultural activity to support health and wellbeing objectives. They have a developing relationship with Square Chapel and the wider cultural sector. Match funding has been provided by Arts Council England and future plans to increase accessibility to arts and culture for people with learning disabilities are underway;
  • Creative Minds, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation use creative approaches and activities in healthcare settings, please see:
  • For key issues relating to health in Calderdale, see:

Select examples of cultural activity in Calderdale

  • Hebden Bridge Arts Festival

    From its base in the community owned Town Hall, Hebden Bridge Arts Festival produces Café Culture. This is a monthly arts event aimed at the over 65s and the harder to reach sections of the community. The events offer homemade cake and tea or coffee, and an engaging speaker offers the chance for socialisation in a convivial and welcoming environment. It also acts as a conduit to the other activities on offer in the area.

    The project began in 2015 following a period of partnership development work with AGE UK, local residents, health partners, assisted living and supported housing schemes. It is funded by Staying Well, a micro-commission awarded by Hebden Bridge Town Hall, and is currently supported by Creative Minds, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS trust. Through their partnership with Creative Minds, Hebden Bridge Arts Festival Café Culture hopes to extend their reach beyond the over 65s, see: Hebden Bridge Arts Festival .

  • Verd de gris

    Verd de gris run projects which aim to improve community cohesion, health and wellbeing, and intergenerational practice. They work in partnership with community partners and with a range of groups, people of all ages and backgrounds. For further information and specific examples of projects funded by Adult Health and Social Care, see:

  • Square Chapel Centre for the Arts

    Square Chapel has been delivering high quality community outreach programmes in Calderdale for several years. From 2015 to 2018, Square Chapel is working in partnership with Verd de gris and Orangebox Young People’s Centre on a project called Creative Communities, using the arts as a tool to bring about improvements in people’s lives. The project is supported from the National Lottery through The Big Lottery Fund. Square Chapel has worked on various projects to support inclusion in the arts. They are currently working towards an older people’s project and a partnership that will increase accessibility in the arts for people with learning disabilities.

    For further information, see: Square Chapel: current projects .


Public Libraries in Calderdale (see: Calderdale Libraries) make a significant contribution to the wellbeing of their communities as they:

  • can be a key partner in tackling problems of social isolation, inequality and ill health;
  • support learning at all stages of life;
  • inspire through books, literature, film and theatre;
  • promote economic wellbeing;
  • are safe spaces, providing free access to information and technology;
  • have dedicated staff and are well linked with other services.

Calderdale Libraries' health offer, provides community hubs offering trusted, non-clinical space where health and wellbeing partners can engage with local people for outreach and support for the vulnerable. Assisted access to key health information sites is available plus information and sign posting.

A key element of the Health Offer is Reading Well - Books on prescription offers. Books on Prescription helps people to understand and manage their health and wellbeing using quality assured lists of helpful reading.

A wide range of books on health, medicine, wellbeing and fitness are available to borrow or consult. The Library Service is a member of the Calderdale Dementia Action Alliance and all staff are trained as Dementia Friends.

The Home Library Service is a free service offered to anyone living in Calderdale, who is unable to visit their local library and who does not have anyone who can visit on their behalf. People may apply for the service if ill-health, disability, age or frailty prevents them from visiting a library or if they have caring responsibilities.

All Calderdale libraries offer free Internet access, enabling people to search for health information, including NHS Choices. Nationally 34% of people visited their GP less after using the NHS Choices  website.

The service offers free access to selected subscription-only sites and offers support, at larger libraries, for the Choose and Book NHS online facility for booking appointments.

Volunteers provide valued additional support, working alongside library staff to provide library health and wellbeing services. A range of volunteering opportunities is offered, plus partnership working with Age UK and other agencies.

Brighouse, Elland, Northowram and Rastrick Libraries are members of the Only Natural scheme, welcoming breast-feeding mums.

Health related services, events and activities are hosted at libraries such as NHS Smoking Cessation Sessions and ‘ Breathe Easy ’- rehabilitation class for lung cancer survivors at King Cross Library, and specific activities at other libraries, e.g. World Heart Day event.

The Schools Library Service lends a range of books and artefacts to support the curriculum and fiction for reading for pleasure, contributing to the health and wellbeing of children and young people.


Calderdale is known as a tourist destination primarily for its landscape and heritage. Calderdale Museums contribute to this heritage by the preservation of objects and information relating to the past and telling the story of the local area.

To visitors this provides an introduction to the rich history of Calderdale. To residents it helps to engender a feeling of 'place'. Whether born locally, or not, it is important to understand the area in which you live.

Calderdale operates four museum and art gallery sites as well as off-site stores. All sites are well attended by a variety of users reflecting the demographics of the area.

An active volunteer programme with over 80 volunteers contributes over 7,000 hours of volunteer time per year. Volunteers are well supported to ensure that they gain practical skills as well as benefitting from increased social interaction.

There is an active schools education programme focusing on key stage 1 and 2 activities that attracts local schools as well as many schools from outside the area. The programme aims to enrich the historical knowledge of the pupils and to ensure that the local pupils gain an appreciation of their heritage.

The Education team works closely with Children and Young People’s Service (part of Adults and Children's Services) to deliver tailored programmes to support the mental health of young people.

Schools Networking is a well subscribed initiative that brings together pupils from diverse backgrounds, using the museum sites as venues.

Children’s activities are provided during school holidays and there are two Saturday Art Clubs at Bankfield Museum and Smith Art Gallery.

All sites are well used by local community groups who engage with museum collections and support the service. In 2016 the Museums Service started an Arts Council funded project “A Museum for Everyone” to build on these relationships and encourage new ones. This will attract new audiences to the Museums and involve closer integration with public libraries on our sites using creative and innovative use of space within the buildings for multi-functional purposes. We are also providing greater support for the special needs groups who regularly visit our sites including the creation of dementia-friendly materials and activities.

User views

Cultural organisations are committed to reviewing work and providing quantitative and qualitative evaluation to stakeholders as required. Organisations collect user views through a variety of monitoring and evaluation methods on a project project basis.

The Library recently carried out a  Libraries service survey via the Council's 'Talkback' panel. This was to gain opinions about the existing library services and how they could be improved. Questions related to services that support health and wellbeing included:

  • "How does the library service benefit you?"; and
  • "How does the library service benefit the community?".

Unmet need

There is a lack of quality data and information relating to the outputs and outcomes of cultural activity and health, for example audits and co-ordinated information on activity in this field. There is potential for a forum or action learning project to support arts and health development, to address a way forward and confirm achievable outcomes.

Whilst every effort is made to provide the curated book collections relating to health in as many libraries as possible, the full range cannot be provided in all 22 libraries. However, the service does not charge the £1 reservation fee for these titles and requested books can be collected from any site.

Projected future need

The projected future needs include:

  • long-term health needs, identified within Joint Strategic Needs Assessment health overview for Calderdale: Health ;
  • shared vision to improve work across health and the cultural sector;
  • long-term impact assessment.

In Calderdale, the estimated number of people (over 65 years old) with dementia is 2,299 and locally the dementia diagnosis rate is estimated to be 73%. However, this leaves an estimated 719 people with dementia undiagnosed (including people under 65 years old). It has been suggested that these individuals may benefit from access to support by way of a dementia diagnosis.

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

  • On-going dialogue between the cultural community and health;
  • Recent health mapping research findings indicate that people see their library as a safe, trusted and non-stigmatised place to go for help with and information about health problems. Generally the ageing population will require more help and support, and libraries will be a first port of call for digital support;
  • Arts Council England (ACE) commissioned Simetrica - an organisation which specialises in research on social impact analysis and policy evaluation - to conduct a study in 2014 into The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries . Its analysis of health and subjective wellbeing data found that “library use is positively associated with subjective wellbeing after controlling for a wide range of factors”.

Figures show that Calderdale has a higher than national average number of people who experience mental health issues.


Carole Knowles, Libraries Museums and Arts manager, Communities and service support, Calderdale Council (January 2017).


See also