Do we have permission?

Recently, I have been consulting people about their wellbeing.  I’ve met several different groups over the past month to talk about the different ways they manage their lives. The things that we do to feel happy, content, empowered, noticed and healthy.

I often hear people say:

“I am not creative so I don’t do that or this”


“I haven’t done creative stuff since I was in primary school. It’s not really for me. I only draw stick men”

I remember many years ago I took a group of older residents to a local gallery and on entering one of the exhibition spaces, one of the group members pulled me aside to ask me whether we had permission to be here. They wanted to talk etiquette, how to behave, how to interact with the space and how to enjoy it. What to think.

A lot is changing in galleries and museums and I hope this continues as we consider and develop spaces whereby people aren’t asking us if they have permission to take part. That we stop labelling people “hard to reach” or “disengaged” and we stop blaming the general public for the lack of numbers taking part or attending galleries or museums.

How about we start seeing galleries and museums as spaces that as well as beautiful spaces full to bursting with wonderful art are also spaces that are good for our wellbeing and our health?

In the last few years, I have started gardening. I began by telling myself that I wasn’t a good gardener, encouraged by my ability to kill many house plants in the past. But the garden needed tending to and I had to do it.

But, as with many new things, of course I wasnt good at gardening straight away…O the shock! How can you be good at something straight way ? I had to practice and learn about gardening. I had to read. Now, I enjoy it. It makes me laugh. I love getting messy. Making things grow from seed to table. Corny I know but it is good for my wellbeing. I have enjoyed watering weeds, potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, rhubarb, cucumbers and an abundance of flowers and fruit. Some of it has survived, some if it hasn’t but it has been hilarious and fun and makes me feel amazing when we get to eat something that we have grown from a tiny seed.

So, now I help run the school eco garden club. Me. The person who wasn’t a gardener. Who is, was and feels good when she does it. I garden not to be a gardener but because i love it and i can do it.

So, here is a wellbeing checklist from our beloved NHS. It is a good thing. It can enrich us and support us as artists and people. Just people. Try and plot your week, your month, your year with it. It is really worth it.

  • Connect – connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships.
  • Be active – It isn’t about going to the gym but taking to walking, cycling or playing active games, move.
  • Keep learning – trying something new with your brain, learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence.
  • Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.
  • Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”.

So, you know turn your mobile off, move, keep learning, give back, and talk to people…


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