Last Saturday, I heard about the work being done by the Arts For Health centre which is based at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Peter Senior, the pioneer of an international movement bringing the services of artists and designers to the world of healthcare, showed us a fascinating video demonstrating how design and performing arts can create a healing environment for hospital patients.

Most of our hospitals still suffer from a sick syndrome of plain or threatening architecture.

New, open designs incorporating pictures, sculpture and colour bring joy and healing to patients already suffering anxiety about their illness.

The work, begun in 1970 by Peter Senior in Manchester to transform the bleak environment of hospitals, has spread throughout the UK and abroad.

A symposium on culture, health and arts held at Manchester University in 1999, the first of its kind in the world, drew some 500 delegates from 22 countries to share their experience of the effect of arts and architecture in health and healing. Sir Kenneth Calman, former Chief Medical Officer, has also endorsed the healing effect of an artistic environment on patients.

In France, members of Le Rire Medicin, a Paris-based organisation of professional clowns, work on paediatric wards to help bring cheer to sick children and speed up their recovery.

The French Government is already convinced of the efficacy of the arts in hospitals and has given culture an official role for the first time.

Actors, musicians, painters and clowns are to be funded by various organisations to work in hospitals and community healthcare centres.

Research in the field of neuro-immunopsychology has shown that laughter, happiness and a cheerful spirit enhance the healing process and help speed up recovery by producing healing chemicals and boosting the immune cell function, while anxiety and unhappiness breed disease.

This week, Hindu people are this celebrating the nine-night festival of the Mother Goddess.

Every evening, they meet to dance in a circle to the enchanting rhythm of Indian drums, cymbals and folk music.

While the occasion is based around a religious and spiritual theme, the benefit of arts, music and social gathering to individual health soon becomes obvious.

The colourful dresses and the graceful movements create a joyous, healing atmosphere.