AJ's Turn In Parliament!

19th July, 2019

AJ at Parliament

This week saw AJ take her turn in Parliament for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. You can read her speech below at the Round Table for Heritage, Health and Wellbeing:


Thank you, Lord Howarth, for the invitation to contribute to this round table.

I am excited to be here.

I am AJ Langer Courtenay, a mom, an actress, a Countess, a caretaker of a historic home and I’m also a person who has had a long journey with chronic pain. One that has made me a passionate believer of the mental and physical health benefits of staying connected to myself and to life through the arts.

Powderham Castle is the perfect example of a heritage site with an overwhelming potential to contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and communities. I would like it to be a success story of social aims empowering business sustainability.

Since arriving four years ago we have overseen a generational shift from the mindset of begrudgingly sharing the family’s private home to enthusiastically opening the doors wider to share the beauty, history and sanctuary of this Historic castle and landscape for the benefit of our community and visitors. We see ourselves as lucky custodians and we wish to do Powderham proud by helping it to fulfil its potential.

Inspired by social enterprise, we are working with social purpose at the forefront of each of our many heritage businesses. We have introduced our personal values and use them to keep ourselves and our team focused.

Authenticity, Sustainability, Community, Inclusivity and Adventure, which includes romance and fun - maybe I’ll move that one to the front.

In preparation for this talk, we compiled a list of the work we have done and accomplishments to date in terms of our social outputs and outcomes and I’m happy to say it is too long to list in the five minutes I have now.

From street dance in the castle to school play productions in the riding school, tai chi and development of more accessible, interactive tours of the castle. Actively supporting our LGBTQ community while letting Powderham’s gay history out of the closets. We are storytelling and hosting music events and festivals that leave people feeling lifted. From culinary arts to fine arts – it all works at Powderham. We have been partnering with local charities and social services to create sustainable engagement projects and templates that bring people together, we work to combat isolation. We are engaged in community planning, supporting a new primary school build that will offer space for intergenerational arts programs, and in the near future, I will be launching a charity independent of Powderham with the purpose of facilitating health and happiness through arts and culture, that would, along with other charities and organisations, utilise Powderham as a partner/venue. I believe the most effective way for people to learn the health benefits of connecting with arts and culture is to experience it.

I would like Powderham to be a hub for social prescribing.

We are at a place where we could use some advice, education and incentives. I believe in collaboration and teamwork and I am so glad to have been made aware of this committee. Its existence along with the most comprehensive report I have seen regarding health, well-being and the arts, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, gives me faith that we are on the right track and will find the support we need. We, along with so many businesses, clubs and organisations, need to learn and be able to implement a regulatory framework for quantifying social impact. We are selling a new concept to an established structure where progress is judged by facts and figures and maintaining a consistency to the way things have always been. We need a language that we revolutionaries can speak that the establishment will understand. One that validates the outputs and outcomes of social investment in business sense. This would be useful and appreciated. Powderham wants to play its part in proving the benefits to be had by all by making this business model thrive – as I know it will.

There is a quote that I had come across before that is in the Creative Health Report:

“the transformation of the health and care system from a hospital and illness-based system to a person-centered and health-based system”

I agree with Lord Howarth's suggestion that we must all see ourselves as members of the public health workforce.

It is with this purpose that we support the transformation of the traditional Heritage business from a purely financial and insular system, to a creative and relevant socially focused sustainable business system.

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