Storying Sheffield

“Our story of loving the arts in Leeds” (guest post)

We’re delighted to present the first of our guest blog posts. It’s been written for us by Victoria Betton. Victoria is deputy director of strategy and partnerships at Leeds and York Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust. With a background in the voluntary sector and social care as well as health, Victoria is currently studying for a PhD on social media and mental health at the University of Leeds. She also organises the Love Arts festival in Leeds which explores connections between arts, mental health & wellbeing.


By Manya Donaque, for The Happiness Postcard Project


I’m fascinated by how different projects emerge in different places with their own unique beginnings, characters and stories. Hearing about how the Storying Sheffield project has come about, and all the achievements you have made, is a real source of inspiration to me. I particularly love how it has grown incrementally, with such a modest resource, and is becoming embedded within the fabric of the city.
I’d like to share a little bit of our story in Leeds and how things have evolved here with some similar conditions (very little money but lots of passion) and some quite different results. Our Arts and Minds network came about from a small group of people coming together who had a belief in the capacity of the arts to enrich people’s lives. We wanted to connect arts organisations with mental health services and help people with mental health difficulties benefit from the cultural life of Leeds. We convinced the Arts Council to give us a bit of money and that gave us the space to show the difference the arts could make to people’s lives. Arts and Minds is now core funded by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and our small team bring in equal measure of in-kind and cash funding from all sorts of different sources. I’m still continually stunned by the amount Arts and Minds achieves with just two part time workers and a small amount of admin support, plus a ton of goodwill.

By Lucy Bagnall, for The Happiness Postcard Project
Our inspiration for the Love Arts festival hatched out of the fact that we already participated in quite a few events, such as Light Night and the Leeds International Film festival, during the autumn. We had a simple idea to connect them together with a common theme, add a few more events and create a festival. What we didn’t quite anticipate was that it would get completely out-of-hand and become bigger that we could really cope with. I was secretly sceptical about whether arts organisations would be up for connecting with a mental health and wellbeing festival. Would they think it a bit dry? A bit un-sexy? How wrong I was. We were genuinely stunned by the interest, support and enthusiasm from just about everyone we spoke to. And once we got speaking to people we couldn’t stop. And that’s when it became a seven week festival with over fifty events plus a pop-up festival stall in Kirkgate market. And all for a few thousand pounds, lots of help and support, and some sponsorship. By the end of the festival we were a collective wreck. Exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. Our surreptitious mission was to get people talking about mental health. We evaluated what we did as we went and we seemed to have achieved that and made a difference to people’s attitudes. I experienced an unanticipated crash the day after our closing party and had to go and sit in a darkened room for a few days. But it was definitely worth it.

By Taneem Kausar, for The Happiness Postcard Project

This year we have been foolhardy enough to run the festival again. But this time for just under a month – although we have realised we’ve just packed an equal number of events into a shorter period of time… On a personal level, the festival was immensely satisfying. I have met wonderful passionate people, in particular our volunteers, many of whom had lived experience of mental health difficulties and were game for getting involved in all sorts of ways – from writing blogs through to applying Love Arts temporary tattoos to unsuspecting passers-by.
So this is the beginning of our story here in Leeds. In 2013 we are planning to run a year long campaign entitled Sharing Stories and this will also be the theme of our festival. We have all sorts of ideas brewing in our heads and we’d love to learn from what has worked for you in Storying Sheffield and maybe help each other along the way.
Victoria Betton
Festival Director


The 2012 Love Arts festival takes place between Tuesday 2 and Monday 29 October 2012.

Love Arts festival

Arts and Minds network
If you would like to write a guest blog for Storying Sheffield, please contact us.