Collective Power: Our Day Out, Creative Arts East

| Anna Eaton

This year we’ve been delighted to partner with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) on their first ever annual awards. CHWA are a national membership organisation representing everyone who believes that creativity and cultural engagement can transform our health and wellbeing. Their awards showcase good practice and people who are leading the way in creating a culture of care for each other, their communities and the world. 

CHWA’s first awards were due to take place earlier this year, but the celebrations were postponed due to Covid. We’re excited that they have now been rearranged as a special online event on Friday 20th November – get your tickets here!

We are part of CHWA’s Collective Power Award which aims to recognise a project or programme in which partnership working has improved the health and wellbeing of individuals or communities using the arts and culture. We sought inspiring projects or programmes that have been created through meaningful partnerships across different fields or disciplines. 

We are big believers in collaborative working and the power of doing things together. There is so much to gain when we pool our time, resources, networks, ideas and imaginations. But we also know it isn’t always easy. This blog series runs up until Christmas and features reflections and information about each of the brilliant shortlisted projects for the Collective Power Award. People from the heart of each project tell us in their own words what they’ve learnt along the way, what surprised them and what have been their favourite parts.

The first in our series is Our Day Out by Creative Arts East.

Our Day Out is a fortnightly programme of dementia-friendly, inclusive and interactive music and movement workshops for older people in eight locations across Norfolk. It caters particularly for people who may face barriers to participation such as carers, people living with dementia or other health conditions, and those experiencing social and/or rural isolation.

The programme improves wellbeing, promotes a sense of fun and encourages life-long learning.  It increases social connections and decreases feelings of isolation and loneliness by bringing people together for the workshops.

Our Day Out has collaboration at its heart, built on the indisputable links between creativity and wellbeing, uniting public funders, multiple local authorities, health professionals and 35 professional artists and creative facilitators under a shared goal. Their regular sessions have been postponed for the time-being due to the pandemic, but they are offering creative postal wellbeing packs.

Zoe Fletcher, an employee at Creative Arts East who runs the project tells us a bit more about it:

What has been your favourite thing about the project?

We absolutely love seeing the difference the project makes to the people we work with. We often hear from participants, particularly those that care for and attend with their partner living with dementia, that they’ve had a challenging day or week, and that the session brought them joy and really uplifted them. Here’s what some of them have said to us before about their favourite aspects of the project:

“I have never seen my husband join in with anything, even before he had dementia. It was brilliant to see him singing today.”

“At my age I never thought I would be cutting a disk, belly dancing and flamenco dancing!”

“This helps with my mental health. I have been inside all day and this makes me go out and I feel happy after every session.”

What have you learnt along the way since delivering the project?

Our biggest point of learning since we started delivering the project in 2015 has definitely come about during the last seven months, since the pandemic hit. Because it was clear immediately that older people were much more vulnerable to the virus, the Our Day Out workshops were the first branch of Creative Arts East’s activity to be suspended. As the country went into lockdown, we knew we had to dramatically rethink our approach to ensuring that the older people who relied on our project remained supported during this unprecedented time. 

We developed our free Creative Wellbeing Packs in April – each pack has been carefully created with professional artists and contains accessible, engaging activities to encourage gentle physical movement, keep the mind busy, and support creativity and connection from home. This process has really shown us that by maintaining a flexible approach and keeping the core ethos of the project in mind, we can be adaptable and resilient, and still make a different to the people we work with.  

Has anything surprised you during the project?

One of the things that has perhaps surprised, and delighted, us the most is the flexibility, resourcefulness and inventiveness of everyone involved in the project since the pandemic hit. Our participants have been so willing to engage with the new approach we’ve had to take, and been really on board with trying new things. Some of them have even started to embrace digital, and are interacting with us on our private participant Facebook group and joining Zoom calls. 

We’ve worked with some brilliantly talented professional artists, some who have led in-person sessions for the project before and some who we’ve only worked with on the creative packs. Each one of them has been fantastic in adapting their own artistic delivery to a new remote medium that works for our participants.

To find out more about Our Day Out or to get in touch with Creative Arts East, follow them on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Photo by Anita Staff, provided by Creative Arts East

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