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Kid Stills 2 1 2


Lead Researchers

Prof Vicky Karkou



Lead Institutions

Edge Hill University


Realist evaluation


One in five children in the UK struggles with mental health as they transition to adolescence. Creative interventions, like music classes, painting sessions, drama and theater projects, or arts therapy sessions like dance movement therapy groups can be valuable options. However, often these options are not easily accessible to those who need them the most, specifically in areas where socioeconomic conditions perpetuate serious health inequalities. The Arts4Us project seeks to give children and young people the mental health support they need, regardless of where they live.


The Arts4Us project will create an easy-to-use digital platform where evidence-based, local arts activities are accessible to children and young people, their families and relevant organizations. 

Children and young people will be recruited to act as co-researchers, maximizing the benefits of arts activities that support their mental health. The research team will also work closely with community partners, schools, health services, and academic institutions. As a collaborative project with over 50 co-investigators and partners, Arts4Us will ensure its outputs are scalable nationally and internationally. 

The project launched in February 2024 and is estimated to be completed in July 2027.

Deliverables and Insights

The first phase of the project will develop a culturally appropriate mapping methodology that will allow researchers to record arts activities that benefit children and young people’s mental health. Researchers will synthesize existing research to ensure that selected arts activities will be underpinned by best available evidence. During this phase, the research team will also identify the barriers and facilitators for participants to access arts activities, including the activities preferences of children, young people and their families.

In the second phase, researchers will evaluate the selected arts activities. Arts activities that meet the threshold of quality will be placed on a digital platform that is accessible to health service providers, schools, and the voluntary sector. 

The third phase will test the digital platform in more locations, iteratively populating the platform with new arts activities that address local needs and preferences, in order to scale the program nationally and internationally.

Project team

Led by Prof Vicky Karkou (Edge Hill University), the project team consists of researchers and other contributors from academic institutions, integrated care boards, health providers, schools, youth charities, mental health charities and cultural organizations across the UK. 

This includes the University of Liverpool, University of Salford, Kings College, Institute of Development Studies, University of Lincoln, University of East Anglia, NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool Royal Philharmonic, Liverpool Lighthouse, Everton in the Community, Alder Hey Children's Hospital Charity, Liverpool Learning Partnership, Grow Wellbeing, Ludus Dance, More Music, Kendall Windows on Art, Dance Syndrome, Barrowful, ArtZCentre, Gregson Community and Arts Centre, Blaze Arts, The Poetry Society, Odd Arts, Savera UK, Pulse Regeneration, and Kooth Digital Health.

Support for this project is provided by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of its Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Inequalities programme, led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in collaboration with the National Centre for Creative Health.


Dance/Movement Literary Arts Media Music Theatre/Performance Visual Arts, Craft, and Design Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing Children & Youth

Research Team

Thumbnail Vicky Karkou small Vassiliki Karkou

Vicky Karkou, PhD

Lead Researcher, Edge Hill University

Professor Ananda Breed University of Lincoln

Ananda Breed, PhD

University of Lincoln


Fei Chen, PhD

University of Liverpool

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Nusrat Husain, MD

University of Manchester

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Zarnie Khadjesari, PhD

University of East Anglia

Moula Zoe S

Zoe Moula, PhD

King's College London

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Shaun Liverpool, PhD

Edge Hill University

Megan photo sept21

Megan Schmidt-Sane, PhD

Institute of Development Studies

Andysmith 1

Andy Smith, PhD

Edge Hill University

Joanna APA

Joanna Omylinska-Thurston, PhD

University of Salford, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

Scott edit

Scott Thurston, PhD

University of Salford


Marcello Trovati, PhD

Edge Hill University