Perhaps you are wondering why talk about the arts in a project about making our neighbourhood a dementia-inclusive one? After all, many of us have negative associations with the arts at school or don’t feel confident in being creative. Rather than a talent, let’s think about creativity as a muscle that we maybe don’t use as often as we can; to problem solve, to communicate, to connect, and to see and share things that don’t fit neatly into boxes. The arts offer the space to imagine the difference a project can make, the means to connect directly to people living with dementia even when words lose meaning. They can provide an opportunity to build engagement within a neighbourhood, to tell its stories and those of its residents in meaningful and respectful ways, often piercing or removing barriers that can exclude people from equitable citizenship.
This strand of work can be about creating art or increasing arts activity in the neighbourhood, perhaps linking to a venue or trialing some social prescriptions. These are things that might be relevant to our project, and might not. Really what we are looking at is how to use creative processes at the centre of engagement within our OCN programme.
The accessibility and freedom of creative engagement as a tool for people living with a diagnosis of dementia to directly participate in all aspects of the programme is a highly effective and inclusive one, that has rooted itself across most areas of the programme, from our Conversation Cafés to the modelling of the OCN approach.
“Community-engaged arts practices are situated within public contexts, community settings, and neighbourhood spaces. This kind of practice often extends beyond the boundaries of conventional arts venues and challenges conventional art forms and interpretations. The result can be a dynamic surge of creativity that changes how art is made, how communities are built, and how we live together.
Arts & Equity Toolkit, a project of the Neighbourhood Arts Network.”
The Arts Strand of Our Connected Neighbourhoods has sought to increase the range and quality of arts opportunities within our neighbourhoods and to explore capacity-building and inclusion for people living within our neighbourhoods to access the arts.
Initial projects were built distinctly for people living with dementia but this was less sustainable than supporting local arts and cultural partners to develop inclusive practices in the design of their ‘offers’, this included work with Macrobert Arts Centre and Stirling Castle. We also used the new Stirling Health and Care Village as a hub for developing creativity at the heart of neighbourhood and through inclusive holiday clubs and partnerships with local schools were able to explore the role the arts can play in supporting intergenerational connections within neighbourhoods.
Mostly we worked with artists and creatives to design engaging ways to enable stakeholders, and especially people living with dementia, to contribute meaningfully to a body of work that designed and tested interesting and imaginative ways to map, analyse and solve access and inclusion in neighourhoods, putting the people living with dementia and their unpaid carers at the heart of that work.
- Never underestimate the power of imagination, it can help us delve deep into a problem and look at it in a new way or help us to step back and see new dimensions and bigger perspectives.
- Consider working with artists, musician, creatives as part of the project, we probably have some poking around in our neighbourhood if we look closely. If paying artists use artist union rates.
- Local arts venues can be amazing assets and spaces to get creative, but so are our libraries, local care homes and open spaces. The arts can help us discover the potential of spaces for social engagement, bringing neighbourhoods together and can often be a part of our neighbourhood calendar of events.
- Avoid the phrase 'I'm not creative'. Everyone is and can be creative in how we think and communicate but societal barriers can prevent us from taking part or exploring creativity. Allowing ourselves permissions to imagine can be powerful and we can make art or take part in creative activities without a songbook or paintbrush in sight.
- Doing creative workshops and activities can soothe and relax people into working together, and discussions that might have been tense or challenging can become something else.
A creative approach to equity in our neighbourhood
Think about some of the ways you can use the arts and creativity to activate your neighbourhood in becoming dementia-friendly.
We have developed a tool which is a collection of creative activities that can be implemented in our Neighbourhood Action Plan (NAP). These activities and prompts can be used to explore what neighbourhood means to us, the social connections that make our neighbourhood, unique aspects of the place we live in, as well as suggestions on co-editing a blog, and running inclusive events.
Some of these activities might be more suitable than others for our priorities and focus of work, as identified building our NAP. The majority of these activities can be used to complement other tools in the NAP, as we have suggested already during the MAP stage, where we have introduced two creatives exercises.
Here are a selection of free downloadable tools that can be used in cafes or workshops and related articles for reference.