Participatory Arts, Beyond the Lockdown – Older People: Zoom Meeting Notes

Posted Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Meeting notes from Participatory Arts, Beyond the Lockdown – Older People Zoom meeting on Thursday 2 July. Thank you, diolch yn fawr to all who contributed and attended.


Kelly Barr – Arts & Creativity Programme Manager – Age Cymru

Age Cymru are the largest charity working with and for older people in Wales. Kelly heads up the annual Gwanwyn Festival which celebrates creative ageing, and cARTrefu, the largest arts in care homes project in Europe.


Emily Laurens – Community Art Co-ordintaor Oriel Myrddin / Freelance Artist

Hi, I’m Emily Laurens, I live in Carmarthenshire and have been community art coordinator at Oriel Myrddin Gallery for 4 years. I have been working in participatory and community art since 1998 in London, the USA, Brighton, Nottingham and Wales. I am co-director of Feral Theatre, I co-founded Lost Species Day and I work as a freelance artist. I am currently working on a Located Residency with National Theatre Wales exploring the links between Welsh wool, the transatlantic slave trade and modern day slavery. As a participatory and community artist in Wales I have worked with National Theatre Wales delivering one of their Digital Commissions (Dream a little dream for me) in May 2020; for Span Arts where I initiated their work singing in care homes; I have led Age Cymru Gwanwyn projects for Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Span Arts and in Morriston, Swansea; I worked on ACW’s Lead Creative Schools and have completed projects for many other local organisations including the Welsh Wildlife Trust and Narberth Youth Theatre.

  • Oriel Myrddin main gallery for south west Wales. Contemporary Art gallery and house exhibitions. Inclusive, free art gallery – they have a rich and diverse community and education programme. Supported by ACW.
  • Cartref Cynnes – art club in a local care home – mainly women over 90 who attend with a range of physical abilities
  • 50 + forum at the National Botanic Gardens – talks through the U3A.
  • They also hold regular arts and crafts workshops for adults, a book club, gallery opens. Most participants are over 50 anecdotally.
  • Children and families – summer outdoor project, a schools programme, young artists club for 8 – 11, monthly group for teenagers – all linked to the exhibitions.
  • Immediate response to Covid 19 crisis – they didn’t think the lockdown would last for very long. So the response was slow. They started to make weekly art and craft classes aimed at families which were very popular. They ran a virtual gallery and worksheets. They collated resources for artists on funding.
  • But there was no provision for older people. This was because they didn’t know what their older participants access to technology was. They also didn’t necessarily have contact details for people as care homes were the point of contact. Also Emily felt hesitant about getting in touch with people at a time of crisis.
  • There was also a challenge around people in partner organisations being on furlough.
  • They normally plan really far ahead but they can’t do this at the moment. They had to shelve plans and rethink. Funders have extended deadlines and allowed them to change plans but psychologically it has been hard.
  • For older people, the loss of art as a tactile experience is very important and it has a therapeutic quality. Touch deficit for older people is a big issue. There is also the loss of the social experience. Older people are losing many social experiences at this time.
  • There is a particular relationship between artists and participants – as an artist you facilitate activities but you also facilitate conversations. This experience can’t be underestimated. Being in a quiet space and doing some together allows conversation to flow in a particular way.
  • Self-expression and wellbeing – there is a lot of research around this. Especially at this time – fear for loved ones, their daily routines are disrupted and they are feeling lonely – but they have also lost their means of self-expression.
  • Oriel Myrddin put a survey out and got 100 responses. Over 40% of respondents were over 55. They asked people how they would behave after lockdown – 68% answered that they would ease themselves back into social situations slowly and cautiously. Only 14% said they were interested in workshops on zoom.
  • Setting up session with Cartref Cynnes is hard – Emily has to go through a range of intermediaries. This makes things slow.
  • They are looking at different types of projects that can work on a variety of levels. There are new funding streams out there that can fund online work and Emily is also looking at doing some outdoor work.
  • Emily thinks its a good time to think about what the role of an arts organisation is. She has been looking at what they deliver and also looking at equality and diversity in the light of #BlackLivesMatter
  • She has been reading lots and recommends Resmaa Menakem – My Grandmothers Hands and Bayo Akomolafe
  • How do we change the way we make participatory arts?
  • How do we use technology and what is the right technology?
  • Can we play with tactile experiences?
  • Can we explore the possibilities of outdoor art with older people? Maybe find covered spaces where people can be socially distant but sheltered.



  • Denbighshire Arts Service ‘Lost in Art’ – commissioned Sian Hughes to film herself demonstrating techniques which then became DVDs that were distributed, as the older people were very happy to use DVDs
  • Ceredigion Museum – have been sending out museum packs to vulnerable groups and older people. It included reminiscence cards. Their chef is developing recipes to go out in food packs. Ceredigion council is using local suppliers. They also have a project called Quarantine Quilts and will make a digital and a live quilt. They will both be exhibited in their opening exhibition. They have staff and volunteers who are shielding so it’s hard to open the venue. They would miss such a big part of our community if they just work online. Print and other outreach methods are also extremely important. They want to make the space welcoming for people when they come back.
  • Networks exploring Covid – JISC mail through Welsh Museums Federation which produces a bulletin. This has been useful and also includes sub groups.
  • Funding – Various funds available – Baring Foundation, Art Fund
  • Welsh NHS Confederation are calling for examples of art activity during lockdown for their next briefing paper – deadline 11th July. Please send any links if you want to include anything to



BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales takes music beyond the confines of the concert hall into schools, workplaces and communities. It’s learning work aims to offer people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities unique opportunities to develop musical skills. The programme is delivered through a series of activities involving groups of musicians as well as the whole Orchestra, with projects designed to offer creative opportunities to meet and work alongside professional musicians.

  • Head of Partnership and Learning at the Orchestra
  • The Orchestra do concerts, workshops – schools and young people, talent development, health & wellbeing and tour

Projects for Older People –

  • Musicians on Call – people could phone into Radio 3 and nominate someone
  • Musical Telegrams – 90th birthday celebrations – visitin people who were also celebrating their 90th birthday
  • Orchestra musicians are not furloughed.

From Home to Homes – a concert series in partnership with Age Cymru

  • Mixed concert series – easy tunes. It happens every two weeks at 11am. It’s presented over zoom webinar so its a one way presentation – those watching the concert can’t be viewed on screen.
  • They chose ensembles who were all in one house.
  • The brief was to reach out and make contact with care homes. It was to be player led and hosted. They originally thought it would be two way.
  • Initially they looked at different things they could do and asked how they could make a difference and where the need was.
  • They had to assess technology and create guides for the players around how to use technology.
  • They explored safeguarding – they worked closely with the BBC vulnerable adults safeguarding team. It became clear that the two way interaction was going to be difficult. Making it a one way interaction gave them more control over how to do this. BBC cannot record any zoom sessions they do. The musicians were happier with this. They wrote their risk assessments and then they put a schedule together.
  • They trained everyone up and then ran an in house pilot with their musicians.
  • They created branding and a marketing campaign. They worked with age cymru to get it in their newsletter. They also sent out to their social media streams.
  • They follow up with evaluation but it’s hard to get feedback.
  • They’ve made the booking form in Welsh and English and have also made a phone booking line – a staff member mans the phone. Participants can phone into the call if they really can’t engage via zoom.
  • They’ve asked for song requests and birthday shout outs. The musicians name-check each care home who join.
  • They also put graphics into the videos so that people can see the names of pieces and created a holding screen for the beginning and end of the concert.
  • Sign Up – not everyone who signs up actually attends. It’s hard to know why this is. When people sign up on zoom they don’t know if they are a care home or an individual. They can’t really gauge reaction – as they can’t see anyone.
  • They have had some feedback on audio quality – sometimes its hard to hear speaking sometimes.
  • What we are doing is passive so its not the same experience as being in the room.
  • However, they have been able to make the musicians feel more connected to the community.
  • They are exploring new delivery models – classical music has worked harder on promoting live experiences. But this is a good way to link to more people. When you have an orchestra they want to perform together but you can’t take an orchestra to a care home.
  • It can also be made UK wide – or even international.
  • One Participant said ‘ This just brought a bit of normality into our lives!’
  • Age Cymru appreciated being asked by BBC about how to work in the right way – it has felt very participant led.



  • Beatrice will try and share some of the guides they have created. They have also created guides for prerecording and safeguarding.
  • Concerts usually take first priority and its hard for us to reach across Wales consistently – this is a way we can keep connections up across the year. But they also don’t want to lose the live – but doing both might be the way forward.
  • Writing for Wellbeing – Karen is running lots of sessions on zoom and this is working well. She uses lots of prompts for writing that could also be used for visual arts. She is interested in repurposing things in the home for writing and arts. She is based in North Wales and keen to connect into networks.
  • Some arts organisations are using some of their funding to help practitioners to upskill.
  • Heloise – talked about an Arts Active project
  • Louise – this time has given me a chance to collaborate with different organisations across wales and make projects that I wouldn’t have made before.
  • Questions were asked about how we can share work more transparently across the sector and make more collaborations?
  • Can we share facebook groups that people can join?

ArtWorksCymru Practice Group, Wales Arts Health and Wellbeing Network, Dance in Wales, Youth Arts Network Cymru

  • Tension – about BBC delivering concerts for free – BBC really sensitive about not taking work away from musicians. So they have been clear that this work is only for this time.
  • Local activity – lots of artists offering local activity. But can we connect better in terms of sharing what we do and share things around?
  • Is anyone charging for their work? How do we move to a model where people pay us? As a freelancer -find the charities near you that need to show they are continuing to work with older people and use art in the community.
  • Local County Councils have money and Karen was funded to do workshops in a bereavement cafe.
  • Music For Dementia Radio – suggested collaboration with BBC. Laura works with music during her visual arts sessions in care homes.


Huge thank you again to Rhian for taking notes!

Further meetings have been scheduled, you can find out more at the ArtsWorks Cymru website.

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