Our Connected Neighbourhoods has been running for more than 12 months now. It has been a year of organising, doing and – most importantly – learning.
This series of blog posts looks at the first year of the project, what we have learned along the way and where we go from here. Here we review our pilot arts workshop. The names of some participants have been changed to protect their privacy.
Our Connected Neighbourhoods’ (OCN) work in care homes aims to use the creative arts to stimulate discussion in care homes about community connectedness and neighbourhood.
Sharon Quigley, visual artist, has been running workshops in local care homes Fairview, William Simpson and Allan Lodge. Supported by an OCN volunteer, she engages residents in conversation about the things that are important to them. Using a range of visual images residents are encouraged to discuss the things that are important to them, and develop booklets telling the story of their lives. Sharon then develops the themes that come up to refine the images for follow up conversations.
The Fairview Workshop
On 21 April 2018 Our Connected Neighbourhoods(OCN) ran an arts and inclusion workshop pilot at Fairview Care Home. An open doors event was planned for that day with the theme being community connectedness,so the dementia friendly neighbourhoods aims of the project were an ideal fit.
Fairview provided a space with tables to work on and staff explained to residents what the workshop was about. A mix of about 10 residents, unpaid carers and visitors joined in.
Dave, the OCN inclusion and integration coordinator, got things started with an introduction to the project. Lots of images were spread out on the table and, using the pre-made concertina booklets that Artlink artist Sharon had brought,residents were able to add decorations and write down their thoughts.
L, a member of staff at Fairview Care Home, picks up the story of the day.
During the workshop, Dave was working with J. She picked pictures of farm machinery, farmers and farm land. She spoke about growing up and working on the family farm. She spoke about how the hard work had affected her hands. This led to conversations between J and her sister who was visiting. J said she would love to visit a farm again. She would find this really enjoyable. Dave passed this on to me. I mentioned I have connections with farms in the area and we could organise something for J. We thought the workshop was great for stimulating residents and getting to know how connected they felt they were to their neighbourhood. We found out the things we could do for residents to help them feel more connected. This is something we would definitely use again and we fed back how it would be really helpful if a bank of images were available as part of the resource to run a similar workshop.
What we learned
Arts and inclusion is included as a core strand of Our Connected Neighbourhoods in the belief that engagement with the creative arts has a significant role to play in building neighbourhood connectedness and placing care homes at the centre of local communities. The Fairview workshop was a great starting point to further evidence this, showing how simple arts-based tasks can stimulate participants and generate the conversations so vital to building and maintaining connections to your community.
The aim of arts and inclusion strand is ultimately to involve people living in the homes in shaping activities around the things that matter to them. A creative toolkit is in development and will be available online for care homes around the country to download and make use of in building a sense of community connectedness among their own residents.