Our Social Impact in Dorset

Fri 6 Oct 2023

For over thirty years, Artsreach has worked in partnership with volunteers from across Dorset to bring cultural activity to the heart of rural communities. Now, two recently published social impact studies evidence how the work of our charity makes an impact on health and well-being in those communities, as well as actively combating loneliness and rural isolation.

Artsreach & Community Flourishing is based on an online survey of the volunteers who partner with Artsreach to deliver cultural activities in their communities. Asked why they volunteer for Artsreach, 90% reported that it increased their sense of belonging to the community and 88% felt that they were making a positive contribution to the quality of local life.

Artsreach followed this survey by commissioning Creative Practice arts consultancy, based in Lyme Regis, to conduct research interviews with Artsreach volunteers and audience members in four communities. The case studies presented in their report, Kindred & Community, found that involvement with Artsreach contributed to well-being by nurturing a supportive sense of purpose among volunteers, and in three cases helping to alleviate the effects of work-related stress or chronic illness. 

Most interviewees felt that Artsreach events brought communities together, especially those living alone. One village volunteer told the research team:

"It’s a social event – a get together; single, older people come together and are happy to come here when they wouldn’t go elsewhere."

Another volunteer, also the village hall Chairperson, felt that Artsreach events contributed to community well-being, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The chair of Artsreach’s board Dr David Wood commented: "We wanted to find out if Artsreach played a role in helping rural Dorset bounce back after the isolation of the pandemic. We’ve learnt from these reports that Artsreach events positively influence our rural communities, and offer opportunities – especially to lonely and isolated people - to socialise and belong." 

The full reports are available to download and read below:

Four case studies from three rural Dorset communities and one cultural organisation 

Volunteer views on the social impact of Artsreach in rural Dorset communities

With thanks to Artsreach trustees, Dr David Wood and Annette Newman, Creative Practice Consultancy, illustrator Delphine Jones and photographer Jayne Jackson