There are stark inequalities in who benefits from mainstream cultural spaces – minoritised older adults are not high on the list. Several of the co-researchers hadn’t visited many cultural spaces in Bristol. They assumed accessibility arrangements wouldn’t suit their needs, but more importantly they often felt these spaces are ‘not for them’. So, we organised visits to a range of public and commercial attractions and events: the City Art Gallery and Museum, M-Shed, St George’s, SS Great Britain, Van Gogh Immersive, Watershed and Wake the Tiger. To the right you can see a range of photos taken by researchers and co-researchers here. Most of these visits were highly enjoyable with the trip to SS Great Britain as a stand-out moment for several co-researchers. Ruby Bennett commented, “when I stood by the wheel … I was the laugh of the day.” Erica Harrison said, “I loved the Van Gogh immersive.” But as often as not, positive benefits came from the social connections and sense of belonging that the trips brought, rather than the cultural contents of these spaces. We have learnt that accessibility goes beyond lifts and ramps (“What about water for my guide dog?”; “I can’t see properly from my mobility scooter – but it’s not meant for me anyway”). We have also learnt that that strong stories, relatability, personal attention and some sensory ‘wow’ are vital for these spaces to maximise their appeal to older minoritised adults. CTC researchers, Tim Senior and Karen Gray received Participatory Research Funding to work with St George’s, a music venue with a varied offering, on extending their reach through developing evaluative methods that will help them better understand how and why people come to their venue and what the experience does for them. You can read more about this in our impact story, ‘Making Evaluation Meaningful’.
Find out more about CTC cultural trips on our blog, which has posts about our museum visits, as well as trips to see SS Great Britain and the Project Zulu Choir.