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Room for the Imagination: An Equal Arts' Project

“Now staff are much more willing to change, seeing people as individuals and moving away from the "bingo culture"

Alice Thwaite, Director of Equal Arts, will present on the key findings of the project which was evaluated by the Northumbria University. The theme for improved workforce training is a priority that runs across all the themes in the UK Dementia Strategy (Dept of Health 2009) and there has been increasing evidence that engagement of people with dementia in participatory arts can help improve cognitive functioning, communication, self esteem and enjoyment of life.

The project worked in 9 care homes, involved 10 artists and was carried out between September 2012 – May 2013. The art forms covered were visual arts, music, dance/movement and TimeSlips storytelling. The project was open to a large range of care home staff from Activities Co-ordinators, Care staff, Administrators and Maintenance personnel.

As part of the presentation we will show a film from the project which focuses on the care staff’s changing attitudes and the impact the project had on the homes. (7 minutes)

More opportunities need to be provided for shared learning events that encourage reciprocal learning with care homes workers in different roles. This would ensure that the contributions of all staff are valued in their collective goal of building and sustaining a creative culture in the care home setting.

Alice ThwaiteAlice Thwaite

Alice is a pioneer in the field of creative ageing in the UK, since developing Equal Arts as an organisation that specialises in work with older people in the early 1990s. She is passionate about supporting older people to have opportunities to access the arts and has enabled thousands of older people to get involved in professionally led creative projects – from photography to music, ceramics to animated film, and every other artform. Equal Arts works in arts venues, residential care homes, sheltered accommodation schemes and community venues throughout the North East of England.

In 2010 Alice was awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship which enabled her to visit the Bealtaine Festival in Ireland and travel extensively in the USA looking at examples of best practice. In 2011 she was asked to play a co-ordinating role for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust’s collaboration with The Baring Foundation on Arts and Older People. She is keen to share good practice and has spoken at Tate Modern in London, worked with the Royal Academy and this year presented at The MoMA Alzheimer’s Project Exchange. She is also a Dignity Champion.

Equal Arts has been developing an extensive care staff training programme to ensure creativity is central to the delivery of care in residential homes. Alice is also part of the team involved in a UK-wide three year research project looking at Dementia and Imagination.