This week I caught up local musician and arts and health worker Hayley Youell. Hayley is one of the chosen few that were recently selected to be one of the Olympic Torchbearers who will run through Barnsley this coming Monday 25th June. I wanted to find out about why she was selected and also about her work in the community which encouraged her nomination.


Hi Hayley. So, how did you get chosen to be a torchbearer? Do you know who nominated you?

I was nominated to be a torchbearer by Jude Mitchell, who is the lead Occupational Therapist for the local Mental Health Trust. I have worked with her for years developing arts and health locally. My nomination is shown online (link here).

The nomination reads,

‘Hayley is an inspirational artist who has made a huge difference to the lives of many individuals in South Yorkshire with mental health and substance misuse problems. She works tirelessly to promote the value of creativity in health, linking with national organisations such as the Kings Fund and Breakthrough but also working with individuals through local projects and groups. Within the ‘Live Arts Cafe’ Hayley’s beautiful voice, positivity and enthusiasm rub off on the people who attend and it is wonderful to see the participants of all ages, who are often nervous and in distress when they arrive leaving with smiles on their faces and looking forward to the next event when they can come together with people with similar difficulties to share creative opportunities. Hayley deserves acknowledgement for her contribution to this.’

 How long ago was that?

I think I found out I was nominated last summer, autumn time.
Will you get to keep or buy the torch?

My family have bought the torch for £200 to keep as a family heirloom. My argument was what was I going to do with it; where was I going to put it, especially as they take the fun part (fire mechanism) out of it  once you have ran with it. I was also considering auctioning it for charity to raise funds but I am under strict instructions that it is to remain in the family.
Have you done any training? Do you run anyway? 

It is soo funny. Everyone is asking me if I am in training and officially NO.  I do go to the gym and I’m constantly running about but since I have found out this week that I have a hill to negotiate and a motorway bridge I am going to have to test it out and see how the lungs and legs get on. I am more concerned about my clumsiness and fire starting reputations.
So, how did you get involved in therapeutic arts? 

Music has always been a way for me personally to release emotions, express what I could not say and relax. I became increasingly interested in the links between the voice and emotions; especially as a singer and as a tutor. When I was at university I experienced a deep bout of depression and it was through this experience and my understanding of how creativity can support recovery that I really became interested. These ideas and connections were reinforced when I started working as a singing tutor and worked with people who came for singing lessons, but essentially wanted to “find their voice” and feel better about themselves. I became enthused and began my campaign with anyone who would listen. I began to link with like-minded people and started to develop workshops using my experiences and skills.
What are the different organisations and groups you’ve been involved with?

Action Space Mobile is the arts organisation that I develop and deliver work through in Barnsley. Their projects include:

ARTS on Referral Programme, whose creative approach to mental well-being, includes Creative Well-being Sessions/Programmes, UPLIFT Events, tickets on Referral, links to what is happening in the community and public engagement. We are working to link people with creativity, places and others in their community. We are also working to ignite community spirit- get involved. Tweet @UPLIFTBarnsley


My role on this project is around strategy, promoting the message and mustering involvement. I also am a group facilitator and practitioner.

Re:Sound and The Alternative Nite Out (both funded and supported by the Barnsley DAAT  and managed by ASM). Re:Sound is a music project supporting and promoting Recovery in Barnsley. It has been running for just over a year, working with individuals in recovery, carers and families. We meet weekly and explore how music and music-making can help us to relax, re-energise and reflect on feelings and life experiences. We are developing the Re:Sound Band with many learning new instruments and developing their songwriting/composing skills. Through this project the need and scope for a safe, sober night out in Barnsley that differed from the norm – drink infused night on the town was highlighted. This was matched with the general public also having an interest in something different, too and The Alternative Nite Out was born. This is something we are now working to develop and build on, providing a chilled, creative evening for all.

Another organisation I work with is Reflections Art in Health and Breakthrough. They a national charity, based locally, that strives to showcase the creative talents of individuals who have used the arts as a tool to aid recovery from any health condition. They also work to raise the profile of the arts and health sector and promote social inclusion through tackling mental health stigma positively. I have been an active part of forming the charity and running fundraising events and exhibitions over the last year.

I also work for Barnsley Hospice and the Mental Health Trust that provides services for Barnsley and many surrounding towns. They are committed to creative approaches and my role is to support the co-ordination of the strategy and to develop projects.

I am working on a project this Summer which is connecting inpatients and individuals in the community at different stages of their mental health recovery through the use of digital media. Creating podcasts, mini-films, inspired by experiences, stories and creative approaches/projects on the wards and in the community to engender hope, present opportunities and develop confidence.  It would be great to hear from anyone who is keen to share their story of their recovery and would be happy to speak to our group who will be collecting these stories.

I have volunteered for years at the Hospice, singing at events in the community and at the Hospice to raise funds and support therapeutic activities.


Wow! You do a lot.  How are you even going to fit in being a torchbearer? So, have you got any forthcoming events?

The Re:Sound Band album launch and next Alternative Nite Out will be at the Civic Cafe Bar on Thursday 28th June (details below). There will be cake, coffe, tapas and lots of music. The event is free but of course, donations are welcome.

We will be celebrating Re:Sound’s achievements in the afternoon, sharing music from the album, our film about experiences of the last year and there will be a performance from Not Dead Yet, which is a group that one of our members has had the confidence to join and is now out and about gigging with.  Later, there will be open mic opportunities so it would be great to hear from other local musicians who wanted to get involved and can rock up with their guitars after work.  It will be first come, first served.

We are trying out the Civic Cafe Bar as a venue for the first time and they are keen to develop a monthly event there.

We are also looking at doing events over the Bank Holiday weekend in August; ‘Birds on a Wire Fringe (An Alternative to the Binge)’  including a mini-festival at Sparrow Park with music, stalls, food and art!


I’m sure you’ll all agree that Hayley is more than worthy of her nomination. Below are links to many of the organisations mentioned. Over the coming weeks Alternative Barnsley will be providing support in promoting the forthcoming ‘Alternative’ events, so keep an eye out for details and updates.

The Olympic flame will arrive in the borough at 1:25pm on Monday afternoon in Lundwood and will travel through Cundy Cross towards the town centre, travelling up past the Town Hall, along Huddersfield road and towards Darton before it crosses the county border and enters the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The full route can be seen here.


Alternative Nite Out will be @ The Civic Cafe Bar on Thursday 28th June, 2012 

3:30pm – 8pm. Entry is FREE! (Donations Welcome) Cake tapas, coffee and snacks and lots of music.


  1. Pingback: BARNSLEY2012: THE OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY HITS BARNSLEY « Alternative Barnsley

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