Space for happiness in Bristol

Two artists have turned an unused retail space in Bristol city centre into a place where people can explore their creativity and increase their wellbeing

Light Box, which has drawn funding from Bristol City Council and NHS Bristol, was set up in Broadmead shopping centre by Lucy Duggan and Lucy Barefoot and offers ten different workshops to the public. Through practical creative tasks such as making huge paper sculptures, people are helped to develop confidence or experience playfulness for example.

The project was developed in consultation with positive psychology experts and has been assessed by The University of West England, which found clear increases in participants’ wellbeing after attending the workshops. This has led to local GP’s referring patients directly to Light Box.

A key aim of the project is to tackle metal health stigma. “Part of that stigma is the idea that mental health only applies to some people,” says Lucy, “whereas in fact everyone has mental health and everyone is on the continuum somewhere.”

Light Box has had a wide range of people through its doors, from teenagers to people in their 70s, including vulnerable individuals such as those overcoming traumatic life events.

“We help people realise they have a lot of creative power to be happier than they are. We can’t get rid of everyone’s problems, but we believe that everyone can become stronger,” says Lucy.

The project has received interest from other parts of the country with empty retail spaces. “We would like to see this being recognised as a community mental health service,” says Lucy. “This is an excellent and very cost effective alternative to other approaches that haven’t worked.”