Wellbeing Moves Dance On Referral


The evaluation of Wellbeing Moves Dance on Referral 

Partners:       Southmead Development Trust and Sirona Healthcare

Funders:        Dance Futures


Image credit: We Shall Dance by artist Zoe Power commissioned for billboards across Bristol during the 2021 Covid-19 lockdown.

Wellbeing Moves was a pilot dance on referral project supporting people in some of the most deprived areas of Bristol as part of Southmead Development Trust’s Social Prescribing programme.

While there are several well-established arts on referral programmes across Bristol which use visual arts to support individual and community wellbeing (www.artsonreferral.org), the use of dance in this area was relatively new and untested.

The aim was therefore to develop and test a Dance on Referral model which – if successful - could be expanded across Bristol.

The evaluation used qualitative evaluation tools - including practioner reflective diaries, a participant focus group and participant and stakeholder feedback - to explore the impact of the project on participants and identify learning that might inform the future development of such work.

Participant Impact

Wellbeing Moves participants reported improvements in overall mood and motivation. Findings indicated that the wellbeing of participants improved in relation to increased connection, release and relaxation, confidence, self-esteem, and enjoyment.

Inclusive Practice

The artist’s skill in facilitating a safe, welcoming, inclusive space was key to this experience.

The complex and diverse needs of the group stretched and challenged the artist, but she was able to adapt her practice to make it accessible to all whatever their ability or need.

Creating a space in which people felt able to be present, feel vulnerable and take part involved managing complex group dynamics. Consideration of safety and appropriateness, and how to manage this, was vital.

Support for the Artist

While the artist was well supported by Southmead Development Trust. Without this support, an under-estimation of the time and resources needed to deliver a project of this nature might have had a detrimental effect on the artist’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as on the quality of work delivered.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice was embedded into the process of developing, delivering, and evaluating the project. Reflecting on practice and in practice supported the artist’s learning, confidence and growth. It also played a key role in helping the artist to manage overwhelm and support her wellbeing at times when the project became stressful and demanding.


Recommendations include developing this model for dance on referral based on learning from the pilot, including clear articulation of the activities, skills, and safeguards needed at each stage of the process from partnership development, participant recruitment and referral, session planning, session delivery, to reflection and evaluation.

In addition, it is recommended that funders, commissioners and sector-support organisations invest in learning, support and supervision opportunities for artists working in this context.

Finally, it is recommended that future research and piloting be carried out to identify and test a range of frameworks for reflective practice appropriate to participatory creative practice.

Download the full Wellbeing Moves Evaluation here  

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Jane@willisnewson.co.uk