A ground-breaking programme led by Fylde Borough Council to improve the health and well-being of Kirkham residents has been celebrated on the national stage.
Kirkham’s Heritage Health and Wellbeing Programme is a key part of the £10m Kirkham Futures regeneration masterplan designed to reinvigorate the historic town centre by bringing important buildings back into use, improving streets and open spaces as well as boosting residents’ health.
A Social Prescribing Programme was launched in November as part of Kirkham’s status as one of Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ).
History trail walks, art and cooking classes, horticultural workshops and gentle exercise sessions have been organised to help local people living with various health conditions as well as increase community inclusion.
And the FREE classes – many of which use Kirkham’s history dating back to Roman times as their inspiration – have proved to be so successful the programme has now been extended to the end of 2022.
The programme has also been heralded a triumph at the annual show of the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) held at London’s Southbank Centre.
Helen Shearn, a specialist consultant in arts, heritage and health and wellbeing, delivered a presentation about how the Kirkham programme was developed and how it was making a positive difference in the town.
Helen, whose presentation was entitled ‘Kirkham: Forging a Heritage Programme as a Bridge to Wellbeing’, said: “It was a great honour to champion the work we have been developing in Kirkham at such a prestigious conference attended by national and international speakers.
“It feels like Kirkham has been put on the map in the growing area around heritage, health wellbeing and social prescribing. Not only was our work highlighted at the Southbank Centre but on the front cover of Historic England’s latest research journal which contained a full feature on the programme and its goals and aspirations.”
Kirkham’s ‘Heritage Health and Wellbeing Programme’ has been devised by Fylde Council in collaboration with Helen Shearn Associates, Historic England, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Lancashire County Council and Wyre Rural Extended Neighbourhood (WREN) Primary Care Network, which includes Kirkham's two GP practices.
Dr Linda Monckton, Head of Wellbeing and Inclusion Strategy at Historic England, said: “Historic England believes that everyone can experience the wellbeing benefits of heritage. It’s marvellous to see Kirkham get national recognition for its success in embracing the potential of the town’s High Street Heritage Action Zone to boost physical and mental health for members of the local community.”
Following the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, a key objective of the Kirkham programme is to get people out and about, interacting with each other in or around the high street, under an umbrella of historical, community-based activities aimed at improving physical and mental well-being and reducing isolation.
The community engagement classes – which feature everything from Roman art and cookery to exercise sessions and history walks – are being delivered by the Lancashire-based Phoenix Rising partnership who are specialists in creating community activities linked to health and wellbeing.
Sue Flowers, of Phoenix Rising, said: “Our work in Kirkham has been going from strength to strength, and so we are delighted we can continue our art, nature and movement workshops inspired by Kirkham’s heritage until at least the end of the year. People are so genuinely grateful to have access to these free wellbeing opportunities in their own town.”
Cllr Richard Redcliffe, Fylde Council's Chairman of the Town Centres Working Group, said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on all our towns isolating many people.
“Kirkham’s strength is in its community and rich history as one of the oldest towns in Lancashire. I am delighted local residents have contributed hugely to the success of this project to improve local community wellbeing and helping the most isolated residents. Long may it continue.”
The classes can be accessed by either booking online, in person at Kirkham Library or by being referred by a GP or NHS link worker. Full details of the classes, including dates, times and how to book are available HERE
Evaluation by an independent research team has now been commissioned to understand the impact of the programme so far on personal and community wellbeing through social prescribing with heritage-based community assets and activities.
And new community involvement and wellbeing projects, which it is hoped will not only utilise treasured local archives but also the recently council-acquired Hillside and Charity Girls School buildings in Kirkham town centre, have just been commissioned.