Creative Arts Programme

Creative Arts Programme 2021-22

Veterans creating a clay sculpture of Hougoumont with artist Beth Collar. Photo by Chris van Houts.

Over the past five years on our battlefield dig, and through the ‘virtual’ programme devised for lockdown in 2020, we have had great success in supporting VSMP with a range of activities. Our programme of workshops in creative arts, for example, has revealed the amazing potential for these activities to enhance the lives of those we support; but subsequent participant feedback has exposed how little participants felt they had access to such opportunities beyond the dig. WU is committed, therefore, to developing an ongoing series of stimulating, therapeutic and creative workshops including art, writing and poetry. These activities will encourage veterans to express their feelings and to engage in archaeology and the Battle of Waterloo in a new and meaningful way with a powerful emphasis on mental wellbeing.

As a result, in 2021, we will be launching our Creative Arts Programme, funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust – Positive Pathways Programme. At WU we have seen that the arts and other creative activities have been beneficial to veterans’ mental wellbeing by engaging them in a new activity that they may not have considered before, providing them with an opportunity to re engage with the military community and to explore the historical context of the Battle of Waterloo in ways which may resonate with their own military experience. They can be encouraged to achieve a different, positive perspective on their personal experiences, whilst developing a new interest, skill or hobby with real long-term potential in a way that supports mental well-being. WU’s professional and experienced Wellbeing & Support team will be with them every step of the way.

The team at WU seem gifted with the ability to instill confidence for open dialogue about emotions, wellbeing and physical and mental ill health. I would urge anyone, particularly those living with a seemingly ‘invisible’ mental and/or physical illness to consider applying to go on a dig.

Jo, 2018 and 2020 participant

Programme Format

Dutch Veterans taking part in a creative writing activity. Photo by Chris van Houts.

WU’s Programme is a collaboration between Wellbeing and Support specialists, artists, writers and creatives. It has been designed to ensure a clear educational and goal setting structure that offers the best possible experience for the participants, with the overarching aim of improving their wellbeing.

Run in the second half of 2021, the programme will offer a blended learning experience. Interviews will take place in March 2021 and following successful completion of the application & selection phases, veterans & serving military personnel will be offered a place to take part. The programme will kick off with an inspirational trip to a gallery or museum, followed by specialist virtual workshops covering several creative disciplines. An important milestone is a residential weekend or virtual alternative held in (August) which will offer participants the chance to focus on a single creative output in a safe and supported environment, with follow up sessions and a reunion style showcase at the National Army Museum to finish the programme in January 2022.

WU participants taking part in a drawing activity. Photo by Chris van Houts.