17 Aug 2022

Derry groups receive funding to help older people tell their pandemic stories

Creative projects get support from Arts Council of Northern Ireland

ALONE launch coronavirus helpline for older people in Louth

Older people in Derry are to take part in new artistic projects which will give them the chance to articulate how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their lives.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has allocated £110,000 to enable 12 arts organisations to deliver a series of community-based arts projects benefitting older people.

Among those taking part in the initiative are the Derry-based arts group Echo Echo and the Waterside Theatre in the city.

They each will now use the funding to come up with creative projects.

The Waterside Theatre will put their funding towards a  1A2-week project with Longfield Care Home residents and care staff.

The project will see Waterside Theatre working with the residents and the staff to create pieces of visual artwork representing their experiences throughout 2020 and to visually show how they have all worked together to come through this very trying time.

A professional writer will also work with the residents and staff to listen to their stories; the sad times, the happy times and everything else in between and create a piece of original poetry representing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the past year.

The second element their project will extend the work that the Waterside Theatre has been doing with Dementia NI online.

They have been working with 20 people living with Dementia from throughout Northern Ireland using creative writing and the arts to explore participants’ feelings during lockdown.

The Arts & Older People’s Programme funding will enable participants to create individual memory blankets that represent them as people.

They will get to experience different art techniques to produce a final piece that will be sewn together.

Waterside Theatre will also create two large wall hangings with one piece of artwork from each of the participants which will be showcased at a special event in the Waterside Theatre later in 2021.

Meanwhile, Echo Echo will use their funding for a film project entitled Body Wisdom, partnering with Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre and the Old Library Trust to identify ten project participants all aged 50+ years.

The Body Wisdom group have continued to meet online throughout the pandemic since March 2020 and this has been a vital source of regular social and creative interaction.

The film will recognise this commitment and reflect upon the individual and group work created during the pandemic.

The work will be shared to an invited audience through Echo Echo networks.

Another strand of the funding will go towards supporting an online video dance programmes delivered to older people in Derry and Limavady.

The videos will be focused mostly on chair work, gentle movement exercises with sequences and mindfulness, aiming to reach more than 4,000 older people.

The funding is part of the Arts and Older People’s Programme, a pioneering initiative supported by National Lottery, Public Health Agency and Baring Foundation, which aims to tackle loneliness as-well as promote positive mental health and well-being among older people through engagement with the arts.

The programme has been designed to challenge perceptions of what it means to be an older person.

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, explained how the Arts and Older People’s Programme is making a difference to the lives of older people across the region.

"Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress, worries and also pain,” she said.

“The Arts and Older People’s Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better.

“The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people find their voice and express the issues which can often affect them on a day-to-day basis, thus promoting positive physical and mental health.

“The Arts Council is hugely proud to have supported 196 projects since the programme began and we’re delighted today to announce that a further 12 arts organisations will be supported to deliver projects with funding of £110,000.”

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