Woodhorn Charitable Trust, Stand-up for Woodhorn, 2013-2014

The links between laughter and wellbeing are well established. Laughter releases endorphins, increases oxygen to the blood, promotes relaxation and boosts the immune system.  With this in mind, Woodhorn commissioned a ‘Comedian in Residence’ to explore the part comedy can play in facilitating meaningful connections between people and their heritage, art and environment. Ashington in South East Northumberland where Woodhorn is based has experienced the loss of its traditional industries, particularly coal mining, and with that has come high levels of worklessness, severe health inequalities and other social impacts. The north–east is famed for its distinct, dry humour, which endures in the face of adversity. There is also a strong affiliation between local people, their history and heritage and the wider environment. The innovative idea of attempting to strengthen community resilience through combining comedy, heritage and environment engaged staff at Woodhorn and the local community in new, dynamic ways.

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The project vision was to raise Woodhorn’s profile within communities and amongst their peers in the cultural sector and to share their learning to enthuse and inspire others, challenge perceptions about museums and contribute to the resilience of their museum audiences and museum sector.

Highlights of the project included writing opportunities for the comedians, involvement across teams and features on Radio 4’s You and Your’s Culture Magazine, What Next and local press.

Challenges included making links with sustainability and finding the LIFE survey uncomfortably personal.

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