Working Well: Writing and Movement for Wellbeing

Published by Sam Ruddock on


NORFOLK AND DERBYSHIRE | Friday, March 3, 2023

We’re delighted to announce that Working Well, a writing and movement for NHS staff wellbeing project, has received funding from Arts Council, England

  • Led by Dr Ruw Abeyratne, Director of Health Equality and Inclusion at University Hospitals of Leicester, working in partnership with Story Machine, writer Sally-Anne Lomas, and National Centre for Writing
  • Develops the popular Writing and Movement workshops that have been pioneered by Sally-Anne Lomas and Story Machine since 2021.
  • Pilots to take place with NHS Trusts across the UK.
  • Evaluation by AJA Ltd will assess the benefits for wider NHS rollout.
  • Sally-Anne Lomas’s debut Live Like Your Heart’s On Fire was published in 2021 and follows Pen Flowers, a teenager who finds ways to cope with the pressures of adolescence through physical movement and dance. It was described by Booker Prize shortlisted author Yvvette Edwards as ‘A gripping story, full of honesty, energy, heartache and joy.’ And by Iain B MacDonald, Director of Shameless, Wayne and Mansfield Park, as: ‘Wonderful. I couldn’t put it down. Magical. funny, scary, heartbreaking, and joyous!’

Story Machine, working with National Centre for Writing, Sally-Anne Lomas, and Dr Ruw Abeyratne today announce the launch of WORKING WELL: Writing and Movement for Wellbeing, a project designed to support the wellbeing and resilience of NHS staff at this time of unprecedented pressure.

This work is needed. The last NHS Staff Survey suggested morale and health of NHS workers is plummeting. More than 1 in 3 feel burnt out because of their work, while 47.5% say they don’t look forward to going to work and 31.1% often think about leaving. This is a national crisis that effects the lives of NHS workers, but also impacts on the experience of everyone who engages with the NHS, including patients and their families. We know that NHS Staff are passionate about the NHS, and we believe that WORKING WELL will make a positive contribution to helping the NHS retain and more effectively support talented and hard working staff.

Arts Council England has recognized the potential for this work to make a significant impact on the creative opportunities of NHS staff and awarded the project £27,408 from the National Lottery Project Grants.

Writing and movement workshops were developed by Sally-Anne Lomas and Story Machine in 2021 around publication of Lomas’s debut novel, Live Like Your Head’s On Fire, in which Pen Flowers finds ways to cope with the pressures of adolescence through physical movement and dance. When Dr Ruw Abeyratne attended a Writing and Movement workshop in 2021 she immediately recognized the benefit that this work could have for her colleagues across the NHS.

The benefits of arts activity on the wellbeing and health of people is well established. 72% of GPs agree that arts-based interventions can make a significant contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce (Arts and Health: Think Big and Embrace the Opportunities). Writing and movement have each been shown to increase a sense of well-being and in this work we will bring these discreet benefits together. Working Well will see us delivering a programme of online workshops and physical and digital activity packs to encourage creativity.

Dr Ruw Abeyratne says: ‘I’m thrilled to be working with Story Machine, Sally-Anne Lomas, and National Centre for Writing to create this project. We believe it can have a significant impact on the resilience of NHS staff at this difficult time. Health professionals are used to caring for other people’s bodies but not necessarily looking after their own. This specially designed programme will require no previous experience of either movement or creative writing but invite participants to have fun and explore what their bodies and minds may have to say.’

Sally-Anne Lomas says: ‘This isn’t about being good at dance or writing, but about enjoying using our bodies to access thoughts and feelings, and how writing these down can create greater awareness, understanding and liberation. Bringing together movement and creative writing opens the doors to play. I want participants to feel like they’re playing games and having fun in a safe and loving environment.  Using the body is energizing. Getting moving literally shakes things up. Getting off our backsides and away from the screen raises the heartbeat, creates good vibrations and deeper breathing. Better for our well-being and better for our words. Learning to listen to our body’s language is a useful skill for life and writing.’

Sarah Power of National Centre of Writing says: ‘We are delighted to be a partner organisation for WORKING WELL, bringing creativity into the health environment, and challenging the notion that formal arts, such as writing is only for certain sectors of society.  By working with NHS staff, we are excited to follow the impact on the participants and add to the growing evidence base that creative participation and activity is a vital health and wellbeing benefit for all.’

Sam Ruddock, Director of Story Machine comments: ‘Sally-Anne Lomas is a force of nature. She is a writer with a passion for getting people moving and making creativity fun and friendly. In these workshops she has created an accessible and joyous way to come together to relieve stress and express ourselves. We are pleased to be working with Dr Ruw Abeyratne and National Centre for Writing to develop a next step in these workshops. We would like to thank Arts Council England for recognising the value of this project, and all the players of the National Lottery for supporting the arts in England.’



  • Story Machine was founded in 2018. We create unforgettable experiences for readers and writers. We publish exciting new writing. We help artists develop their practice. And we create unforgettable live experiences. Our productions are like no book event you’ve seen before.
  • Story Machine can be found on Social Media: Twitter and Instagram (@Story_Machines), Facebook (StoryMachineHello) and Youtube (Story Machine Productions).
  • For more information see or contact Sam Ruddock, Director, at or 07943 063015.
  • National Centre for Writing celebrates and explores the artistic and social power of creative writing and literary translation. Our on-going programme of innovative collaborations engages writers, literary translators and readers, in person and online, in projects that support new voices and new stories, and respond to the rapidly changing world of writing.
  • National Centre for Writing can be found on Social Media: Twitter and Instagram (@WritersCentre), Facebook (NationalCentreforWriting) and Youtube (WCNonline).
  • For more information see or contact
  • Sally-Anne Lomas lives in Norfolk. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Creative Director of the Cloth of Kindness health and well-being textile art project. She runs writing and movement for well-being workshops.
  • For more information, see


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