Creative Journeys copy

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

Creative Journeys developed in collaboration with Sinfonia Viva as a project format using the arts as a way of supporting isolated and vulnerable people, where participants could actively engage in a creative process through a series of workshops; composing new songs celebrating aspects of their lives, past and present.

In the first Creative Journeys project in Brentwood in 2017, new pieces created during the creative process were orchestrated so they could be sung by the participants alongside Sinfonia Viva in a performance 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


Research undertaken during the first Creative Journeys project in Brentwood*, Essex, in 2017 by Anglia Ruskin University found the following outcomes:

  • 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

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.

Future plans

At the start of 2020, plans were in place for developed strands of Creative Journeys to begin with partners in South Holland in Lincolnshire, Babergh in Suffolk and Broadland in Norfolk. As a result of the pandemic, project delivery had to be drastically reconsidered and digital was not a suitable option due to lack of technological infrastructure available in the care settings where participants were based and, at that time, shielding. To address the need for creative activity that could not be delivered online or in person, Extraordinary Arts Packs were created and distributed across South Holland, Babergh and Broadland in spring 2021. Read Senior Creative Producer Jan Ford's reflections on the creation of the arts packs.

Participants' creative responses to these art packs will be collected and celebrated in the next stage of Creative Journeys activity once we can gather and meet with our participants in person again.


These projects have been produced through collaborations between Orchestras Live, Sinfonia Viva and local partners: Essex County Cultural Development, Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Council, Hadleigh Dementia Action Alliance and South Holland District Council.

*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.