Warm Welcome

A social prescribing invitation to try out some company and cultural refreshment in a free civic space

Date of project: 2022-2024

About Warm Welcome

A little dose of culture can make the whole month feel brighter. If your household is affected by anxiety, depression, money worries, caring duties or health issues, the world can shrink around you. The museum offers a safe, accessible space to be part of society and stretch the horizon.

Social prescribing is when a doctor or someone linked to the health system prescribes culture as a way of feeling better. It might be reading, or music, or craft activities.

Hundreds of free café vouchers were distributed through Wellbeing Exeter, the local network of community builders and connectors who match people up with local initiatives. Each voucher pays for a free drink and cake for two people. They provide motivation to try out a neutral setting away from commerce and bustle, a suggestion of a place to explore alone or with others.

The museum promoted itself as a warm, pleasant, accessible, city-centre destination in winter or any other time of year. Entry to the museum is already free. The building – and website – offer a variety of free activities to do alone, which make it ideal for people who want to be out in the world but don’t like groups.

Friendly Friday sessions during 2023 and 2024 were co-created with community connectors and a cohort of people over 50 seeking culture as a way forward in life.

The Queen Street entrance of RAMM - exterior. Showing three vaulted archways, with the steps up to the museum door positioned in the centre of the three. Two women walk past in the foreground with motion blur. One walks up the museum steps. To the left, a man is using the exterior lift.

Community Connectors

For 14 months in 2023-24 two dedicated community connectors – who take referrals from GPs, other services, and individuals – linked people over 50 to cultural activities around Exeter. Activities they developed at RAMM included a behind-the-scenes store visit to see war clubs from the South Pacific and sacred shirts from the American Plains;  a curator tour of a contemporary art show; creative sessions inspired by art prints and Roman mosaics; an engaging speaker on the history of Devon cream teas (with actual scones, jam and clotted cream).

A social group at Exeter City football club (ECFC) hosted a multisensory outreach visit on an Autumn theme and followed up with a tour of the museum’s History galleries and quiz, with hot chocolate and cakes. For many Exeter residents, local history provides a focus that helps to adapt to a new neighbourhood or new stage of life. Groups and individuals often try out a RAMMbingo card, a light-hearted tool to self-guide a look around.

Participants and partners

Eight monthly sessions – providing opportunities for 150 individuals – were developed in collaboration with Age UK, CoLab, Devon Communities Foundation, ECFC, Exeter Community Initiatives, GP surgeries, Wellbeing Exeter. These were just one option among 90 groups around Exeter where the connectors signposted and accompanied their connectees to have a go.

Cafe vouchers were a valuable resource through unpredictable covid changes and for visitors needing flexibility, such as homeless support groups; and a cost-effective welcome to low-income families on a much-needed fun day out. They provided an extra boost for local groups using the museum to combine creativity and wellbeing, such as Knitstop from Wool on the Exe, and Meridien Raw photowalks.

Cake vouchers reached 700 people during 2023-24. Vouchers and/or craft activities were enjoyed by families, young people and older residents through BeBuckfastleigh, the Beacon Centre, Exeter City Council social housing, Hello Summer! and Youth Arts & Health Trust.

Feedback so far

“This is the first time I’ve left the house in three years.” Connectee

“I’ve had to find myself again. I’ve discovered an interest in history. Local history is grounding. It makes me think about people in times before, and what we take for granted now. It helps me stay positive.” Connectee coping with life-changing health issues

“Many people feel that the museum or arts centre are for “other people”. The cultural connectors are able to introduce their connectees to activities that take place at such venues, through a cup of tea in the café.” Wellbeing Exeter Community Connector

“For the last few days since [the Friendly Friday group] I’ve had a spring in my step. The value that does for people like me who are slightly reserved and isolated is so important.” Connectee

What next?

RAMM is seeking funding to host a monthly Museum Meet-up and subsidise age-friendly activities. This would enable an Autumn 2024 series of gallery tours, art-making activities and multisensory object-handling inspired by exhibitions and artefacts. These side-by-side events spark relaxed conversations or create a comfortable space where it’s fine be quiet but together. 

RAMM hopes to revive the café voucher scheme and share it with citywide community initiatives.

Learning from RAMM’s collaboration with community connectors is being incorporated into engagement activities, to generate a low-pressure environment suitable for people with anxiety, which has increased in all ages in recent years. At least 47 percent of England’s adults say they suffered from loneliness, anxiety, boredom or stress during the 2020-21 coronavirus crisis (measured by the Office of National Statistics in November 2020). Museum activities often follow a checklist of the Five Ways to Wellbeing

identified by the New Economics Foundation, used within the NHS British National Health Service (NHS) and tested with considerable evidence:

  • a destination for being active
  • a place to learn
  • a source of detail to take notice
  • a way to connect with people in the building, or to humanity across time and around the world, through objects and their makers.
  • a place to give, by volunteering, providing mutual support or co-creating projects that will help others

RAMM offers a variety of free things to do for all ages, which can be useful for anyone’s wellbeing. Accessibility provisions are designed for people living with anxiety, dementia or mobility issues, as well as neurodiverse, Deaf and Disabled visitors. Like the vouchers, these are based on the awareness that one more obstacle in a difficult day can be crushing, whereas small acts of consideration can bind you closer to humanity.

Further information

Ruth Gidley, Engagement Officer
[email protected] 01392 265305