Gwen Bryan was one of five finalists in the Practice Educator of the Year category for Social Worker of the Year 2023 and at a special awards ceremony in London on Friday 3 November she struck Gold!

Supported by The British Association of Social Workers (BASW), the Practice Educator of the Year award is for social workers who are involved in mentoring and supervising students and newly qualified social workers. Finalists have been selected for showing how they have successfully coached and mentored students to develop their skills in social work.

Gwen was nominated for this award by UEL colleague Gosia Kwiatkowska, senior lecturer and director of Rix Inclusive Research. Gosia and Gwen were invited to the awards ceremony at the Royal Lancaster Hotel where Gwen went on to win the Gold Award for Practice Educator of the Year, a fantastic achievement.

2 women and a banner
Gosia and Gwen at the Social Worker of the Year Awards at the Royal Lancaster Hotel

Here is Gwen’s Gold Award commendation.

With unique perspective and extensive experience, Gwen is considered to be someone who empowers others, encourages growth and development, and is always nurturing those around her to help them achieve to the best of their ability.

A black British woman with disabilities, she is said to create ‘remarkable’ impact on students, and to be particularly effective at helping others navigate bias or challenge.

Ever the proactive educator, she has invested significant time in weekly supervisions and facilitated mini seminars to help students talk in amore open forum about issues around the ethics of social work.

Her dynamic and engaged approach has also been shown in how she organised an educational outing to the Royal Court of Justice, where students had the privilege of observing test cases and engaging in post-observation discussions.

Students refer to her ‘inspirational qualities’ and say they draw huge benefit and reassurance from her honest and tough feedback, her sound support and guidance, and her constant desire to help others aspire for excellence in the world of social work.

Colleagues say what sets Gwen apart is her ‘relentless pursuit of innovative methods to engage and empower students.’

She is considered selfless, exceptionally committed, empathetic, and an extraordinary practice educator.

4 people on a stage
Gwen receives her Gold Award for Practice Educator of the Year

This year we received the most entries ever which goes to show organisations and individuals are keen to shine a light on the inspirational achievements of an often-overlooked profession. Peter Hay CBE,

Chair of the Social Work Awards

Social Worker of the Year Awards 2023


On Tuesday 31 October, purpleSTARS gave an insightful and inspiring presentation to 30+ University College London (UCL) masters students who will be involved in the delivery of health and social care in the future.

Every year since 2021, purpleSTARS have been invited to present and share our lived experiences and our projects – how we carry out our sensory objects action research – to UCL students in the Creative Health MASc course, as part of the lived experience in policy, practice, and research module. As always, we were thrilled to be invited again, this time to their new campus, UCL East, based in Stratford, East London.

In our unique purpleSTARS way, we spoke about our past projects and our current Mindsets + Missions project with Amgueddfa Cymru/Museum Wales and Innovate Trust, Newid Byd | Something New. We spoke about the importance of making museum and cultural experiences inclusive and accessible.

The students particularly enjoyed our demonstration of how objects, and engaging the five senses, can bring about more engaging experiences.

museum shell display and smell box
Samantha’s sensory label for a shell you could not touch in the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum, and a visitor smelling the scent of the sea in her sensory label. Photo Credit Orson Nava

An unexpected and welcome highlight was the homemade chocolate apples and lemon drizzle cake that the students had made for us to enjoy at the end of our presentation, as we talked about different ideas and played smell bingo!

UCL Students
UCL MASc students listening to purpleSTARS presentation

I’ve learned that there are other ways to incorporate inclusivity into different spaces that are usually not inclusive, like museums or libraries, and that it does require some creativity, and community as well.

UCL masters student

All of us enjoyed the afternoon as we love telling everyone about our work, but more importantly, because the Creative Health MASc is the first course of its kind. This presents us with a great opportunity to impart our knowledge, share our lived experiences and inclusive research expertise, and highlight the positive impact that access to arts and cultural activities has. We realise our shared experience will influence a new generation of socially engaged practitioners who will pioneer services to meet the changing needs of health and social care.

Student feedback videos

What is Creative Health

Creative Health uses creative approaches and activities to promote health and wellbeing.

Activities can include visual and performing arts, crafts, film, literature, cooking, and creative activities in nature, such as gardening.

Current research shows that participating regularly in activities to do with arts, culture, and creativity is beneficial for everyone’s health and wellbeing.

Alongside modern medicine, the use of creative health activities and approaches can help individuals manage long-term conditions, improve mental health, promote healthy aging, and address health inequalities, by also reducing pressure on health and social care services.

Why is Creative Health important?

Over recent years there has been a greater understanding of the beneficial impact that arts, culture, and creativity can have on our health and wellbeing. This has led to innovative approaches such as social prescribing. Championed by advancements in research, the World Health Organisation, Arts Councils, and the UK Government, through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health, and Wellbeing, produced the report, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

There has been a shift within the NHS and in social care in recognising the importance that creative health has in supporting health and wellbeing on an individual level as well as on a community and society level.

Written by Kanchan Kerai, Kate Allen
Pictures and videos by Ajay Choksi

National Cenre for Creative Health

The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

Social Prescribing myth buster


The community pharmacy is the healthcare space most accessed by the general public. The service and purpose of pharmacists is undergoing huge change, but the spaces where they work has not yet been seriously examined.

Prof Kate Allen from Rix Inclusive Research and Sam Walker from purpleSTARS are part of the research team led by Dr Ranjita Dhital at UCL. The project is funded by Pharmacy Research UK.

This UCL research project asks two questions:

What is the architecture of the community pharmacy?

What might it be in the future?

woman points to drawing
On her second visit to the pharmacy, Sam created a drawing which the pharmacist asked to display on her door

We are exploring the spaces of pharmacies of the future

Prof Kate Allen, Rix Inclusive Research Institute

In the video below, you will see Sam’s visit to her local pharmacy, including her drawings and suggested ideas for the decor.

Architecture of Pharmacies website