Art-based storytelling and health inequalities

Three Neighbourhoods for Learning (NfL) have worked with the north west artist Len Grant to pioneer the use of arts-based storytelling in resident-led research.  This work aims to strengthen partnership working in neighbourhoods and address the social determinants of health inequalities. Two NfLs have focused on understanding social isolation and building greater social connectedness. The third area has explored ways of improving employment prospects for local people.

In 2019, the team won a North West Coast Research and Innovation award for the project.

“As local residents, we’ve been investigating how friends and neighbours connect with each other and how this ‘social connectedness’ – or lack of it – affects wellbeing and health inequalities in our community.”  (Resident Adviser)


Resident Advisers with Liverpool and Lancaster University researchers, Haslingden Community Link, Rossendale Borough Council and Lancashire County Council were the first to pilot the approach in Haslingden, producing a booklet about experiences of social connectedness and wellbeing in the area.

The publication was also used to invite wider conversations about how agencies and the community can work together to improve local connectedness and tackle social isolation.


Resident advisers, researchers, Knowsley Council, Forhousing and other local organisations have also been working to understand social isolation.

Residents, the artist and the researchers all contributed to ‘team training sessions’ as part of the local enquiry work in Stockbridge.

The artwork has been displayed at community venues across Stockbridge neighbourhood and Huyton, and presented to local neighbourhood forums, including Knowsley Town Council.




The Stockbridge team have now produced a follow up booklet called ‘Stockbridge in Stories: hidden struggles with drugs and alcohol’. The latest work, which includes a booklet and exhibition, takes a closer look at the impact of drug and alcohol dependency and the social isolation they can cause.




Residents, researchers, Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council and employer groups are working to improve employment prospects for local people. Knowledge about the practical obstacles experienced by unemployed people looking for work and those in temporary work was used to produce a new form of neighbourhood guide aimed at local employers, and other agencies to inform and help re-frame policy making locally.