Creative Journeys

A broad arts programme celebrating the creative contribution of older people in society.

What we wanted to achieve

Building on pilot project activity across the north of the county, in 2017 Orchestras Live worked with Sinfonia Viva on Creative Journeys, a creative music project in four Essex care homes designed to improve the social interaction of residents, reduce loneliness and encourage more positive perceptions of the creative abilities of older people in their communities.

An associated strand of academic evaluation by Anglia Ruskin University researched the impact of arts activity on social interaction between older people and care workers in the homes and their wider communities.

A care home staff member dancing with a seated elderly lady in a wheelchair.

Spontaneous dancing during Creative Journeys performance with Sinfonia Viva in 2017.

Credit: Paul Starr, Essex County Council

What happened

Participants were actively engaged in the creative process through a series of workshops; composing new songs celebrating aspects of their lives, past and present. The new pieces were orchestrated so they could be sung by the participants alongside Sinfonia Viva in a performance at Brentwood, attended by a large audience of carers, family and friends.

I felt moved to write…. Elderly people have little or no chance of live orchestral music and to be part of the team producing such an experience is truly uplifting, as well as stimulating and unforgettable… the atmosphere today was one of warmth, camaraderie and passion, and I sincerely hope you will be able to do many more of these events to help elderly people make the most of their latter years.

~ Care home staff member

Outcomes

Research undertaken by Anglia Ruskin University found the following outcomes as part of the wider Creative Journeys arts programme, of which this orchestral strand of work was a part:

  • Positive impact on relationships between care home residents, between care home residents and staff, and between care home residents and relatives.
  • Potential to break down barriers between those living in care homes and the wider community, through participatory arts activities.
  • The unique qualities of the arts, engaged residents and enabled them to express themselves creatively, build on their strengths and abilities as well as make meaningful contributions to their relationships and their communities.
  • The project facilitated an opportunity for collaboration between participatory arts organisations with shared values and approaches, with promising implications for joint working in the future.

Each and every one of the 17 residents that I brought to the performance benefited from being involved and I think that it is a huge testament to the power of music for those with dementia as 99% of our residents that came along yesterday suffer from this condition and they were all captivated and attentive when often they would often be fidgety and agitated in some cases.

~ Leanne, Activities Manager at Squirrels Residential Home

Future plans

As an effective model relevant to older people and their carers, Creative Journeys has been replicated in Norfolk and Lincolnshire. It is also at the heart of more sustained, long-term projects Orchestras Live has planned for communities in Suffolk, and a multi-faceted project in Essex where older people and carers will become part of a company of creators and performers, working alongside a range of artists, all underpinned by academic research.

Partners

Essex County Cultural Development, the orchestral project is part of the wider Creative Journeys programme celebrating the creative contribution of older people in society, and which includes parallel strands of work by Green Candle Dance, Age Exchange and Magic Me.

Read the project evaluation from Anglia Ruskin University