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.

Read the project evaluation from Anglia Ruskin University

Subsequent projects

In 2019, the artistic team of Sinfonia Viva musicians led by composer Sam Glazer worked with local care home residents, care staff, and people living with dementia and family carers at a Memories Café in Hadleigh, Suffolk, listening to music and creating a new song inspired by the sea. The groups then came together to give a public performance of the music they had created alongside the orchestra and baritone soloist Thomas Mole.

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 continues to be replicated and developed through other Orchestras Live partnerships including in South Holland, 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

These projects have been produced through collaborations between Orchestras Live, Sinfonia Viva and local partners: Essex County Cultural Development, Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Council and Hadleigh Dementia Action Alliance. The orchestral projects in Essex were part of a wider Creative Journeys programme celebrating the creative contribution of older people in society, which includes parallel strands of work by Green Candle Dance, Age Exchange and Magic Me.