This month, we are lucky to have an insight into the wonderful work that our two new Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors do. Jane Orwell has worked for Canterbury Museums and Galleries since 2013 as a part time Visitor Services Officer. Elliot Huxtable is also a Health and Wellbeing Ambassador and has been a Visitor Services Officer for a little over a year.
My background, prior to working for the museum, was as a nurse specialising in cancer and chemotherapy. Nursing taught me the understanding that treating people well and effectively, is more than just about treating an illness; a holistic approach, including helping an individual’s psychological, social and emotional wellbeing, is a vital part of their treatment and recovery. In 2005, I completed a Fine Art degree and found that my love of art and heritage highlighted that being engaged in the Arts and Heritage can have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. In particular, the growing evidence from research showing that there are measurable effects, on both emotional wellbeing as well as physical benefits, such as lowering stress levels and blood pressure. Therefore, I was extremely interested when the chance to become involved in the museums’ projects arose and was pleased to be appointed as a Health and Wellbeing Ambassador.
My first challenge in my new Ambassadorial role has been to train and help facilitate Mindfulness Mondays workshops – something that I already feel is mutually beneficial and a technique that I’m learning more about. I am also coordinating the ‘Object of the Month’ project where a member of Canterbury Museums and Galleries staff select their favourite object from The Collection and I then organise a poster to be printed and displayed near to the object within the museum.
Since working for the museums, I have volunteered for groups engaging with The Collection that integrate art making and object handling. This includes the Power of the Object group – which runs every month for those living with dementia or social isolation. I feel privileged to experience first-hand the positive effects that attending these groups has for the participants. Therefore, I am really keen to support the exciting health and wellbeing projects at The Beaney.
I studied at the University of Kent first for a degree in Psychology, and then did a Master’s in Drama & Theatre, both of which I find are useful in supporting my work as a Health & Wellbeing Ambassador. I applied for the role due to my psychology background and experience, along with my keen awareness of the positive effects that good wellbeing practice can evoke.
As a Health & Wellbeing Ambassador, I have set up The Beaney Book Club, who meet once a month to discuss their love of reading. Our latest book, George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, the author’s first work, is a memoir about Orwell’s own experiences of destitution in the titular cities. I also help facilitate Mindfulness Monday sessions, which look at artifacts and artworks in the museum in a different light. Being an Ambassador for Health and Wellbeing is important, as it typifies a changing mood in the workforce towards a more positive work ethic. Ensuring that everyone has a positive attitude towards their work, and towards the workplace in general, is a key part of our ambassador work, as negativity in the workplace can seep into our leisure time and impact our work/life balance.
I enjoy meeting people at the Mindfulness sessions and observing how different people are affected by seeing the museum differently. I find nothing more pleasing than hearing them talk about how they will practice mindfulness in their own lives, and the next time they visit a museum or art gallery (or in the case of The Beaney, both!).
When I’m not at The Beaney, I also runs two distinct theatre companies. The first, Theatre Ad Hoc, is a small company that generally performs new versions of old classics, but also does new works frequently at the Faversham Fringe. The other company, the Canterbury Shakespeare Festival is a four week celebration of the Bard’s work in outdoor spaces all around the city. It runs from mid-July to mid-August every year, and is entering its fifth year, its first with me as their Artistic Director.