Creative Lives On Air (formerly known as 'Up for Arts') is a dynamic partnership between Creative Lives and BBC Local Radio stations. It shines a spotlight on everyday creativity through local radio, boosting wellbeing and reducing isolation. The initiative began with BBC Radio Merseyside as a legacy project following the 2008 EU City of Culture in Liverpool.

Since 2008, Creative Lives On Air has expanded its reach to communities and regions across England and Wales, currently collaborating with eight BBC Local Radio Stations (find out more here). It also develops bespoke learning and training opportunities in radio and podcast making.

Here are our top highlights from the past few weeks

  • BBC Radio Sheffield

This week (16 - 22 May) BBC Radio Sheffield is celebrating the Creativity and Wellbeing week through a variety of shows and conversations about the benefits of getting creative to health and wellbeing.

Their special programme kicked off with a chat between Breakfast Show Presenter Toby Foster and Hayley Youell from Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance as well as the experience of our Creative Lives On Air Producer, Jennifer Vernon-Edwards, during a morning foraging walk along the Sheffield canal led by a local community group. Make sure you tune in for more live shows or listen the playback via BBC Sounds

Other inspiring and insightful audio pieces to be broadcast include: BBC Radio Sheffield's Simon Morikin is out with a knitting group in Barnsley on Monday and in town/city centres Tuesday-Thursday. He will have creative guests joining him to engage and/or to entertain:

  • a Giggle Dr. doing part of his one man show
  • crafters from Donny
  • writers from Grimm and Co. 

Simon will also feed into the Mid Morning programme with Paulette Edwards.

We'll hear from Well Doncaster, which promotes creativity and wellbeing approach to health in the town, about the pilot they are part of in the North and how that's going in Donny.

On Friday, Paulette will be sharing lunchtime with some local creatives many of whom undertake work in the outdoors: Mosaics artist Coralie Turpin and her metal working husband, mural artist Jo Peel, sculptor Stoneface: Andrew Vickers, and craft enthusiast Corinne Morris from SACHMA (Sheffield African Caribbean Mental Health Association). They'll look at what creativity does for their sense of self and wellbeing as artists.

Jennifer's pieces generally have a look at some creative things to do outside; forest meditation, birdwatching and foraging among them. You'll hear members of the public talking about their creative pursuit and what it does for them and those will be heard throughout the day and refreshed during the week.

The team at BBC Radio Sheffiled are still open to more guest and hope some more contributors will join us on the bench during the course of the week. We can hopefully use the slots were Simon is on to encourage folk to join us a the next stop on the trail.

In late April, Jennifer visited Andrea - an amazing craft enthusiast to learn about her story and share it with radio listeners. Andrea truly believes that anyone can do anything creative. She shared her craft story in two episodes of the Creative Lives On Air at BBC Radio Sheffield.  

You can listen to the first part of the interview right here (via BBC Sounds), right now! (story begins at 2h21min into the show)

Here are some of our favourite snippets:

"A lot of the sewing we did in my family was by necessity because we were quite poor. We used to make bin bag frogs and we'd use old winter coats and make teddy bears out of them."

For me, craft is an escape route. For my mental health I need it.

We're quite a neurodiverse family and I think, in some ways, craft speaks to us massively. 

"My son and my partner both play music, my partner has always done woodwork, leather work, my son is a brilliant musician, he's always loved writing and drawing so I think craft for us has been really good in dealing with anxieties, for me, depression and for my daughter, to be able to just go off and paint a little bit in her room, it gives that outlet and a bit of a headspace." 

"I had the idea that we should have a play group for adults to come together and make something even if they make a mess. Play, I think, is essential to everybody."

Ahead of the International Romani (Roma) Day, Jennifer visited a kids dance class in the heart of Romani Sheffield, in Wincobank. Her exploration reveals the importance of dance to the local community's identity and cohesion and a great testimony to the power of dance. The participants' enthusiasm is so contagious and it transcends the audio medium, so have a listen now via BBC Sounds [from 2h12m].

Lots of energy, lots of energy and I love it!

When Jennifer asked some of the boys what advice they would give to someone who has never danced before and would like to try it out, they said: "Go with your guts! Be brave!"

  • BBC Radio Tees

Picture of a woman wearing headphones by a radio microphone

We're delighted to be working with Producer Rachel Teate as part of our Creative Lives On Air team, and hear all the wonderful stories from creative people and community groups that she's discovering and sharing with BBC Radio Tees listeners.

To celebrate the wonderful impact that getting creative can have on the wellbeing of individuals and communities alike, Rachel Teate will be chatting with Jessica - the person behind Shop Sabi - a local creative passionate about making wearable art who wrote her dissertation on the benefits of getting out in nature every single day.

Listen now!

In early April evening, Rachel went to the ARC (the Stockton Arts Centre) to chat with the lead volunteer at Parkinson’s Café and Parkinson’s Support Group. Mary shared a bit about the monthly creative group and their current project called 'Poems for Parkinson's' - a wonderful initiative encouraging participants to write limericks inspired by their personal experience with the disease.

Listen to their conversation aired on Friday 8 April.

  • BBC Radio CWR

Since May 2020, BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire (CWR) have scheduled a new weekly show, led by our very own Creative Lives Producer Rachel New; Coventry Creates. Each week Rachel New shines a light on Coventry’s everyday creativity - featuring local practitioners, makers, amateur artists and grassroots creative groups.

Last month, Rachel interviewed Jenny Davis, from Arts Uplift CIC is a not for profit Community Interest Company, and writer Rob Gee who went into care homes to teach staff how to run creative writing sessions with those living with dementia.

Arts Uplift specialises in arts and health and heritage and works with a wide range of the community from children and young people to older people from across Worcestershire, Coventry and Warwickshire.

Listen now!

Speaking about the benefits of getting creative to memory, wellbeing and mental health, Jenny said: 

It's a really good way to keep connected to other people and it really stimulates the brain. The arts can bring back memories that are lost.

Talking about the creative writing sessions delivered to the care home staff, Rob highlighted that "it's much more about the process than it is about the outcome. It's about allowing people to write and explore themselves through writing. The need for us to do that doesn't lessen when we have dementia." 

In March, Rachel created a collage of audio recordings from the workshops and events ran as part of The Making of Coventry project

Listen to the audio piece via BBC Sounds.

Taking about the waist beads making workshop, led by Ebony Ademola, one participant said:

I've learnt quite a lot today and I think the workshop's been fantastic to support body confidence and get women to love themselves.

Learn more.

  • BBC Radio Leeds 

Robyn Nichol

The Richard Stead Breakfast Show featured the story of Robyn Nichol who embroiders images from her northern childhood roots and uses it as a tool to help with mental health. 

Her work is part if a new initiative to celebrate Keighley's shopping heritage, called the K-Town Shopper. It includes an arts trail and 'alternative' department stores. Robyn draws inspiration from different brands, her favourite childhood memories and from pic’n’mix sweets, to mushy peas and Yorkshire puddings. See some of her Robyn's embroidery pieces via Instagram @robynnichol.

Our favourite quote from a participant featured in the audio piece is: 

I started experimenting with embroidery because for me this process is very beneficial for my mental health.

Listen to Robyn's conversation with Richard Stead via BBC Sounds (from 1h:36m).

In a more recent show, Rima Ahmed chatted with two of the Getaway Girls on air to find out more about how they created their own podcasts. Take a listen via BBC Sounds. 

This follows our collaboration with the Getaway Girls to create a series of podcasts to empower girls and women in Leeds and to inspire them to explore their own creativity. In the first podcast, two members of the Getaway Girls talk about creativity and what they are proud of as women living in Leeds. Sumaiiya interviews poetry writer Lara.

Listen to their conversation below. Intro by Kaiha.

Learn more about the Creative Lives On Air projects on BBC Radio Leeds.

    Stay up to date with the most inspiring radio shows that spotlight everyday creativity by following #CreativeLivesOnAir on social media.