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July 22, 2023

BLOG: Spillover Effects

In this series of six blogs, our Creative Project Coordinator Sunny Townsend brings a novel scientific perspective to Albatross Arts’ workshops, drawing on her background to help capture the power of the creative arts on wellbeing.

Early on in this week’s weaving workshop, Alex reminded us “if ever it’s a mishmash, remember that’s not the point”. Then one of the last things she said was “It’s been such a thought provoking and interesting hour”.

In between Alex had asked, as she typically does, if there were any ‘wins’ in the group this week. In the previous workshops we’ve had people feeling better after illness, and one literal win of money on the community lotto.

Today however I listened, transfixed, unable to weave, to one participant telling us about her big win. She’d been awarded funding to attend a conference to present her research project on reducing loneliness and isolation in the deaf-blind, including her son.

Her research experiment was to sit deaf-blind young people next to each other during lunch so they could communicate with each other using touch. This sounds so simple, so obvious, but she is a very articulate woman and explained ‘this is not the norm for people with complex communication because it’s considered challenging behaviour, a safety risk”.

I observed another participant hadn’t weaved either and was listening intently “I feel a bit emotional… it’s so amazing when people speak up”. She is a mother of blind twins and it was becoming obvious as she gently spoke that she was going through a lot at the moment. Then a wonderful thing happened, the big win lady offered her support – to talk outside the workshop.

This reminded me of the concept of spillover effects. In the context I have learned about it, studying under marine biologist Prof. Callum Roberts, it’s a key argument for protecting areas of the sea in reserves. In his words: “the thing about marine reserves is that they’re leaky and that means they can leak benefits into the surrounding fishing grounds… when you protect an area from fishing what happens is that the fish live longer, grow larger, produce many many times more offspring… they replenish the fishing grounds even up to 100 km away”[1]. Globally fish populations have collapsed, so the world really needs marine reserves right now, just like many people really need more wellbeing. Marine reserves support healthy fish populations, creative communities support healthy human populations.

We need to capture these powerful effects that spillover beyond the art sessions.

[1] Callum Roberts explains the importance of marine protected areas

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