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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

  • Currently leading the development of the Greater Manchester arts for health and wellbeing programme and contributed to the All Party Parliamentary Group on arts and health and other national forums; 2016 to date

  • Chaired and led the Warm Homes Oldham programme since inception and including winning a Guardian Public Service Award for Sustainability in 2016

  • Steered the development of the Oldham Health and Wellbeing Board into a strong functioning partnership; 2012 to date

  • Initiated the Get Oldham Growing programme and steered its development towards becoming a sustainable social enterprise; 2013 to date

  • Established the public health agenda for Oldham through a series of highly regarded public health reports;2002 to date

  • Currently leading the development of thinking on arts, health and social movements including contributing to a Royal Society of Arts symposium on social movements; 2015 to date

  • Successfully led public health work in Greater Manchester on alcohol, migration, housing and TB over several years; 2002 to date.

  • Commissioned work to set an agenda on mental health and young people in Oldham that is being replicated elsewhere; 2016/17

  • Contributed as committee member to the development of NICE guidance on TB, behaviour change and air quality; 2012 to date.

  • Speaker at national conferences and at the American Public Health Association conference in New Orleans in 2015

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