The Catalyst: A Creators Collective

An arts and creativity programme to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in East Sussex.

Catalyst  black logo

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) Public Health considers good health to encapsulate not only the measure of a person’s physical and mental health, but also the extent to which they are enabled to live a healthy and flourishing life.

Do you work with young people who would benefit from increased involvement in creative activities?

Recent years have seen a growing interest in the potential of consuming and participating in cultural and creative activities as a route to improving health and wellbeing. In 2020, as part of the Covid recovery plan, ESCC piloted several creative activities aimed at improving the wellbeing of a number of different population groups, including young people, the homeless and the elderly. Following a successful review, it was agreed to fund and develop the Catalyst as the young people’s element for a further two years.

Programme aims and objectives.

Working in alignment with the council priority outcomes of ‘helping people help themselves’, and ‘supporting vulnerable people’, the Catalyst aims to increase participation in creative activities to improve the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of young people in East Sussex by:

  • building young people’s personal and cultural wellbeing through increased personal optimism, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
  • increasing young people’s ability to cope and improve their sense of resilience and self-efficacy through creative participation.
  • reducing loneliness and isolation through the nurturing of a creative network and thriving peer community.
  • developing employment skills and increase career pathways.
  • championing creativity as an avenue to wellbeing by using programme evaluation data as a contribution to the growing evidence base on the benefits of participation in arts and creativity in the improvement of health and wellbeing.

Project Evaluation

Evaluating the impact of the arts on specific health outcomes can be challenging because of the complex and diverse ways in which they are delivered and experienced. The Catalyst project takes a mixed method approach to monitoring, identifying, and measuring change. All participants are invited to complete a traditional close-ended questionnaire using a five-point Likert scale, designed to score their attitudes, opinions, perceptions, and behaviours in relation to their workshop experience. Participants are also given the opportunity to discuss in-depth, the projects impact on their social, personal and cultural wellbeing, by taking part in a storytelling evaluation methodology based on the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique. Often referred to as ‘monitoring-without indicators’, MSC has been shown to assist with articulating impact, and in measuring tangible and emerging change. The MSC process empowers participants to identify and define the impacts they feel and experience, it facilitates greater understanding and learning from impact, offers a more holistic approach to understanding impact and how it is achieved, and makes evaluation an enjoyable, creative, and meaningful experience for all involved.

What’s the offer?

The Catalyst programme consists of three project strands, blended to facilitate and support young people on their creative journey to well-being.

  • Creative Workshops are designed to provide young people with an exciting and supportive creative community, where they are free to explore and discover their own sense of expression and creativity, and are actively encouraged to participate in and contribute to the creative process. Led by a leading artist or creative, each workshop is run over two-days and gives young people the opportunity to work collaboratively across a number of different artistic fields and disciplines, ranging from painting, craft, and design, to theatre, dance, and drama.
  • Catalyst social media channels are run and managed by programme participants and act as a window into the programme, providing opportunities for young people to practically apply their newly learnt skills and further express their creativity. The channels also offer a place where an audience can actively follow the stories of those involved, celebrate the work of the programme and its participants, and promote best practice when it comes to using creativity to address issues relating to wellbeing in young people.
  • Professional and educational mentoring and peer support sessions allow for increased and improved personal performance, and afford participants the opportunity of a safe and personal reflective space, access to an independent source of advice and guidance, the opportunity to meet other young people with similar interests, and a chance to make deep interpersonal connections and grow their social network.

Who can take part?

The programme is open to all young people in East Sussex aged between 14 and 24, but we would particularly like to engage with young people from underserved groups including: those who are or are at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), school avoiders, looked after children, young people with Statements of Educational Need (SEND), and those from black and traveller ethnicities and backgrounds.

Catalyst photo montage

Further Information

If you would like to know more about previous workshops, please go to the Catalyst pages of the Make (Good) Trouble website. For more information on the Catalyst programme, please contact Stewart Marquis at East Sussex Public Health by email at

To learn more about the work of the Recovery and Renewal team, and the research we carry out, please contact Public Health Consultant Teresa Salami-Oru at

Future Workshops

The Art of Protest - Punk Protest Banners!

Location: Hastings Contemporary Gallery.

20th and 21st November 2023, 11:00am – 3:00pm,

The traditional use of banners within protest has a long and vibrant history dating as far back as the sixteenth century, with the imaginative use of colour and image giving an immediate and cost-effective way for individuals and groups to portray their cause, and express their beliefs and values.

Inspired by the punk, urban and sneaker aesthetics, this free two-day workshop with artist Kerry Lemon will give you the opportunity to use different fabrics, textiles, colours, and textures to voice your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions through the creation of your own banner.

The workshop will also allow the group space to think about the types of things we may want to use our voices for, learn more about the history of protest and the role played by creativity and art, as well as learning lots of fabric and collage skills to create your own unique and iconic banner!

The sessions take place at the Hastings Contemporary Gallery, are free to join and open to young people aged between 16-24. Lunch is provided.

If you would like to register for the workshop, please click here to go the Punk Protest Banners Sign Up Form