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The Link Worker Manifesto

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We may be familiar with the idea of a manifesto in the world of politics. In the art world manifestos are a well-understood way of articulating the beliefs and intentions of a particular movement. In the field of culture and health…a field that explores the promise within the relationship between human creativity and their health and wellbeing, and champions the right of access to it for everyone…the manifesto has been used to shift ways of thinking. A manifesto may be from the perspective of people with lived experience of a particular condition or issue (see The Recoverist Manifesto , or as a place-based expression of aspirations for it all to be done differently, and with greater equality (A Social Glue: Greater Manchester, A Creative Health City Region). They can be a useful way to crystallise a vision…on the one hand making something more concrete and graspable…and on the other, telling a compelling tale and encouraging the imagination to fly. Visit the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance website for more examples.

As a crew of 9 Social Prescribing Link Workers, one artist and one culture and health developer, we never set out to write a manifesto. It couldn't have been further from our minds when we set out together, on the artist-led support programme for Link Workers, Cultural Prescriptions, that we developed at Arts Derbyshire amidst the Covid 19 lockdowns. What was on our minds was the level of emotional labour that Link Workers were experiencing. They were supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, at a time when so many patients were isolated and often frightened for their lives. What was on our minds was how in the world do you do this new NHS job of social prescribing, in a time of social distancing. And for the Link Workers, I imagine that they were also wondering how an artist was going to be able to offer them any support, with any of this, and what have we got ourselves into.

Just about every fortnight for around 7-8 months, on Zoom of course, we would get together for a couple of hours. Led by the very skilled artist Kate Genever, we would make space, make things and make conversation. Important topics emerged, ranging from the Wombles of Wimbledon to boundaries, values and finding the edges of their work. In that space and in that time, the sense of connection between us all became quite deep, quite fast, and so the conversations were honest, and things shifted. In a way, it became clear that the conversations were important ones that would probably resonate with so many other Link Workers, up and down the country. So, we decided to put it all down.

At the launch of the Link Worker Manifesto, as part of the annual Creativity and Wellbeing Week, one of the Link Workers said that Kate and I took the essence of their conversations and worked magic with words to create the manifesto. I disagree. The majority of the words are theirs. We just did a little bit of organising, editing and linking. I know because we recorded every Cultural Prescriptions session and I sieved through it all, panning for gold. It wasn't hard to find.

The Link Worker Manifesto is for other Link Workers. It articulates the position of just 9 Link Workers in Derbyshire but will hopefully resonate with many, many more who will want to add their voice to the debate. BUT…the manifesto is also for everyone else working in the arena of social prescribing too. It is intended as a provocation that asks whether there is a real collective vision for this work…or not…and whether we are all on the same page, locally, regionally and nationally. And this is important because not having a shared vision, or common understanding of this work, will seriously undermine its potential.

So here it is. Read it, respond to it at #LinkWorkerManifesto and most importantly, use it. If you disagree with everything in it…great…but tell someone why. Ask others what they think and gather your colleagues, employers and partners around it to kickstart those all-important conversations. In Derbyshire, thanks to funding from Public Health at Derbyshire County Council, we are about to embark on a new phase…an artist-led process to develop a cross-sector, county-wide vision for this. Should be interesting, so watch this space.

Written by Deborah Munt.

Read the manifesto here.

See the Link Workers reading their manifesto here.

And you can also view the launch event video here.

Manifesto co-produced by Harriet Brown, Peter Bird, Rebecca Edward, Laura Cowley, Naomi Martin, Neda Yevari, Jessica Solly, Tracy Croasdale, Kate Genever and Deborah Munt 

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Saturday, 03 December 2022