Sharing experiences through creative conversations

Close-up of a colourful paint palette and paintbrush

Celebrating Age Wiltshire is county-wide project delivering culture and heritage events and activities in community settings. In this blog, Rebecca Seymour, Creative Producer for Celebrating Age Wiltshire reflects on three years of delivering Creative Conversations which supports people to express their creativity. 

Creative Conversations at home

In Sept 2020, we started delivering sets of ten weekly phone calls to isolated older people in their own homes who had been referred by Social Prescribers, community connectors, friends and family, etc. Paired with a creative artist and a trained volunteer, participants received stimulating phone calls at the same time each week, encouraging them to re visit or start up new creative activities accessible at home.

Materials were posted to them between calls to encourage further activity and preparation for the next call – from poems to wool, from sheet music to pictures of home-grown carrots!

Once our artists were able to visit face-to-face, we started visiting participants in their own homes where they could work creatively and talk to each other, building a close relationship quickly and creating inspiring poems, artwork and songs amongst other lovely things.

What participants say about Creative Conversations at home

  • “Keeping my mind engaged keeps me active, helps me keep well. I so enjoy your visits and Pat’s calls, so stimulating and really look forward to them.”
  • “It has been so good to talk. I feel my morale has been boosted. I feel much better.”
  • “I feel I am living again with you. I get more energy from my Thursday sessions with you. It’s given me confidence to get out again on the good days when I have them.”
  • “It’s so absorbing, it takes me back to my childhood, makes me forget everything”

Creative Conversations in the community

The next stage of the project was to start Creative Conversations groups in libraries and community venues, in order for those feeling isolated, but still mobile enough to get out, to have  the chance to meet new people, share experiences and develop their creativity in safe spaces facilitated by an experienced creative leader.

These group sessions run for 10 weeks and right from the start are encouraged to be participant led, drawing on their ideas and preferences, not dictated by the facilitator. Each week the participants are emboldened to speak, share, make and take control of the group’s direction with the planned outcome of the group continuing – peer led – after the 10 weeks. The agenda is driven by the group and the facilitator is alongside to support, encourage and share in the group’s experiences.

Some participants have lost their partners and are getting used to a new normal. Some are new to the area having moved to be nearer to family. Some just want a safe and unpressurised environment where they can have an outlet for their creative skills.

Whatever the motivation for attending, the aim is for the participants to feel less isolated and lonely and feel supported by others in a similar situation, whilst focusing on creativity, rather than their reasons for attending.

  • “All these CC participants have amazing stories and backgrounds and they shared pre- pandemic/pandemic/post pandemic stories – heart wrenching/warming and a few tears. Amazing level of trust built up quickly.” – group facilitator observation.
  • This is better than therapy. I feel so relaxed.” – most recent group participant feedback

Endings

When you get to be old you think about things ending –
Out, out brief candle.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more
And it seems as though some things need to be expressed in poetry
So I wrote about endings at the station
And put the poem in the biscuit tin where we keep chocolate
Because I was eating chocolate when I wrote it
But although we listen to Chris Packham talking about mindfulness
I have to tell you that now I can’t find
The poem or the biscuit tin.

Dawn Gorman, compiled from comments and quotations by Morag and Harry Owens during their Creative Conversations at home.

For more information on Celebrating Age Wiltshire please email CAWSupport@wiltshiremusic.org.uk

Photos

  • Christmas Cards designed and printed by Creative Conversations participant in Salisbury
  • Harry and Morag Owens at home during one of their sessions
  • Dress designed for Adele by Creative Conversations participant in Trowbridge

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