Developing Oldham's new cultural spaces


Alan Higgins, Head of Public Health at Oldham Council, presented at our recent Future Cities Forum on 9th October, held in The Crystal on the topic of 'Art for Health and Well-being'.

'Out of the ten boroughs in Greater Manchester that make up the wider city devolution agreement, Alan says 'Oldham is in the most deprived decile (in the UK) but is performing above average'. The All Party Parliamentary Group launched a report in July 2017 in Manchester called 'Creative Health' after two years of work. It distinguishes between art for those who are suffering ill-health and the therapeutic value of art, which people may gain from through attending events but also from place design.

An additional plan launched in 2014 from NHS England Alan explained, is about 'health as a social movement' with six pilot sites. One of the projects is called “Live well, Make art” where people - on the basis of coming together to make art - start making social connections. He said: 'This is Salutogenesis in action, which is very good for health and well-being. Art for Health and Well-being is now listed in the Greater Manchester Population Health Plan'.

Oldham has been suffering from cuts but the politicians wanted to do something with the moth-balled old Town Hall. Oldham had no cinema, however now the Old Town Hall has been developed with one along with restaurants and the open space called Parliament Square providing a venue for arts and cultural events – the £32 million project handled by architects BDP’s Manchester office.

Watch Alan's clip from the forum above and see his career achievements below:

Alan is skilled at working in complex systems and in providing leadership that inspires sustainable programmes of activity. He is known for work across the broad spectrum of public health and a longstanding commitment to community engagement as one of the keys to better health. He has a keen interest in further developing whole systems working and has pioneered programmes that link arts and health.

  • Successfully led the development of the multi sectoral Locality Plan for Oldham in response to the Greater Manchester health and social care devolution agreement in 2015/16