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Scottish Ballet lead first ever national Healing Arts week

Announcement of key international speakers at conference and details of outdoor Opening Celebration featuring over 250 performers and participants


Healing Arts is the global outreach campaign of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). Healing Arts Scotland is the first ever countrywide Healing Arts Week, following previous city-wide celebrations around the world, including New York, Paris, London, Venice and Jaipur, and is a week-long celebration of arts and health events, highlighting the joy they bring to those who take part, and their importance to the nation’s physical, mental and social health.

The Healing Arts Scotland Opening Celebration event takes place outside the Scottish Parliament at 4pm Mon 19th August as part of the Edinburgh International Festival and Festival of Politics, featuring over 250 performers and participants from across Scotland in an energetic celebration of music and dance that captures the spirit and healing power of coming together through the performing arts. Ensembles featured include a Scottish Ballet community cast, National Youth Pipe Band, TRYST, Oi Musica and Samba Ya Bamba. Scottish Ballet will present a specially commissioned dance piece featuring an ensemble cast of community performers, including Scottish Ballet’s Youth Exchange company, NHS staff, Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland dancers and Dance Base’s PRIME Elders Dance Company. The work will be performed to Mackay’s Memoirs by the late Scottish Celtic fusion artist Martyn Bennett, which celebrates its 25th anniversary – it was originally commissioned for the opening of the Scottish Parliament building on 1 July 1999.

The HAS Conference, in Edinburgh on 19th & 20th August and Glasgow on 21st August will feature Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Gregor Smith, as well as leading international arts health figures, including four specially curated panels as part of the Festival of Politics at Scottish Parliament.

Conference speakers include Christopher Bailey, Arts and Health Lead at the World Health Organization and a founding co-director of the Jameel Arts and Health Lab; Dr Jill Sonke, from the Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida; Dr Nils Fietje (also founding co-director of the Jameel Arts and Health Lab) and Calum Smith from the Behavioural and Cultural Insights Unit at the WHO Regional Office for Europe; Dr Daisy Fancourt, Professor of Psychobiology & Epidemiology at University College London; Sangeeta Isvaran, dancer-performer and founder of the Wind Dancers Trust, who has developed the Katradi method, working in marginalised, underprivileged communities using arts in education, empowerment and conflict resolution across 30 countries; Kunle Adewale, Founder and Executive Director of the Arts in Medicine Projects and the Global Arts in Medicine Fellowship; Magdalena Schamberger, theatre director, who collaborates with people living with dementia to create accessible performances in theatres, care homes and other settings; Fiona O’Sullivan, Director of Children’s Wellbeing for the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity; Agustin Ibanez, Argentinean neuroscientist and Director of the Latin American Brain Health Institute at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile), interested in global approaches to dementia and social, cognitive and affective neuroscience; Dr Nisha Sajnani, Associate Professor at the Steinhardt School at New York University and founding co-director of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab who is leading the Lancet global series on the health benefits of the arts together in collaboration with the WHO.

The conference will also highlight the innovative arts and health work happening in Scotland.

The new Healing Arts Scotland website is now live, and features an interactive map showing all the Healing Arts activities happening across the country so far – more will be added as they register.

“Many cities around the world have taken part in our series of Healing Arts activations, but I am excited to see Scotland taking a truly national approach. Scotland’s unique sense of community, its embrace of all art forms, and its commitment to health for all promise to be an exciting combination. I can’t wait to participate and see what the communities come up with.

Jameel Arts & Health Lab Co-Director and WHO Arts & Health Lead, Christopher Bailey

The links between the arts and health are long established, not only in creating the environment for good health to flourish, but in supporting people with long term conditions. Scottish Ballet are leading exponents of this approach and I am immensely proud to be attending and supporting Healing Arts Scotland Week to learn more about how we can make the most of this fantastic opportunity to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Gregor Smith

Healing Arts Scotland 2024 will be an inspirational week-long celebration of the huge impact the arts has on the nation’s health and well-being. Scottish Ballet is proud to be leading on this global outreach project in collaboration with the WHO and a host of partner organisations. I’m really excited about the large-scale participation performance taking place outside Scottish Parliament – it will be a true testament to all the wonderful arts health work that happens every day across Scotland.

Scottish Ballet CEO/Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson


The Edinburgh International Festival is proud to be part of the first ever nationwide Healing Arts campaign in Scotland. This is an important dialogue to help address health inequalities across the country and we look forward to facilitating those conversations throughout August.

Edinburgh International Festival Chief Executive Francesca Hegyi

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