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Planets Installation

An exclusive look at Creative Wellbeing and Volunteering Projects at the Gustav Holst Museum

Jules Allan talks to AHSW about her work with the Gustav Holst Museum, developing Creative Wellbeing and Community Volunteer Projects.

"Whenever people ask me what I do, I often find it a bit challenging to answer. I know I work as a freelancer, I know I am often wearing many hats, I know I work using the arts and creativity with people and communities, I know the work I do is often developed on shoestring budgets which can be frustrating but allows me and the people I work with to have to think very creatively, resourcefully, experimentally and the rewards can often be beautiful, change-making and humbling.


Planets Piano 

The Planets Installation and the Piano at the Gustav Holst Museum


"I know being involved in some way on peoples creative journeys and wellbeing is for me what I love about my work. I know I am often juggling work with looking for work, with endings and beginning occasionally all coming together in an impromptu synchronicity and occasionally exhausting me so that my own creativity and wellbeing is brought to my attention and the needs for my creative journey and wellbeing are re-aligned and balanced.


"I know this, that from my experience from working in the arts and with people for many years, magical moments happen, we share stories, parts of ourselves are revealed and vulnerabilities and fears are brought out and laid open, bonds are formed, our wellbeing can for a moment or for a lifetime irreversibly be changed; I don’t always know the why and hows and it’s not something that can be wrapped up in a formula. A fab teacher once told me “I don’t really know what I am doing, but its ok” - this is what inspires me to keep going, I am always curious, exploring, creating, sharing, learning and I think it may take me a lifetime to keep finding out what I do.


"One of my main projects I am currently curiously developing is with the Gustav Holst Museum: a 10 month project as part of The Arts Councils Museums Development Programme. I am using an Action Research approach which enables myself and the museum to keep reflecting on the changes we are developing and to do this with the volunteers and staff at the helm. 


Civic Day Team

Pictured: The Civic Day Team


"The museum has a fantastic and very committed volunteer team, the auditing of the volunteer programme highlighted the main demographic of volunteers; our engagement and recruitment of people aged over 65 is strong. An increasing number of the volunteers are managing physical health challenges, and with this in mind we are looking at how we can support the volunteers to be involved in volunteer roles that work for them and to develop the volunteer programmes wellbeing approach. We are currently fundraising to support the volunteer programme to be able to increase capacity and to explore the feasibility of working with a wider demographic.


"The demographic and nature of volunteering in museums locally and nationally is changing with more focus on inclusivity and reaching out to engage the wider community, working with people who may have faced barriers in the past to volunteering. In these days of austerity and funding cuts along with libraries, museums have a massive potential to be a central hub for the community, to support ways to decrease social isolation, to be creative and artistic centres, to develop volunteer programmes that are inspiring, innovative and supportive of individuals needs and community wellbeing. This creates a wider capacity of volunteers, a wider group of people to work with; with many interests, a wealth of talent, experience, skills, availabilities and life stories, building up a wide community of volunteers, relationships, approaches to communication, communities, skills and experiences together.


"The South West Museums Volunteer Development Forum has a fantastic conference coming up in May showcasing the links between museums and wellbeing. 


Current Governmental Report - “Participants have been found to derive benefits from volunteering through a number of different ways, including enhanced self-esteem (Omoto and Snyder, 1992); personal development (Schmitz and Schomaker, 1994); occupational experience (Hackl et al., 2007; Knoke and Adams, 1987); 5 Economists term things that have positive welfare impacts ‘goods’ and conversely things that have negative welfare impacts ‘bads’. Valuing volunteering 7 improved health (Oman et al., 1999; Adelman 1994; Wilson and Musick, 2000); and education and learning (Knoke, 1988; Moore and Allen, 1996).”

(from the Report "Wellbeing and civil society Estimating the value of volunteering using subjective wellbeing data" by Daniel Fujiwara, Paul Oroyemi and Ewen McKinnon)



Across The Universe Project

"I have been developing a project called Across The Universe as an opportunity to re-launch the volunteer programme and website at the Holst museum. The project began, as often these things do, in a very organic way, beginning with listening to the Museum' volunteers and their stories, the Museum's visitors and the impact the museum had had on them.



Planets Installation at the Gustav Holst Museum


"Whenever I mentioned to people I was working in the Gustav Holst museum, I heard many stories from people down the pub, at conferences, in workshops, on trains, at family occasions about what the Planet suite meant to them:


“Whenever I hear Mars, it makes feel strong, powerful and like I can take on the world”


“Sunday mornings, my dad would always put on the Planet Suites, it reminds me of bacon sandwiches and Sundays that go on forever”


"In life and work I am always looking for opportunities, developing an idea from seemingly nothing, a spark of an idea from someone can create beautiful hidden gems and golden nuggets.


"The more I started listening to stories the more I wanted to find a way to share the impact of Holst’s music and the museum's strong sense of community with the local and wider community, to explore a way for people to get involved with the museum in ways that can work for them as well as the museum.


"I am working with a small team of volunteers from the museum to develop this project with the idea that they will be able to carry on the legacy of this project once the Arts Council Funding has finished - click here to see a video with Adele, our volunteer creative producer. 


Misfits Theatre

Pictured Luke and Laura from The Misfits dancing to Jupiter. Link- misfitstheatre.com


I have worked with The Misfits Theatre for about ten years as a socially engaged artist/facilitator and director. I was chatting one morning over a cuppa and cake with the Misfits members, they were asking me about my new job in the museum, I talked with them about what I was doing and they wanted to hear the music of Holst, so we listened to Holst’s Venus bringer of Peace. Kieran, one of the Misfits, began to dance, then the whole group began to dance; the group shared what the music allowed them to feel. Over the past couple of weeks we have been exploring listening to the various planets using movement, poetry, story telling and art work, we have now developed a relationship with the Holst Museum and The Misfits volunteers are leading on The Across The Universe Project with developing art work, leading workshops and working the museum to share good practice in inclusivity in museums.


 Make  A Move Yoga

Pictured: Make A Move (Yoga)


"I also work as the Creative wellbeing Officer with Make a Movewe work in a wide variety of settings, with many groups and communities, using movement, dance and mindfulness to support people’s wellbeing. We have been exploring using this music with our various projects, when appropriate to the needs of the group.


"I have been using Holst Music with groups I have been working with at Make a Move. I worked on a family wellbeing project using creative movement and yoga in nature, we explored our emotions and what the music allowed us to feel through our bodies. We all agreed there was something very playful and liberating for us to move how we wanted to move.


“I thought classical music was a bit scary and you could only do ballet to it, it was great being able to dance how I wanted to”


"We are now piloting The Across the Universe project and have been asked to be a flagship Museum project for The Voluntary Arts Week in May. We are hosting a weekend of workshops on 14th & 15th of May facilitated by Museum volunteers: We have a writing workshop, visual arts workshops, singing workshops and The Misfits will be facilitating a movement workshop. The legacy of this work will be an online exhibition on the New Holst Museum's website and at the museum with shared stories and reminiscent work, photos, art work, short films all exploring the impact of Holst’s music.


An invitation - Listen to the Holst Planet Suite. Venus seems to be a firm favourite of many; we would love to hear your stories, experiences and share creative work inspired by the music……


For more info  have a Blog and a YouTube Channel sharing the work we are developing.


For more information on the Holst Museum, The Across the Universe project and how you or your group can get involved, please email Jules at: mrsjulesallan@gmail.com



Posted on 25 February 2016

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