An inspiring new arts programme is changing the lives of vulnerable adults and children alike by getting them creatively active. “Being Creatively Active” is aninnovative scheme that makes use of the arts to improve the wellbeing of looked-after children and adults living with dementia. The programme funded by the Arts Council for Wales, aims to demonstrate the difference that the arts make to individuals, by allowing them to benefit from interacting with others, expressing their emotions or frustrations. It is being delivered by ArtsConnect, a unique collaboration of four local authority arts services committed to improving engagement in the arts, theatres and galleries at a regional level.
Working with older people with dementia throughout the neighbouring local authorities will be classical music group Triptych, in collaboration with Live Music Now, whose three young professional musicians specialise in famous arias and songs. Working with reminiscence artist, Katrina Kirkwood, they will help residents of local nursing homes remember the music of their youth.
These can vary from favourite songs performed on the rugby terraces or the music of chapel choirs. Such music encourages older people with dementia to reminisce while also allowing family members to bring in photographs to help stimulate their memories.
Opera singer Karl Daymond, who runs successful singing clubs in South Wales, will work in a specific project at Dan y Mynydd residential home in Porth in the Rhondda where he will establish a choir for people with dementia. The project will creatively compliment the innovative “Butterfly Project” at the centre to improve quality of life and inspire those with dementia.
Similarly “Being Creatively Active” will also concentrate its efforts on children in care through a digitial photography project. Evidence suggests that looked-after children feel isolated and frustrated. By working with specialists, the project will help young people express their views and emotions, while interacting with other looked-after children and sharing experiences.
In Bridgend County Borough, the project will involve award-winning Geese Theatre who are running a week-long drama bootcamp for looked-after children, and presenting their work at an awards celebration at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl in 2014.
An aim of Being Creatively Active is to find out whether arts projects can help the health and social outcomes for the participants. ArtsConnect Arts Development Officers will be working with an independent evaluator to find out if changes and improvements are made.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, Leisure and Tourism Cllr Robert Bevan said, “Being Creatively Active has all the makings of being an outstanding success as it helps improve the lives of two very different groups of vulnerable people in our communities.
“On the one hand evidence shows how music and songs can stimulate the memory of those with dementia, allowing them to remember passages or moments in their lives.
“Secondly we know of the value of such projects in helping young people who are in care or fostered to express emotions that may remain hidden, following difficult upbringings and past events which had led them to become looked-after.
“This is the latest venture to take place thanks to the support of ArtsConnect, which has allowed neighbouring local authorities to share their resources and expertise.”
ArtsConnect is the first and only local government arts service collaboration in Wales, covering Bridgend County Borough, Merthyr Tydfil, The Vale of Glamorgan and Rhondda Cynon Taf and supported by the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government Arts & Lottery Policy branch and Welsh Local Government Association Leisure, Culture, Tourism, and Heritage.
ArtsConnect member arts services share their arts officer expertise and resources in order to improve the range and quality of arts experiences on offer within the area, ensuring that the arts contribute to emotional well-being, improving literacy and numeracy, creating vibrant, safe and sustainable communities, reducing the impact of poverty and contributing to the prosperity of Wales.
By collaborating on arts service delivery in theatres, galleries and in the wider community often in partnership with the third sector, ArtsConnect enables local authorities in South Wales to more efficiently and effectively deliver their arts services, by avoiding duplication and securing external funding together and by making the case for the value of the arts with a stronger voice.