Barnsley Museums and Heritage Doncaster Receive Funding to Support Community Wellbeing through Arts and Heritage

A joint project by Barnsley Museums and Heritage Doncaster offering free arts and heritage activities for older people who are lonely or isolated in both boroughs, with a particular focus on the Dearne Valley, has received generous funding from the Association of Independent Museums Connected Communities fund.  AIM Connected Communities is funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Know Your Neighbourhood Fund through Arts Council England.


The project aims to create volunteering opportunities and reduce chronic loneliness. It will run until December 2025 and involve delivering creative and wellbeing activities in the local areas and sharing learning between the two museum services.


The project will involve Barnsley Museums and Heritage Doncaster working with partners B:Friend, Age UK and other community organisations that support older people in the Dearne Valley.


Activities will include ‘Art in a box’ and ‘Museum in a box’ activities that will be brought to isolated communities by trained staff and volunteers. The project will also enable groups to visit museum sites and participate in specially designed activities.


Funding will support creative activities that bring communities together, including work with Barnsley Museums Feels like Home Cultural sharing group. It will enable Barnsley Museums to deliver ‘memory box’ activities in care homes and see Doncaster Museums taking their ‘museum in a box’ to home library service users.


The two heritage organisations will collaborate on how best to deliver community engagement and creative health activities, observing each other’s sessions and sharing findings with partner organisations.


The project will contribute to regional delivery of creative health, linking to the new South Yorkshire Creative Health strategy, informing future ways of delivering and programming.


Sessions currently taking place include, visits to Elsecar Heritage Centre of over 140 members of B:Friend groups from across Barnsley and Doncaster to find out more about the region’s shared industrial heritage. Art in a box activity linked to Cooper Gallery collections delivered to Thurnscoe, Bolton on Dearne B:Friend groups in the Dearne, and Age UK group in Experience Barnsley and a Museum in a box seaside activity delivered to 5 B:Friend groups across Doncaster.


As well as supporting the lonely and isolated the project will create new volunteering opportunities. In Doncaster, new roles will be created through the B:Friend network by training their volunteers using mini museum in a box handling activities with older people to stimulate reminiscence. In Barnsley they will be creating inter-generational volunteering opportunities, working with students from Barnsley college’s art degree course to help their students develop their creative practice.


Jon Finch, Head of Culture and Visitor Economy, said: "We are delighted to have received this funding from the Know Your Neighbourhood Project and to work collaboratively with Heritage Doncaster on this innovative and forward-thinking programme of activity. We believe that creative health and wellbeing activities can make a positive difference to people's lives and our communities, offering health benefits in a more holistic way. We are eager to share our learning and practice and hope that it will inspire and benefit many people across Doncaster and Barnsley."


For more information about the Know Your Neighbourhood Project, please visit

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