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Event highlights part two – Older people and cultural participation: where next?

Event highlights part two – Older people and cultural participation: where next?

By Tot Foster, Tim Senior and Stuart Gray, 26th September 2021 

In our last post we revisited the talks given at our July 7th project partner event. In this post, however, we’d like to consider how these talks resonated with our wider attendees. We stopped twice during the event to open up the discussion of the issues raised with our 60 attendees, through a number of breakout rooms.

Breakout Session One

The first of our breakout rooms sought to identify the extent to which the speaker experiences resonated thus far with the audiences and the key points of learning some of the emerging themes. Furthermore, we wanted to crystallise some messaging for those in positions of power about the value of cultural participation activities for older adults.

In our twelve breakout groups, the event attendees, CTC As We Age team, and the speakers took to Google Jamboard to document our thoughts, guided by the following questions.

Jamboard Example From Group 1

Q1: Reflecting on the stories presented and your experiences, what have you learned? 

Firstly, it is important to recognise the diversity of the older people that our project and our community anchors (see our partners) serve. It is easy to think of older adults as a homogeneous group and stereotype their skills, competencies, and challenges. Too commonly when we talk about older adults and their use of digital technologies, we paint by numbers with regards to what they can or cannot do. Yet, the reality is nuanced and in order to identify digital literacies and how to support their adoption of contemporary technology, we require an understanding of their social and cultural lives of individuals and their communities.

Thus, we need to adopt a capabilities-led approach when working with older adults in the community and care settings. Rather than having supporting organisations make assumptions about the digital cultural and art activities for older adults as a broad group, individuals must be granted the autonomy to express and define what areas are relevant to them. This requires us to find ways to better understand individual circumstances and tailor the training of digital skills around them and their unique needs.

One common theme across all of our talks was that of a need for greater inclusion in digital culture and arts activities. Older adults have a desire for greater representation of their issues and interests in the content of these activities. They observe how a lot of effort is put into equipping other groups, such as young people, with the skills, infrastructure, and opportunities to thrive in an increasingly digital society, and question why they are often excluded from these endeavours. Our attendees emphasised the need to recognise that people’s abilities are neither fixed in time nor dictated by age. Older adults can continue to learn and enjoy learning, even when faced with physical and cognitive barriers, and empowering them with digital skills may be able to contribute renewed purpose to their lives.

However, we need to ensure that those who are supporting older adults are themselves capable at facilitating training and access to digital culture and arts participation. In the case of community organisations, care providers and charities, this may involve reflection upon their own digital maturity and equipping people within their organisations to support the older adults they work with. The same is true for any external individuals with whom these organisations collaborate with in order to host digital cultural and arts experiences – i.e. artists, creatives, and technologists. In short, if the supporting organisations have limitations in their digital literacy, these barriers will most likely be inherited by the older adults they serve.

Compounding this are questions about who should deliver digital cultural and arts activities and how these activities should be delivered. Several of the talks broached concepts pertaining to co-design and engaging older people on their own terms. For instance, working with older artists and creatives to deliver training and other activities may inspire other older adults to participate by increasing relatedness. The value of intergenerational work was also raised, with opportunities to foster community through greater empathy and to bring families closer together.

In terms of the how, keeping accessibility at the forefront of activities is vital, particularly during COVID-19. Several of the speakers had emphasised that it is not enough to simply provide older people with the hardware and infrastructure to access digital services, and that focusing training on the access of digital communication skills was a fundamental gateway to other forms of digital arts and culture participation. Several of the speakers described their efforts to train older adults to use tools like Zoom in order to create safe and accessible creative spaces, and to provide opportunities for greater social connectivity. However, they were equally circumspect about the logistical difficulties of hosting arts and cultural activities on Zoom, as well as the challenge of creating the conditions for intimate and emotional engagement.

Q2: What would we want to tell funders, policy makers or others about what we have learned? 

From both the speaker talks and the audience discussions, the value of arts and cultural participation for health and wellbeing was clear. Undoubtedly, this has been accepted for some time, but we continue to observe lethargy in the amount of support received from funders and policy makers.

There were concerns about the nature of projects being funded as being too focused on outcomes and generating tangible end-points at the expense of projects that prioritise empowerment through process. There is a perception that large university led research projects, with an emphasis on generating data or new products or services, takes priority over more intimate arts led projects in the eyes of funders. The main criticism of university approaches, was the lack of sustainability and the lack of resources to continue the work after the projects have finished. One particular grievance was with the funding of projects was the desire to ‘reinvent the wheel’ in the development of new products, which may briefly dazzle funders but in reality are total white elephants that fall short of adoption. The attendees also highlighted that funders also often displayed a lack of flexibility with regards to project timelines and underestimated the necessity and slow moving nature of building trust and relationships between project teams and the communities that they are attempting to embed themselves within.

Greater resources are required to support facilitation of digital arts and culture. Both our speakers and attendees identified artists working in the creative ageing as a key group to support, and more must be done to help them develop cultural competence and to equip them to work with older people with an array of accessibility requirements. There also needs to be recognition that this is difficult work for artists that can be both practically and emotionally intensive, particularly during the hardships of the pandemic, and they themselves need support for their own wellbeing. Greater guidance should be available for those undertaking work with older people in order to better establish their responsibilities and boundaries – often, those delivering arts and cultural activities can find them going far beyond their original brief. We need policy makers to better define support networks in order to protect both older people and those delivering activities.

Funders and policy makers also need to acknowledge the digital divide and the marginalisation of certain communities. The attendees raised the point that individuals are more likely to be involved in arts and cultural activities if they already, to a certain extent, socially connected within their communities. But are these really the individuals who would benefit the most from support? We know that a significant proportion of older people, particularly those in rural communities, those in levels of socio-economic deprivation, and those from minoritised ethnic and disabled backgrounds, are less likely to have access to digital services. Hence, the attendees queried how we can further our inclusivity to target the voices that are still not being heard, nor even know that digital arts and culture work exists. Some attendees recommended lobbying policy makers, particularly at different levels of government, to hasten upgrades to infrastructure and to expand their funding of creative and inclusive spaces in the community – a recognisable location where arts and cultural activities can take place.

Breakout Session Two

Our second breakout session was a little more introspective than the first. We had selected a range of speakers that we felt could provide a diverse array of opinions about the value of digital arts and culture for older adults. We wished to identify the issues that had made the greatest impact upon our attendees, but we wanted to identify whether there were any blindspot issues that had not been discussed during the event.

Jamboard Example From Group 2

Q3: Are there issues which haven’t been mentioned which should also be explored?

Although our speakers were able to cover great breadth during the event, there were certainly issues, stories, and voices that needed to be recognised in our ongoing work. Our attendees built upon the concept of the need to provide multi-sensory / blended approaches within digital arts and culture activities. They questioned how we could use technology to provide the accessibility benefits of digital communication tools, while also facilitating some of the sensory experiences that can be achieved through in-person work.

Virtual reality was mooted as one opportunity for such endeavours, that may be able to provide a more immersive and engaging experience for participants. Meanwhile, others felt that diversity in the fidelity of technologies involved, a mixture of low and high-tech, was more appropriate – by allowing people with different attitudes and abilities to be involved. Nevertheless, others remained skeptical, asking whether technology could ever present a worthy alternative to in-person arts and cultural activities.

The concept of self-efficacy (an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments) was another theme that the attendees wanted to further unpick. Although, there was agreement with regards to the potential of participatory processes to grant older adults opportunities to shape their involvement in digital arts and culture, some raised the point that without perceived competence in one’s own abilities, the people who might most benefit from support in these areas may be apprehensive about getting involving in these activities. Hence, some attendees mooted the stepwise approach of involving older adults in a range of interesting arts and cultural activities and placing an emphasis on building trusting relationships (with researchers and each other) and developing their confidence within these settings. Within these safe environments could be the best place to approach new topics – such as digital technologies.

Another salient point raised pertaining to self-efficacy considered older people beyond the end of the Connecting Through Culture as We Age project. Several of the attendees questioned how projects such as this one planned to ensure a project legacy that goes beyond project outputs and changes the course of people’s lives. Would the older people (and organisations) we work with during the course of the project retreat when the time comes for the researchers to step back from support activities? How could they continue to build upon any newly developed skills – digital technology is forever and rapidly evolving? In the case of Connecting Through Culture as We Age, how can we ensure that this project scales to impact more than just the lucky few co-researchers?

Following on from this, it was clear that maintaining and expanding upon any positive outcomes of the project would not be feasible without the enduring support of older people’s organisations and government. Presently most of the key work in digital arts and cultural participation is carried out by the charity sector, and we owe it to our partners to advocate for their further support. By leveraging our partnerships, we need to connect our work to the services of these organisations and attempt to influence policy making to support their work.

Q4: From the provocations, which do you think are the most important issues we need to explore further, and why? 

Some of the issues raised throughout this post remained worthy of further exploration, including empowering and supporting older adults, discovering new ways to blend digital and in-person participation, and the importance of establishing influential partnerships that can shape policy.

Yet, one of the most eagerly broached issues concerned the development of relationships between researchers and the communities, especially marginalised groups, that they wish to research. This feeds into one of the central tenets of the Connecting Through Culture as We Age project, co-production. The attendees were proponents of the idea that it is equally about the value that researchers can bring to these communities, as it is the value that the communities can bring to research. As noted by Fozia, during her account of experiences working with the Somali community in Bristol, universities do not have the best track record in this regard. Moreover, historically, universities have absconded from the communities after achieving their objectives. With regards to future collaborations, this is a difficult foundation upon which to build trusting, longevous relationships.

Hence, it is key for this project to embrace mutual exchange, but how can this be achieved? There were a range of suggestions, including: pacing research activities slowly, giving the parties time to get to know and understand each other and their cultures prior to any official data collection activities; ensuring that research activities are engaging for participants, as well as capturing data for researchers; recognising that engagement may be something that has to be encouraged at an individual level, with person-centred approaches being key to facilitating fulling participation; making endeavours to flatten any perceived power imbalances between the researchers and participants; encouraging co-ownership of the research and any project outputs, to be shared with participants; and making sure individuals receive fair and proper compensation for their time.

Another important issue that remained ripe for further discuss considered perspectives and language surrounding arts and cultural participation for older people. It was noted that implicitly ageist language was itself exclusionary and presumptuous of differences in the literacies of older people and other groups. Words like “age-friendly” and project / product missions aimed at countering “decline” or “deficits” is not only patronising, but implies that these groups are in someway less capable, as well as placing limitations on technology that is suitable for their use. Too often there are low expectations and a lack of ambition for older people’s use of technology, with many sidelined a simplistic digital consumers rather than those with the potential to create and produce. Instead, older people should be thought of as just that – people – of varying ages, classes, experiences, and backgrounds, and with the right to participate in digital arts and cultural experiences.

Next Steps: Applying these Conversations to Connecting Through Culture as We Age

In the third post of this series, senior research associate, Dr Tim Senior, describes his process of thematic analysis of the contributions from this event as well as other relevant interviews, workshops, and conversations that we’ve undertaken to date. Tim brings these themes together to present a ‘value canvas’ – a means of charting the mission, objectives, strategy, activities, and desired outputs for the Connecting Through Culture as We Age project.

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Event highlights part one – Older people and cultural participation: where next?

Event highlights part one – Older people and cultural participation: where next?

By Tot Foster, Tim Senior and Stuart Gray, 20th September 2021 

On July 7th we ran our first project workshop where, using Zoom, we hosted twelve fantastic speakers from an eclectic range of backgrounds and organisations to offer insights from their work with older adults to deliver cultural activities during the pandemic.

During the event, we listened to our speakers describe their experiences in developing and applying creative and inclusive methods with older people; delivering cultural activities; and describing the landscape of digital inclusion and cultural participation.

In this post we revisit some of our speaker presentations. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog series where we outline some of the themes that emerged from those talks and our attendee discussions.

Speaker Presentation Session One

Speaker: Anne Gallacher, Luminate, Scotland

Title: Creative ageing and digital connection during the pandemic: what did we learn?

About: Anne Gallacher is Director of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation. Anne has worked in the UK arts sector for over 30 years including posts with West Midlands Arts, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Watford Palace Theatre, as well consultancy work and a number of non-exec roles.

Speaker: Kate Parkin, Equal Arts, Newcastle

Title: The importance of ‘holding’ open emotional spaces in digital work with older people

About: Kate is the Creative Age Programme Manager at Equal Arts, a creative ageing charity based in the North East of England. Kate is responsible for overseeing the organisation’s training and arts and health programmes including the production of creative projects in hospitals, community, care and cultural settings. She has significant experience in establishing inclusive, dementia-friendly practice with and for people living with dementia. Kate is currently a North East Champion for the national Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance. She also volunteers as a Director of Wunderbar, a Newcastle based community interest company specialising in playfully disruptive performance and multi-disciplinary projects.

Speaker: Andy Barry, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Title: We’ll Be in Touch – a creative phone service for older people led by older people

About: Andy Barry is a theatre maker and director who currently leads Manchester’s Royal Exchange Elders Company. In 2021, he was in The Stage 100, a list celebrating individuals who helped the theatre industry survive the Covid-19 crisis. During the pandemic Andy originated and led a number of digital projects with older people.

Speaker: Jeanne Ellin

Title: Older Alice down the digital rabbit hole 

About: Jeanne is a Connecting Through Culture As We Age co-researcher. Here is how she describes herself and her life: “I am an Anglo Indian woman, exploring the challenges of her 70’s. No saga type retirement, just an artist in a small bungalow. With more enthusiasm than energy more ideas than money. So much still to learn and enjoy. Wonderful that writing is not something you retire from. Child migrant, left India just after 8tth birthday., I worked as nurse, counsellor and community artist. Most recently writer in residence in a hospice. Not sure I could ever not write. Short fiction is my least well practice medium…most comfortable with poetry and also nibbling away at my fantasy novel.”

Speaker: Bridget Deevy, Bealtaine, Ireland

Title: How going digital impacted Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative during the longest lockdown in Europe.

About: Bridget Deevy has worked as Arts Programme Assistant Manager with Age & Opportunity since 2018 managing flagship initiatives such as the Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative and the Bealtaine Festival. Bridget has over 10 years arts management experience working in areas such as venue programming, festival management and education.

Speaker Presentation Session Two

Speaker: Maddy Mills, Entelechy Arts, London

Title: Cultural (dis)connection – what does the experience of culture via digital mean for our offline communities?

About: Maddy’s work is grounded in the belief that feeling connected to a community – in whatever form that takes – helps people lead healthier and happier lives. Previously working at organisations including Southbank Centre, Kew Gardens and Bloomsbury Festival. She also founded the Family Volunteering Club.

Speaker: Emma Dyer, Alive Activities, Bristol

Title: How do we effectively co-design/produce technological interventions that allow older people to stay connected with each other and their community?

About: Emma started her career as a user centred service designer working with across a number of Design Council initiatives. Since working for Alive she has become an expert in co-production with older people.

Speaker: Fozia Ismail, Arawelo Eats & Dhaqan Collective, Bristol

Title: extract, produce, repeat. Where is the change for minoritized older communities?

About: Fozia Ismail, scholar, cook and founder of Arawelo Eats, a platform for exploring politics, identity and colonialism through East African food. She is a resident of Pervasive Media Studio at the Watershed and co-founder of dhaqan collective, a Somali feminist art collective based in Bristol.

Speaker: Kate Duncan, City Arts, Nottingham

Title: Approaches to Evaluating our work in Creative Ageing

About: Kate Duncan is Programme Director – Wellbeing at City Arts in Nottingham. Kate manages a portfolio of health programmes in Nottingham. City Arts has worked with older people for over 10 years in partnership with health and care professionals, cultural and heritage organisations.

Speaker: Kristina Leonnet, Centre for Ageing Better

Title: Digital Inclusion Support

About: Kristina Leonnet is Senior Innovation and Change Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better. She works to bring about change by working closely with partners and people with lived experience to develop forward-thinking ideas which provide practical, scalable solutions.

Speaker: Farrell Renowden, Age of Creativity

Title: Age Sector reflections- community based responses to creativity and digital since lockdown

About: Farrell Renowden is Head of Cultural Partnerships at Age UK Oxfordshire, leads the Age of Creativity and is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion for age England Association

Speaker: Lucia Arias, FACT, Liverpool

Title: Reflections and questions emerging from You’re on mute, FACT Liverpool

About: Lucía Arias, FACT’s Learning Manager, has led a number of learning projects that worked with hard to reach young audiences and teaching practices. At FACT, the learning programme focuses on art commissions and how the collaborative work of artists and participants can engage general audiences in contemporary conversations.

A Note of Thanks

We would like to pay our thanks to the fantastic group of 60 attendees who brought such enthusiasm and wonderful ideas to our first event. We would encourage anyone who attended to get in touch if they are interested in discussing more about the Connecting Through Culture as We Age project or their own relevant work. We’d also like to pay a special thanks to the fantastic speakers, Jeanne, Emma, Anne, Kate P, Andy, Farrell, Fozia, Kate D, Maddy, Lucia, Kristina, and Bridget – we really appreciate your insight and your time!

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Bringing people together through creativity.

Bringing people together through creativity.

A conversation between Maddy Mills, Director of Entelechy Arts and Connecting through Culture researcher, Karen Gray. 10th June 2021

Q1. Tell me about Entelechy Arts.

At Entelechy Arts we work creatively with artists and different communities in and around Lewisham, London and beyond. We collaborate with various communities, including elder people at risk of, or experiencing isolation, people living in care homes and people living with disabilities.

It is these communities who take the lead in collaboration with our artists. They are the decision-makers. Also, our volunteers – some of whom are elder people themselves, are really passionate about making a contribution. The artists we work with are people who really understand the people and the work, some have been with us for 25 years.

Q2. And how have you and your members been affected by Covid?

All have been affected by Covid-19, and some members very disproportionately. Our work has always had a relational element to it. This really came to the fore during the pandemic.

We have had to work in completely different ways. Some of our members don’t have easy access to the internet or computers. If we’d just moved our work to Zoom we would have lost contact with a lot of them. In March 2020 we initially focused on making sure people had support networks around them. The team worked extraordinarily hard to keep in touch with people during lockdowns, through creative activity but also with things like birthday cards, letters, deliveries and doorstep visits.

One way we have been working with people is using Skype in what we call ‘Creative Cluster’ sessions on the telephone.

Q3. How have those calls worked?

They bring different groups of people together to be creative together on the telephone, with an artist. Three telephone choir groups formed out of an existing in-person choir. One of our artists started a ‘Making With’ group, where members use art materials we have posted out. There is a poetry group. All have sprung up in response to members’ requests.

We usually have between four and seven people on each call. Any more than that and things can get tricky. We’ve also been doing one-on-one creative calls with an artist, including for those who are living with dementia, where we know that people just don’t engage well with group phone calls.

Logistically it is complex. We send out information in advance by post, follow up with a phone call to check people can make it and we give them a reminder the day before. Somebody calls each person to let them into the session and is in the background helping people if a call drops out. That’s in addition to the artist and a volunteer. We brought a new member of staff on board specifically to deal with access. She rings around to make sure people are accessing and enjoying the sessions and puts any additional measures in place. For example, in one group someone might say they are struggling to hold a pencil, so she will send them a pencil grip. Having her in post has helped us pay close attention to people and give them important personalised care. She’s also been able to signpost people to other local support groups if needed, welcome newcomers through social prescribing and has been able to support with any wider healthcare concerns.

Most calls are joyful, but sometimes people have really just been sad. And that’s OK. Many members have known somebody who’s died from Covid. There have been moments of joint reflection and grief as well as joy and laughter.

I think a lot of people, including me, assumed that people would attend for escapism or just to add interest to their day. Actually, one woman told me that she has been constantly on the go around the house, and the call was her time to sit down with a cup of tea – for calm and focus. One chap told me he enjoys getting dressed up each week for the call – even though of course no-one can see him.

Q4. And your members have also been making a radio show, is that right?

Yes! Meet Me on the Radio is part of our Meet Me programme which we run in partnership with the Albany theatre in Deptford. It was another way of reaching people and chance for our members to lead. Two of them, Rosaline and Ron, are the hosts. Episodes are released on a Tuesday morning and are then available on demand. All the content is chosen through members’ interests. For example, there was an episode connected with Windrush Day.

People have told us it’s been a source of comfort. By March this year, I think we were up to around 20,000 listens, although it has been surprisingly challenging to track who is listening where. It was only meant to be short-term during the pandemic, but now we’re considering how we can keep it going.

Q5. How has the experience of delivering creativity at home differed from your normal in-person activity?

We were already thinking about how to reach people in their own homes before the pandemic. At home you can sit on your favorite chair, you can eat, you don’t have worries about transport. But many of our elder members don’t have easy access to computers and / or wifi and so have missed much of the creative content that went online. And there is just something fundamental about getting together in person in a group. Whether that is for a cup of tea or to make art or to watch a show, there is communal togetherness in each of those things which can’t be replicated through a digital experience.

Q6. Have you tried any purely digital activity?

There’s our programme called Ambient Jam. This is co-created with people who are living with profound and multiple learning disabilities. To my mind Ambient Jam zooms are the most wildly creative use of Zoom I have ever seen.

Imagine a virtual room of people, some of whom are non-verbal: in advance they may have been asked to collect a list of themed objects, maybe – something shiny, something orange, something you can see through. Facilitating artists create a ‘working score’ through which members are prompted to present the things they have brought through non-verbal physical improvisation including music and sound. As they do this the whole screen fills up with textures and colours. Add music and it’s almost filmic! They create these epic improvisatory sensory experiences together. It’s not a patch on being together in person, but the team have done an extraordinary job making the most of being together digitally.

Q7. And what is going to happen next?

We’re slowly returning to in-person activity. Some people understandably aren’t ready, so we are continuing to run a remote programme. It’s not sustainable long term without additional funding but we won’t leave anyone behind.

There’s this narrative coming out about how digital has increased access to culture during the pandemic. It has in many ways, but the digital divide is real. We need to keep working together as a sector to ensure the arts are available to everybody, including those who are digitally excluded. We have to make sure we tell that story as well.

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Writing a ‘Values Poem’: a Workshop with Bristol University Collaborators

Writing a ‘Values Poem’: a Workshop with Bristol University Collaborators

By Sian Ephgrave, 30th July 2021

Workshop Process

Challenge, empathy, freedom, care. These are some of the core values of the Connecting Through Culture as We Age project, as expressed by collaborators from the University of Bristol.

The members of the Bristol Uni Connecting Through Culture team hold a wide range of interests and expertise. I was excited to be asked to facilitate an online workshop with the aim of bringing these interests together into a shared statement of values. The group did not know, at the beginning of the session, that the finished statement would take poetic form, so it was a bit of a ‘magical mystery tour’ for them! I was grateful for their trust and openness in embracing the process.

The workshop I was offering up was originally designed during my doctoral research as part of a creative methodology exploring teacher wellbeing. It uses a combination of: private reflection; identification of feelings; conceptual thinking; creative writing; and collaboration.

The different elements of the workshop are brought together via a communication philosophy and practice called Nonviolent (or Compassionate) Communication (NVC). NVC was developed by the late Marshal Rosenberg. He describes NVC as ‘a way of communicating that leads us to give from the heart’ by ‘reframing how we express ourselves and hear others’ (Rosenberg 2015:3). NVC uses a deconstructed communication process – I like to compare it to a deconstructed apple crumble – to arrive at what is ‘alive’ for someone in a given moment. This helps to get to the essence of what truly matters to that person, rather than focusing on: moral judgement; intellectual understanding; or, emotions. As with a deconstructed dessert, with NVC the different components of our usual communications are separated out to arrive at something (hopefully) a little more refined and beauty-full. (By the way I have nothing against traditional apple crumble, it’s just by way of illustration!) You can see a five minute introduction to the practice here.

I first began learning about NVC in my early twenties and I have found it immensely helpful in my personal and professional life. I mainly learned NVC from two fantastic teachers, Jayaraja Dh – who offers a series of six free videos on NVC here – and Dorota Godby who works locally and remotely with Highly Sensitive People, helping them to deal with overwhelm.

In the workshop, I asked the Bristol Uni team members to reflect on a recent experience that had affected them in some way. They used these reflections to arrive at a concept or – in NVC terms – a need that was relevant to that experience and also in some way relatable to the Connecting Through Culture project. From here, small groups were formed in Zoom breakout rooms and collaborative writing methods were used to create sections of a poetic ‘Values Manifesto’. (You can read the finished manifesto at the end of this blog post.) Collaborative writing can feel strange for people who are not used to it. It requires a certain level of vulnerability in exposing how we think and write. We are not normally taught to do this, but rather to present a finished piece (except in Maths where showing ‘workings out’ is more openly encouraged). As a teacher of English, I have worked with students of all ages from 11 to adult, and I have found collaborative writing to be a great way to share not only ideas but also ways of thinking things through.

Before I leave you to enjoy the finished piece from the workshop, I’d like to offer a short note on the idea of poetic manifestos. When we hear the term manifesto we are likely to think of political writings such as Karl Marx’s Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (Communist Party Manifesto). However, manifestos are written for ‘myriad reasons … some are personal, some are political and others are written with aspirations to high cultural ideals’ (Lack 2017:xiii). The word manifesto has its roots in the Latin manifestare, which means to ‘make public’ or ‘make obvious’. Challenge, empathy, freedom, care. All of these ideas are universally recognisable in some form or another. But they are difficult to define, to pin-down. Such is the nature of an abstract concept like ‘values’; it can be difficult to define our own values, let alone the shared values of a group. Creative expression, such as poetry, can be more useful in getting to the essence of subtle, abstract concepts than trying to break the thing down into ever smaller, measurable minutiae. (This is one of the most important findings from my own research on wellbeing – another concept that is universally recognised but ‘lived out’ with infinite variance.) The aim of a poetic manifesto then, can be said to make subtle and elusive ideas more obvious in their essence. I hope as you read the one below you will gain a sense of the shared values of the Bristol Uni Connecting Through Culture team, and their aspirations for the project.

Connecting Through Culture as We Age Bristol University Team’s ‘Values Manifesto’

There is a need for challenge.
It’s competitive, as a word.
Standing in front of us
like an obstacle.
Landing in front of us,
a gauntlet thrown by life,
but fun, doable, an invited battle,
sometimes self-imposed.

Doesn’t have to be big, but
I’ve won the Olympics
and no one, except me, knows.

Adrenalin fueled courage,
a surfer’s wave, a climber’s mountain,
coming over that peak,
reaching that hold,
confronting injustice.
Getting through the day.

Standing on the podium, trophy aloft.
There is a need for challenge.

There is a need for empathy.
See the other side,
building bridges with a brew.
Do not let it boil!

This is how I feel:
Hold the mirror to your ear,
I’ll try to see you.

Walking in your shoes,
though not my style at all,
Our strides synchronise.
There is a need for empathy.

There is a need for freedom.
Standing on the brow of the deck – wind in the hair
a green light.
We’re going places,
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.

Standing on a hill – open horizons,
independent thinking,
thoughts and bodies flying in opposite directions,
then back together like murmurations.

Who gets to choose?

To surf, feel at one with the waves,
light, buffeted by the sea breeze
or
feel the weight of four walls crushing possibilities,
heavy bodies and minds.

Searching for home sweet home
with cousins and family or friends
or
live alone in the bee-loud glade.
There is a need for freedom.

There is a need for care.
Caring for, caring about, caring with,
giving.
Where caring for and caring about meet,
putting something beyond your own needs and desires,
engaging with something outside of yourself
– that’s more than giving.

Giving and receiving
relational
give and take
sacrifice on both sides.

Resonance – resonate with, resound, reverberate or echo,
but can be pulled apart and put under pressure.

A balance, the different weight of responsibility.

Listening powerfully,
attentiveness
not paternalistic (or maternalistic).

A practice,
part of what
makes us animal
makes us human,
more than human.

A deficit and an abundance of care is always clear,
carefree but not careless,
a complex intertwining of your inner worlds.

Love
and care go hand in hand
but there’s something cynical about it –
care in the community.
A caring infrastructure and distribution of resources.
Love.

There is a need for care.

References

Lack, J. (2017): Why are we ‘artists’? 100 World Art Manifestos, Milton Keynes: Penguin Classics

Rosenberg, M. (2015): Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, California: PuddleDancer Press.

About the Blogger

Sian Ephgrave is a doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol’s School of Education and a part-time lecturer on the English Literature and Community Engagement BA. Her PhD is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It focuses on the wellbeing of English teachers with an overstory of inclusion through democratic fellowship. It is a co-creative project conducted with members of the National Writing Project UKand other English teachers. Sian combines research, teaching and writing with bringing up her young daughter. She is interested in Early Years practices and an advocate of play-based learning.

Categories
Research

Re-imagining museums as decolonised repositories of all our stories.

Re-imagining museums as decolonised repositories of all our stories.

By Tot Foster, 17th June 2021 

Black South West network (BSWN) www.blacksouthwestnetwork.org, one of the key partners for Connecting Through Culture, held a seminar ‘Beyond Museums in the Aftermath of Colston’ on the 7th June. This marked the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, including those in Bristol which reflected the wider movement but also highlighted debate about colonial objects. 150 people joined the seminar online and a panel of scholars, activists, and community members discussed the present role and potential futures of museums in larger conversations and movements around race and racism and the decolonisation of cultural heritage. The whole event is available to watch on BSWN’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEyqjpw8e1I 

The very same day, on a personal level, I started work as a Research Associate on Connecting Through Culture. Whilst looking forward to my new role and the opportunities it offers to understand and act on digital inclusion, the seminar underlined the huge responsibility such a post carries; the absolute need for humility, deep reflection and action on decolonisation that comes with being involved in a cultural project that aims for true inclusivity and accountability.  

Rob Mitchell, from Firstborn Creatives, chaired the event which opened with Sado Jirde, Director of BSWN, reminding us that “we need to change the types of questions we ask and the outcomes we want” to achieve sustainable action and racial justice in cultural organisations. She raised the question as to whether museums, as they are currently constructed, can hold and tell the stories of racially minoritised people. She asked us to dream together about something that isn’t simply ‘slight tweaks’ that aim for assimilation, but instead offers a ‘third space’ that encapsulates intangible heritage; a solution that is dynamic and community-led, not necessarily focused on objects in a building. 

Dr Errol Francis, CEO of Culture&, was the keynote speaker. He expanded on museums complicity in maintaining colonialism and imperialism, with statements of solidarity with BLM being tokenistic and lacking clear commitment, and for Bristol it being “not enough to say their digital offering is going to reflect real stories”. He talked about Bristol museums failure to return Benin bronzes, their obfuscation of the city’s colonial past, and how traumatic memories can be re-opened on visiting museums. He called for intangible heritage, the stories that objects cannot tell, to be at the forefront of a radical new approach. 

As a researcher myself, working with communities, cultural institutions and Bristol University, it was then fascinating to hear Matt Branch from Brown University talk about the BSWN research project; Examining the Situation of Decolonisation Within the Culture and Heritage Sector in The South West of England’ (2020) This research involved in-depth conversations with many community-based organisations and staff from over 15 cultural heritage institutions in the region. Matt Branch went through the findings of the project (available on the link above). He related how senior staff in mainstream organisations are comfortable with defining and explaining inclusion using ‘hospitality’ language but are less engaged with decolonisation and addressing fundamental injustices in power and resourcing. He talked about a tension between values and actions, the latter being stymied by concerns over losing core audience; ‘How do you bring along an audience who love you the way you are?’. He pointed out that the fall of Colston through direct action changes the question that mainstream institutions should be asking themselves to ‘How can you risk not taking action? Matt Branch, in critiquing outreach-based partnerships as not being genuinely collaborative nor long-lasting, suggested that mainstream institutions should be leveraging institutional power and resources for those who have none and then ‘getting out of the way’. From community organisations’ points of view mainstream organisations have an ‘unwillingness to give up power’ and a lack of trust and diversity in the workforce, exclusion, and extractive relationships prevent meaningful partnerships developingLimited capacity in mainstream cultural organisations is a problem too; expertise in community engagement tends to be ‘ghettoised’ within bridging partnership organisations rather than being held within the mainstream institutions that are not placing community engagement at the heart of their offering.A panel discussion followed with:

  • Dr Errol Francis – CEO of Culture& 
  • Asher Craig -Deputy Mayor 
  • Edson Burton – Writer, Historian, Curator and member of Come The Revolution 
  • Lisa Graves – World Cultures and Archaeology Curator 
  • Kelly Foster – Historian  
  • Cleo Lake – Black Artists On The Move 
  • Tom Morris – Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic
  • Sado Jirde – Director of BSWN  

There was general agreement that pressing conversations are needed across Bristol around decolonisation, reparations and the allocation of resources. In short there needs to be an acknowledgement of power relationships in the heritage and cultural sector, and action taken to move power and resources into the community. Cleo Lake reflected on the purpose of museums and re-framed them as ‘centres of remembrance’. Ed Burton asked ‘what is the nation now?’ as he described museums as needing to tell a new national story, talking about the importance of archiving community assets in alternative spaces. Kelly Foster underlined that it is impossible to disengage decolonisation from restitution and reparations and raised issues of top-down classification in museums as creating structures that perpetuate exclusion. Lisa Graves talked about the new Colston display at M-shed where the recovered statue of Colston is being displayed alongside placards from the protests. She articulated some of the challenges for the council which can slow down change. Tom Morris spoke from the perspective of being on a journey towards decolonisation at the Old Vic theatre. He described the need to counter the ‘concerted act of suppression of conscience’ which has supported injustice over the centuries. He reminded us that this journey involves learning and making mistakes but that powerful storytelling is a catalyst for change.  

As I left the Zoom call I felt inspired, and perhaps a little daunted. It is absolutely clear that Connecting Through Culture needs to be part of an urgent sea change in empowering all communities to control how their heritage is remembered and communicated. As a research team we must ensure that co-production methods bring community and university partners and closer together, that there is a movement of power and resource into the community and that our work does not further assimilate people’s stories into existing or new problematic institutional structures. The project needs to create spaces beyond the museum and beyond objects, where intangible heritage is recorded and celebrated; given its rightful place at the heart of our understanding of the past and present and our shared humanity.  

Categories
Research

Creating the void: collective change in shared isolation – Farrell Renowden in conversation with researcher Karen Gray

Creating the void: collective change in shared isolation – Farrell Renowden in conversation with researcher Karen Gray

Karen Gray, 25th May 2021

Farrell Renowden is Head of Cultural Partnerships at Age UK OxfordshireAge of Creativity Director, Equality Diversity Inclusion Champion at Age England Association and one of our ‘Connecting through Culture’ project’s expert advisors. We spoke at the end of April 2021 and amongst other things, we discussed what COVID has taught us about digital or ‘blended’ approaches to arts and cultural participation involving older people. This blog presents highlights of this conversation.  

How would you characterise the ‘shift to digital’ during the pandemic? and has there been a timeline for this? 

It’s gone in stages. There was that period of everybody scrambling to get online, but it soon became clear that there wasn’t enough understanding around people who aren’t online, and that the groundwork hadn’t been done to explore the nature and quality of the connections that are possible there. That was when I set up a kind of ‘non-digital’ working group of people who were grappling with these issues. It felt important to explore how to work in ways that weren’t digital, given the urgent needs of older people and the uncertainty over when and how the lockdown would ease.  

Lots of organisations across the country developed physical creative packs, some going out with essential care packages and into places like care homes where access was difficult. Producing our own pack, we experienced the logistic nightmare of printing and packing in total lockdown, but, in discussion with other organisations, we also spent time reflecting on whether we could make this response sustainable longer term.  It has been hard to know whether these responses were an effective one-off or if they are evolving into a new approach to delivery. 

Over the summer it felt like things began to change again. The Black Lives Matter protests really challenged people to think again about inclusion. By the autumn we were thinking about digital in quite a different way and grappling with different issues of logistics and quality.  By this point, focus had moved to ‘blended’ approaches – that sweet spot between the online and offline that meets people ‘where they are at right now’. As a non-digital working group we were evolving into this space, but still uncertain about how best to deliver on multiple platforms, or what it would mean for participants and practitioners.  

And now? 

It feels we’re in for yet another shift. Online seems to have evolved dramatically and the sophistication of the offer is astounding in such a short period of time.  But this has come at a cost.  Freelancers have had to think on their feet and shift their practice with little support or training.  Larger organisations have invested in their offer and more digital cultural content seems to be being monetized.  While this may be a necessity for the survival of the sector, it means we may have another set of barriers to contend with in terms of equity of access to culture.  

Organisations are also shifting back towards in-person work again.  We know that for some older people who never made the transition to digital, this is a welcome relief, but we also know that confidence across older populations to take part in face to face activity is still really low. And there is still lots to unpick about the odd middle-ground blended space.  

A collage of a person

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Participants in the ‘Framing Oxford’ project. Credit: Helen Fountain and AUKO. 

Yes. I’m interested to know more about what blended means in this context. 

I can tell you what it meant for a project we delivered: this was the post-lockdown adaptation of a project, originally designed to take place in person in our local heritage centre. The aim was to work with a group of older people to create a new archive based on their local area. With in-person participation no longer an option, we felt it was important they could take part in a way that worked for them.   

We offered the opportunity to take part on Zoom, by phone, by email, or through the post. We could have run two projects in tandem – one offline, one online – but we were keen to pilot a ‘third way’ where participants weren’t segregated by the communication tool they chose.  We felt it was important to give people the option to move between channels if they wished or if their circumstances changed, with the content staying the same. We also wanted to maintain a whole group feel so that everyone felt part of the same project.  

We are used to going with the flow and responding to the needs of the group, but the blended approach added yet another dimension. Our participants had equal status in the decision-making processes; they weren’t guinea pigs. Our shared anticipation of the unknown helped created a safe space where we all contributed to shaping the project and refining the approach. In the end the group made a short film as the final community archive, as well as adding new items to the collection, including transcripts, paintings and photographs – but no one knew quite what would happen at the start.  

What were the benefits of doing it this way? 

It meant we were able to involve people who were housebound or shielding. The project also reached people it wouldn’t have done if it had been face to face. One lady was receiving end-of-life care at home and although she sadly subsequently passed away, she was able to take part. Others had really significant caring responsibilities. It was important that, although the participants didn’t know each other at the start, they had a neighbourhood and community in common, so they were able to bond through that. We also saw real shifts of online confidence happening, with people moving from taking part by post to phone to online with support.  

And what challenges did this way of working bring? 

Time and resources. We were confident about the quality of the creative content, but the delivery was totally different to anything we had ever done before, and that was hard. 

The project raised a lot of questions for us. What does active or passive ‘engagement’ or ‘participation’ look like when it is happening on screen, on the phone, through the post or on email? How do you recognise when it is working well? How do you create and maintain the feel of being in a group when people are taking part in different ways and at different times? Are some artforms better suited to this kind of approach than others?  

It also raised ethical issues. It is harder to see whether something arriving with a participant through the post is causing harm. There is also a worry that we may be starting something we won’t have capacity to follow through on. And evaluating this kind of work is still new for most of us. 

Timeline

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Age of Creativity Festival 2021 Roadmap

Where do you see as the opportunities for the future? 

Although the past year has been very challenging, it has never felt a better time to be involved with creativity and culture in the age sector. It’s funny how, pre-pandemic, creativity and culture was definitely seen as an add-on: people might say ‘yeah, it’s nice and we definitely get the value of it’ but then it was difficult to move the agenda forward. The pandemic has driven home the fact that it’s not just ‘nice’, it’s essential.  We genuinely felt like key workers during the pandemic. Perhaps more strikingly, the people in the ageing sector also perceived us in that way.  The momentum for change now feels palpable. 

I’ve noticed funders placing more emphasis on the role of community connections than before. There seems a greater need for partnership-working. And, with the larger, often building-based organisations coming back into the picture as people return from furlough and the move to re-open, they are finding that some of the smaller more flexible, community-focused, place-based arts and non-arts organisations – and individual practitioners – have developed a stronger voice, because it is they who have been delivering this essential cultural work throughout. Through it all, culture never stopped, it’s just been happening in different ways – and continues to do so. 

Farrell Renowden: farrellrenowden@ageukoxfordshire.org.uk @FarrellRenowden 

Karen Gray: kcrgray@gmail.com @kcrgray 

Categories
Events

Event: Older people and cultural participation: where next?

Older people and cultural participation: where next? – Co-developed by Age of Creativity, CADA & University of Bristol Connecting through Culture as we age project team

07/07/2021 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM BST

University of Bristol

This event is for those working with older people, including practitioners, arts and cultural organisations and researchers focusing on arts and cultural participation and/or interested in digital inclusion and social connectivity.

The aims of the workshop are:

  • To reflect on and share stories of what we have learned concerning older people, digital inclusion, social connectivity and arts/cultural participation during the pandemic
  • To condense this learning in order to communicate it to funders and policy makers
  • To identify what we want to explore now and in the future and what is not yet known in this area

Speakers will offer unique insights into their experiences of working with older adults to deliver cultural activities during the pandemic, including examples of best practice, innovative methods and lessons learned.

Breakout rooms will provide opportunities for smaller group conversations and opportunities for discussion: What have we learnt and what do we want to communicate to funders and policy makers? What are the key questions the sector needs to be exploring going forwards?

We hope attendees will leave the event having learned some new ways to engage with older people in this area and having made new connections with others working in the field. The event will feed into future activities and create connections for attendees with the ongoing work of Age of Creativity, Creative Ageing Development Agency and the three year ‘Connecting through Culture as we Age’ project. Learnings from the event will be summarised and presented to policy makers and funders.

While we understand that it is not always entirely accurate we intend to enable live transcription from Zoom during the event which we hope will improve accessibility. We encourage attendees to post messages in chat, respond to an in-event poll and participate in breakout rooms during the more interactive parts of the event.

We understand it is not always possible for people to attend events without financial support and therefore have offered 5 bursaries of £75 on a first come first serve basis which have now all been applied for.

Unfortunately we are not able to fund more than 5 on this occasion. We will inform the five bursary recipients in advance of the event taking place. If you are not emailed in advance of the event to be advised that you have been awarded a bursary then you will have not been successful.


Our Schedule

Welcome and Introduction


Following a welcome and an introductory segment from Principal Investigator, Dr Helen Manchester, we will begin our guest speaker sessions. For each session speakers will give a provocation of around 5 minutes before moving into breakout rooms for discussions. Find our speakers listed below.

Session 1


Credit Eoin Carey

Speaker: Anne Gallacher, Luminate, Scotland

Title: Creative ageing and digital connection during the pandemic: what did we learn?

About: Anne Gallacher is Director of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation. Anne has worked in the UK arts sector for over 30 years including posts with West Midlands Arts, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Watford Palace Theatre, as well consultancy work and a number of non-exec roles.

Speaker: Kate Parkin, Equal Arts, Newcastle

Title: The importance of ‘holding’ open emotional spaces in digital work with older people

About: Kate is the Creative Age Programme Manager at Equal Arts, a creative ageing charity based in the North East of England. Kate is responsible for overseeing the organisation’s training and arts and health programmes including the production of creative projects in hospitals, community, care and cultural settings. She has significant experience in establishing inclusive, dementia-friendly practice with and for people living with dementia. Kate is currently a North East Champion for the national Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance. She also volunteers as a Director of Wunderbar, a Newcastle based community interest company specialising in playfully disruptive performance and multi-disciplinary projects.

Speaker: Andy Barry, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Title: We’ll Be in Touch – a creative phone service for older people led by older people

About: Andy Barry is a theatre maker and director who currently leads Manchester’s Royal Exchange Elders Company. In 2021, he was in The Stage 100, a list celebrating individuals who helped the theatre industry survive the Covid-19 crisis. During the pandemic Andy originated and led a number of digital projects with older people.

Speaker: Jeanne Ellin

Title: Older Alice down the digital rabbit hole

About: Jeanne is a Connecting Through Culture As We Age co-researcher. Here is how she describes herself and her life: “I am an Anglo Indian woman, exploring the challenges of her 70’s. No saga type retirement, just an artist in a small bungalow. With more enthusiasm than energy more ideas than money. So much still to learn and enjoy. Wonderful that writing is not something you retire from. Child migrant, left India just after 8tth birthday., I worked as nurse, counsellor and community artist. Most recently writer in residence in a hospice. Not sure I could ever not write. Short fiction is my least well practice medium…most comfortable with poetry and also nibbling away at my fantasy novel.”

Speaker: Bridget Deevy, Bealtaine, Ireland

Title: How going digital impacted Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative during the longest lockdown in Europe.

About: Bridget Deevy has worked as Arts Programme Assistant Manager with Age & Opportunity since 2018 managing flagship initiatives such as the Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative and the Bealtaine Festival. Bridget has over 10 years arts management experience working in areas such as venue programming, festival management and education.



Session 2


Credit Lydia Stamps Photography

Speaker: Maddy Mills, Entelechy Arts, London

Title: Cultural (dis)connection – what does the experience of culture via digital mean for our offline communities?

About: Maddy’s work is grounded in the belief that feeling connected to a community – in whatever form that takes – helps people lead healthier and happier lives. Previously working at organisations including Southbank Centre, Kew Gardens and Bloomsbury Festival. She also founded the Family Volunteering Club.

Speaker: Emma Dyer, Alive Activities, Bristol

Title: How do we effectively co-design/produce technological interventions that allow older people to stay connected with each other and their community?

About: Emma started her career as a user centred service designer working with across a number of Design Council initiatives. Since working for Alive she has become an expert in co-production with older people.

Speaker: Fozia Ismail, Arawelo Eats & Dhaqan Collective, Bristol

Title: extract, produce, repeat. Where is the change for minoritized older communities?

About: Fozia Ismail, scholar, cook and founder of Arawelo Eats, a platform for exploring politics, identity and colonialism through East African food. She is a resident of Pervasive Media Studio at the Watershed and co-founder of dhaqan collective, a Somali feminist art collective based in Bristol.

Speaker: Kate Duncan, City Arts, Nottingham

Title: Approaches to Evaluating our work in Creative Ageing

About: Kate Duncan is Programme Director – Wellbeing at City Arts in Nottingham. Kate manages a portfolio of health programmes in Nottingham. City Arts has worked with older people for over 10 years in partnership with health and care professionals, cultural and heritage organisations.

Speaker: Kristina Leonnet, Centre for Ageing Better

Title: Digital Inclusion Support

About: Kristina Leonnet is Senior Innovation and Change Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better. She works to bring about change by working closely with partners and people with lived experience to develop forward-thinking ideas which provide practical, scalable solutions.

Speaker: Lucia Arias, FACT, Liverpool

Title: Reflections and questions emerging from You’re on mute, FACT Liverpool

About: Lucía Arias, FACT’s Learning Manager, has led a number of learning projects that worked with hard to reach young audiences and teaching practices. At FACT, the learning programme focuses on art commissions and how the collaborative work of artists and participants can engage general audiences in contemporary conversations.

Speaker: Farrell Renowden, Age of Creativity

Title: Age Sector reflections- community based responses to creativity and digital since lockdown

About: Farrell Renowden is Head of Cultural Partnerships at Age UK Oxfordshire, leads the Age of Creativity and is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion for age England Association

10.05-10.15

Welcome and Introduction

Helen Manchester, University of Bristol

10.15-10.20

Introduction to Session 1 on Storytelling: What have we learned?

Helen Manchester, University of Bristol

10:20-10:25

Creative ageing and digital connection during the pandemic: what did we learn?

Anne Gallacher, Luminate, Scotland

10:25-10:30

The importance of ‘holding’ open emotional spaces in digital work with older people

Kate Parkin, Equal Arts, Newcastle

10:30-10:35

We’ll Be in Touch – a creative phone service for older people led by older people

Andy Barry, Royal Exchange, Manchester

10:35-10:40

Older Alice down the digital rabbit hole

Jeanne Ellin, Bristol

10:40-10:45

How going digital impacted Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative during the longest lockdown in Europe.

Bridget Deevy, Bealtaine, Ireland

10:45-10:50

Introduction to breakout room discussions

Questions to consider:

– Reflecting on the stories presented and your experiences, what have you learned?

– What would we want to tell funders, policy makers or others about what we have learned?

Helen Manchester, University of Bristol

10:50-11:05

Breakout rooms Session 1

All speakers and attendees

11.05-11.15

Break

11:15-11:20

Introduction to Session 2 on Future Provocations : What are the key questions we need to be exploring going forwards?

Helen Manchester, University of Bristol

11:20-11:25

Cultural (dis)connection – what does the experience of culture via digital mean for our offline communities?

Maddy Mills, Entelechy Arts, London

11:25-11:30

How do we effectively co-design/produce technological interventions that allow older people to stay connected with each other and their community?

Emma Dyer, Alive Activities, Bristol

11:30-11:35

extract, produce, repeat. Where is the change for minoritized older communities?

Fozia Ismail, Arawelo Eats & Dhaqan Collective, Bristol

11:35-11:40

Approaches to Evaluating our work in Creative Ageing

Kate Duncan, City Arts, Nottingham

11:40-11:45

Digital Inclusion Support

Kristina Leonnet, Centre for Ageing Better

11:45-11:50

Reflections and questions emerging from You’re on mute, FACT Liverpool

Lucia Arias, FACT, Liverpool

11:50-11:55

Age Sector reflections- community based responses to creativity and digital since lockdown

Farrell Renowden, Age of Creativity, Oxford

11:55-12:00

Introduction to breakout room discussions

Questions to consider:

– From the provocations, which do you think are the most important issues we need to explore further, and why?

– Are there issues which havent been mentioned which should also be explored?

Helen Manchester, University of Bristol

12:00-12:20

Breakout rooms session 2

All speakers and attendees

12:20-12:30

Next steps

Helen Manchester, University of Bristol

Categories
Participation

Crowdsourcing creative methods

Crowdsourcing creative methods.

By Helen Manchester, 27th April 2021

Our project is researching arts and culture but also drawing on creative, participatory methods in order to do so. 

The aims of the first work package of the project are to work with our community partners; WECIL, KWA and BSWN to recruit 7 co-researcher from each of the three communities we are working with and to build their trust. We will then use ethnographically inspired methods to work with them to find out more about their experiences of digital inclusion, arts and cultural participation, social connectivity, and how inequalities might intersect with the above. As we are still living with the consequences of COVID 19 we knew we needed to design a toolbox of creative methods so that our co-researchers could choose what felt right to them as we begin to build trust and relationships between the team of researchers, community partners and co-researchers.

The first phase of the research involved a workshop with researchers and practitioners interested in creative research methods and creative research design. We invited practitioners from the charity Alive who have been working digitally with older people for many years and innovating during the various pandemic lockdowns to continue and grow these connections. We invited some of the brilliant doctoral students at the School of Education to join the core research team, bringing their expertise in creative and participatory methods.

In the workshop we heard about Alive’s work during the pandemic in connecting older people in care settings and in the community through telephone meet up calls, the online dance classes delivered from Argentina into care homes in Bristol, UK and the intergenerational encounters that had been developed between young and older people through swapping poetry , artwork and growing seeds together. Drawing on these ideas and extending them we crowdsourced ideas for methods that might help us to better understand the everyday lived experiences of the co-researchers. Rather than simply interviewing them about, for instance, the kinds of devices they own or how confident they are in using them, or asking them how many people they see in a day we wanted to focus instead on how digital media is embedded in their everyday lives, routines and places (specifically in their homes). We are interested in how arts and culture might be experienced in the mundanity of the routines of everyday living, how older people from our 3 different communities experience digital media in sensory, embodied and affective ways and how these experiences might both increase and decrease feelings of, and opportunities for, social connectivity. We believe that our experience of digital technologies and the content of digital media is part of the everyday temporalities and materialities or the ‘textures’ of our homes. 

As we worked together, using a digital platform to collate our ideas, we were able to discuss in detail the kinds of methods that we thought might work well in order to research the everyday experiences of the co-researchers we will be working alongside. Methods that were suggested included: dairies e.g., video or audio diaries, written diaries or photo diaries or collages of a ‘day in the life of’ using magazines and other images; third voice poems where conversations with our co-researchers are then turned into poetry alongside local poets or secondary school students; using maps to understand how and where social connections are being made and places in the city where arts and culture are enjoyed; telephone conferencing focus groups where images are sent out beforehand to elicit responses and co-production activities already used successfully by Alive to co-design arts and cultural activities, based on people’s interests. 

The next stage in our project will be to develop these ideas and begin to pilot them with our community co-researchers.