Belfast has a dynamic, diverse and unique culture with strong engagement in the cultural and arts sector. Culture, the arts and heritage can address social inclusion, strengthen health and tackle inequalities by creating opportunities for people to engage positively within their communities and in turn with their city. Arts and Culture in our city finds expression on many different levels; from flagship projects like The MAC and the Lyric Theatre, through to community based festivals which run throughout the city and throughout the year.
Participating in cultural activities enhances quality of life and has a positive impact on wellbeing. Research has shown the importance of social participation and the sense of belonging for health and wellbeing. In Northern Ireland there are sometimes mixed experiences associated with cultural activities but in essence, culture and the arts can be tools used to strengthen community development; encourage integration of communities; promote health and wellbeing and social regeneration particularly in areas of high inequalities and deprivation.
Belfast Healthy Cities invited Finnish colleagues from the city of Turku, a member of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network to share their experiences of embedding cultural activities for health and wellbeing in the city. The Finnish city will share the learning and legacy of being the European Capital of Culture 2011 and highlight their strategic approach and current initiatives. A number of local examples were also used to demonstrate how cultural activities have contributed to positively energizing communities, contributing to good health and wellbeing.
Johanna Reiman, Executive Director, Baltic Region Healthy Cities Association, WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Cities and Urban Health in the Baltic Region
Toni Ekroos, Youth Services, City of Turku,
Jenny Elliot, Chief Executive, Arts Care & Orbit Dance Duet
Adam Turkington, Programme Manager Culture Night/Seedhead Arts
Aisling Ní Labhraí, Director, An Cultúrlann
Maurice Kincaid, Chief Executive, Eastside Partnership
Nisha Tandon OBE, Director, ArtsEkta