Community support workers from Belong at Home Wigan, the local home care service provided by not-for-profit care group Belong, are working with artists and customers in a collaborative creative project to bring art into people’s homes during lockdown.
Delivered in partnership with Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, the six-month project is designed to tackle isolation by using art as a vehicle for wellbeing and social interaction, and is funded by Arts Council England and the Baring Foundation.
The initiative is part of Belong and Bluecoat’s wider research project, Where the Arts Belong, and follows a pilot at a Belong care village in Crewe which brought creative artist-led activities to residents. This pilot demonstrated a range of positive outcomes in engaging older people, including enhanced cognitive capacity, improved mood and an increased sense of community.
Now, the project is being taken out into the community, and will see five critically acclaimed artists host a range of workshops for the Belong at Home team and their customers via video call, including sessions in music, drawing and dance.
Structured in three eight-week cycles, the first cohort are being trained in storytelling and sound recording to create a radio programme by artists Alan Dunn and Roger Hill. Inspired by Wigan comedian Ted Ray and his ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ radio show, participants will create sounds using their voice and objects from the home, such as telling jokes and rattling keys, and play them down the telephone as part of a live ‘concert’.
The project has funded four iPads to enable Belong at Home colleagues to complete the workshops with their customers in addition to routine care visits. Speaking of this, Belong at Home customer, Mary Cunliffe, said: “I’m enjoying meeting the artists and communicating in a new way via an iPad, this technology is new to me! I’m doing something different with my time and it’s bringing me real joy over the Christmas season.”
Commenting on the impact of introducing art to people’s everyday routines, artist and Bluecoat project facilitator, Tabitha Moses, said: “The initiative is proving very popular so far. Staff have told us the sessions are opening up conversations and lifting customers’ spirits.
“As such, the workshops are enabling more stimulating interactions between all those involved and our hope is that the training and learning outcomes produced can be applied to enhance future social care and wellbeing visits. We are so pleased to be able to build on the success of the Bluecoat and Belong pilot project at Crewe in this way, and develop further meaningful creative services for those living with dementia.”
Belong at Home Wigan area manager, Sophie Walls, added: “The project has presented the perfect opportunity to offer something more to our customers during this difficult time and we are thrilled to support them to enjoy such meaningful activities on a one-to-one basis.
“It is a great experience for our community support workers to see the benefits of using art for someone’s wellbeing, and it’s enabling us all to develop new skills that can be used for years to come – it’s wonderful to see the smiles on our customers’ faces.”