Where the Arts Belong – First phase of project shows huge success

Where the Arts Belong – First phase of project shows huge success

The Atkinson are pleased to be a Where the Arts Belong partner

News story from Bluecoat’s blog:

Where the Arts Belong is a unique three-year research project, conducted by Bluecoat in partnership with pioneering care village operator, Belong, to effectively embed the arts into new care environments and improve the lives of those with dementia.

The first phase of the project has seen six critically acclaimed artists take up pilot residencies at Belong Crewe to engage customers, staff and members of the wider community in an array of creative workshops, ranging from storytelling and sculpture to music and dance. Completing at the end of June 2019, the residency scheme proved a huge success at the village, with reports that residents are happier and more engaged as a result.

Project Facilitator Tabitha Moses tells us more

In early 2019, six artists commissioned by Bluecoat were warmly welcomed into the Belong Crewe community. Over the course of five months they worked with residents, Experience Day customers, staff, families and volunteers to bring a range of arts practices into the everyday life of the village. These pilot residencies involved 70 activity or conversation sessions, 60 different people and 300 individual interactions; covering sensory movement, storytelling, music, sculpture, paper-cutting, tea-tasting, drawing, interviews, wide-ranging conversations and lots of laughter.

Activity took place in the public, communal areas as well as in the private households and even in people’s bedrooms. The focus was on play, creative expression and emotional connection.

An exhibition in the village, Experiments in the Making, celebrated the work of everyone involved – we showed two films, four sound pieces, four handmade books and many ceramic sculptures.

We gathered information as we went along, using DEMQOL (a measure of quality of life in people living with dementia) and the Person Centred Software used throughout Belong villages. The team at the Centre for Collaborative Innovation on Dementia at Liverpool John Moores University evaluated the data.

Their report told us that ‘it seems probable that Where the Arts Belong has helped to arrest decline and perhaps stabilise the quality of life of recipients of the intervention’. More than half the people who completed before and after DEMQOLs reported positive change. Click here to read the full report.

We also collected stories of Most Significant Change from customers, staff and families: accounts of positive changes in individuals living with dementia, in the atmosphere in households, in the arts activity programming, staff confidence and personal stories of broadening understanding of what art can be.

The positive effects of the project were reported by everyone  from staff members to Belong residents and their families

“It’s affecting everyone – the whole household’s calmer, less rushed. When everyone’s relaxed and they’re happy, it just makes you smile.” Erin, household staff member

“Realising that you’ve got people that are just as keen as you … it makes you want to do it.” M, Belong resident.

“Words fail me really. It was like getting Dad back again.” Sallie, daughter of Peter (Belong resident).

The data collected, along with pictures and anecdotal evidence, ‘suggest(s) that WTAB has had a very positive impact on the quality of life of participants’.

What Next?

We are about to embark on an arts course based at The Atkinson in Southport for people living with dementia in the wider community and those who support them. Acknowledging that life can be very stressful for the loved ones of people with dementia, we hope this group will be a space where everyone can explore their creativity on an equal footing.

When the new Belong villages open in Birkdale and Chester we will seek to embed the arts provision from the very beginning with artists’ residencies, regular arts sessions and training for staff, families and volunteers.

Artist Mary Prestidge sums up the special qualities the artists bring to this project:

“I’ve been pondering what we, ‘the artists’, bring to Belong – the ways in which we interact and engage… using our skills as listener, responder, activator… creating a wider and more focused space to allow expression to emerge and expand.”

For more information please visit www.belong.org.uk/bluecoat

Posted on 19 December 2019 under General news

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