Melissa Noble (above) is the founder of the Academy of Wide-Hearted Living.  The Academy helps people to connect with their creativity so they can use it to make their lives better. She designed and hosted NOW’s recent Wellbeing for Changemakers programme and, later this year, will host the Wellbeing for Changemakers Creative Retreat at Eden Rise. Here she talks to NOW’s Director, Roger Higman. 


How did you get interested in wellbeing?

I’ve had a varied working life. Aside from running a pub and a couple of seasons working on cross-channel ferries, I’ve been an administrator at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, carried out customer satisfaction surveys for Citizens Advice, and, more recently, answered calls to Age UK’s national information and advice line.  

My degree in Social Science (Health Studies) led me into working briefly for Social Services and then on to becoming Assistant Manager/Manager in various care homes. Most of my experience is with Older People but I’ve also worked for Sense, supporting Deaf/Blind adults and had a stint running a small group home for teenagers with profound and complex needs. 

In 2012 I stepped away from regular employment and retrained as a Chair-Based Exercise instructor. This created the foundation for what I believe is called a ‘portfolio career’ – running exercise and activity sessions in a range of settings alongside some caring and cooking. I was consciously seeking: I knew what I didn’t want to do, but wasn’t sure what I did want! It was a difficult time for me. 

Then, in 2015 I did the Artist’s Way, got connected with my creativity and started making some big changes. I began to look more closely at my own life choices and lifestyle. I got heavily involved in a local volunteer-run theatre group and, in 2018, began studying Counselling Skills and training as a Humanist Funeral Celebrant. 

Each funeral was a reminder of how precious life is and this set me on a journey of personal discovery. I realised that I had spent a lot of time learning how to look after other people but that I didn’t really know how to look after myself.

I began to question: what did I need to do to make the most of my life? What conditions did I need to thrive, to really come alive?

We all have these questions bubbling away. Figuring it out is tricky! My creativity became a powerful tool to support my explorations. Now I’ve founded the Academy to make it easier for other people to find their answers and to find their joy.

A poet friend of mine recently said to me “I’m never more myself than when I’m writing”. I think this is true for so many of us. Our creativity is our essence. And so, our connection to creativity helps bring us into alignment. And the more we live in alignment with our true selves, the greater our sense of wellbeing.

Why is creativity such a potent route to wellbeing?  

There are so many ways being creative can connect us to our mood and help us enhance our lives. It’s easy to link it, for example,  to the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

  • Take note – creative exercises are wonderful ways to keep us present and noticing the world around us. Why not practice your drawing while waiting in cafes or at train stations?
  • Connect with others – engaging our creative passion is a great way to connect with people and the rewards are huge. I recently stage managed Snow White at Teignmouth Pavilions. Just being around all that creative energy is good for the soul!
  • Be physically active – so many creative pursuits encourage us to be physically active. Think of dancing, theatre groups, blacksmithing or gardening.
  • Learn – creative passions demand that we learn whether it be painting, cooking, dancing or needlework. A lifetime dabbling is a life richly spent!
  • Give to others – by creating we make and the things we make have to go somewhere. What better present to give someone than something we’ve made with love?

So why the Academy?

Connecting with my creativity changed my life. It’s my personal mission to get as many people as possible to connect to their creativity so they can experience the joy it brings. So many people tell me that they’re not not creative. But that’s not true. We all are. It’s just that lots of us get it squashed down when we’re younger. We’re told to put our energies into ‘proper’ subjects at school. Our creativity doesn’t disappear – it just needs some coaxing out of hiding!

Helping people open up to the range of creative possibilities around them and witnessing their pleasure when they begin exploring is such a privilege. I love doing it!

Developing it as a business involved overcoming a lot of challenges. Lots of other women seemed to encounter similar issues when they were trying to set up their own ventures.   The Academy developed from this realisation.  I hope that, in the future, it will offer a platform for other women who work with creativity as a tool for transformation, making it easier for them to get their offerings out to a wider audience.

We’ve just begun the process of setting up as a CIC. Creative people make creative communities and make the world go round. The time is ripe for new ways of being and working. I truly believe that bringing creativity centre-stage will be a critical part of the solution we’re all craving and that’s why I do what I do.

How can people find out more?

They can email me, look at my website or follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn.


Melissa is leading the Wellbeing for Changemakers Creative Retreat from 8-10th July at Eden Rise.