Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning – Older People: Zoom Meeting Notes

Posted Monday, June 15th, 2020

Meeting notes from Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning – Older People Zoom meeting on Thursday 28 May. Thank you, diolch yn fawr to all who contributed and attended.


Our work is often about meeting people face to face, so a lot is on hold. We have been running check in and chat calls with people who are much more isolated. We have made 10,000 calls since March. About 50% of over 65 year olds are not on the internet. So working online with them is not possible. 600 people are registered and are being talked to regularly.

Gwanwyn is postponed until October currently.

cARTrefu – working in Care Homes – so this is postponed at the moment.

Creative Ageing Chats, speaking to people that are delivering creative ageing activity or planning projects. Please get in touch if you want to chat.

Keen to keep the conversation going, so please let me know if you’d like me to share any of your creative ageing activity through the Gwanwyn Facebook of Twitter account. Also please do let us know if you have activities that are suitable for those in care homes and we’ll share it through our fortnightly newsletter. Email –


Artis Community – Hannah Hitchins

Community Arts organisation based in Pontypridd.

  • Crafty Cuppas has been running for three years to tackle isolation and loneliness with older people. Started in partnership with Age Connect Morganwg and their befriending service.
  • First engagement was in their own homes but now run weekly sessions. Aimed at over 50s but they also have been approached by under 50s.
  • They run sessions in Pontypridd and in Merthyr in the Red House. Around 47 participants attend. Two hour sessions – lots of different arts activities. They listen to the group and let them lead.
  • Participants started locking down early, but they kept the contact up. Heard that participants were feeling very isolated. But Lockdown has given then a chance to re-engage with participants who weren’t regularly attenders.
  • Started the #sendlove project and worked with community members to send postcards to group members. This kept the link up. But they started to look at other ways to engage the group. Creating activity packs and tutorials that worked with things that people could find in their house. People on social media can connect. Hannah phones everyone every two / three weeks for a chat. Some of the volunteers are creating things for the pack as well.
  • Some participants don’t have any relatives in Wales, so links from Artis are really vital.
  • The group is primarily social. We’ve been involving them in bigger projects like YMCA Public Art project.
  • Other projects – Home to home songwriting – Messages of Support – Here I am.
  • They will be creating an exhibition of the work that has been made. They would like to set up Zoom sharings, but are aware that not everyone can attend.
  • Challenges – we need to think positive – like Bernard. But it’s a challenge to keep them connected socially. Hannah finds it hard to boost people if they are feeling down. It takes a lot of time and admin to make it happen. IT limitations are a problem for the participants.
  • Going forward – we need to make the group safe for the vulnerable participants.


Re-live – Karin Diamond

Arts and Health organisation that specialise in Life Story work through drama, music, movement and song. They use a collaborative, hopeful methodology, working alongside people who are curious about exploring their own life story through the arts. They create Life Story Theatre performances that take place in theatres and community venues. They work alongside older people, military veterans, people living with dementia and people at the end of life.


  • Before lockdown Re-Live were working with military veterans and their families (Coming Home to the Arts project) and a group of people living with dementia and their families (The Memoria Group). They thought hard about what they could offer their groups during the lockdown and took things very slow at first.  They asked lots of questions of themselves as practitioners and their participants.
  • Many participants had access to a smart phone or an ipad.
  • They looked into Zoom and decided to explore this. They found some good short training videos in how to use Zoom. Re-Live practitioners didn’t know much about working online so they were on a new journey.
  • Some participants needed 1.5 hours of tech support to get online.
  • For participants without the capability of connecting online, Re-Live started connecting through phone calls and letters.


Tips on using Zoom:

  • mute / unmute button works well but participants can have difficulty finding this. Patience and practice is key!
  • The Zoom experience can be intense so invite participants to choose whether they have their camera on or off
  • Asking questions & asking people to put their hands up if they need to get your attention
  • Give participants the option to leave the Zoom space at any time. We don’t want Zoom to make people feel more trapped during lockdown
  • Consent – we record some sessions but we’re clear why we are recording a session and who is it for. Consent has many stages and might change multiple times so Re-Live use ‘rolling consent’
  • Confidentiality – we can’t offer complete confidentiality on Zoom due to people connecting at home. We’re transparent about the differences between working together face to face in a rehearsal room and working from home
  • When the meeting ends – it says ‘End Meeting’ – the wording of Zoom doesn’t fit with our practice – we lighten the experience and make sure we say goodbye to everyone and ensure everyone feels seen and heard before leaving. Zoom was designed as a teleconference space.
  • We are trying to be predictable in an unpredictable world – we have regular Zoom times and we don’t deviate. This has really helped participants to have a structure to their lives in lockdown.
  • You work like a DJ in the Zoom space! You’re running the group but ensuring that all your tech is working at the same time. Be prepared to juggle.
  • Check voice and volume – how is your voice in this space? Can you Zoom with a colleague to check voice, volume, eye contact etc.
  • Eye contact – it is hard to make eye contact on Zoom (through your camera) and connect to the whole group on your computer screen. Just be mindful of this. It feels very different to working with people face to face.
  • Be transparent if tech issues arise.
  • If you are interrupted at home while running a group e.g. the doorbell goes, a child walks in to say hello to you, just be clear what is going on. We’re all trying our best!
  • Check your Zoom background – ensure your participants see a positive window into your world.
  • Sessions run for around 60-75 minutes – any longer can feel draining
  • If possible, two practitioners per session is key. This might not be possible but working on your own can feel isolating
  • Post session practitioner check in – practitioners stay after sessions and reflect. Very helpful as we develop this new form of working.
  • Frustrations with Zoom – wifi freezing / people using phones and only seeing four people / music distortion / robot voice
  • When Zoom works – breathing together / warm ups / exercises that involve everyone / repetition is key / work on the imagination / laughing together
  • Breakout rooms – are a great way to connect people in smaller groups – which helps with listening, sharing detail, developing new connections, less intense than the main group.


Welsh National Opera – Jenn Hill

Producer in the Youth & Community department. Running a project called Cradle working in Milford Haven which aims to create better understanding about dementia and how with extra bits of knowledge every individual can support those living with the disease better. The Milford Haven project is working with primary school children and people with dementia. 96 Year 5s and a choir formed for people living with dementia and their supporters.

  • So far the schools have had writing sessions to create song lyrics around dementia-related themes, Dementia Awareness training,  composition sessions with a composer setting their words to music and have met with people living with the disease at a local Day centre and then welcoming service users into their school for a Christmas craft and singing session. The project was planned to culminate in a sharing performance with all participants in early July.
  • Cradle Choir started in October – 35 people meeting weekly in the Torch Theatre.
  • Thought hard about what they could do to keep the group going after lockdown. Wanted to keep the idea of a weekly sessions. So they looked to zoom and decided to give it a try with an initial small trial session which met with great enthusiasm so they decided to continue. It was challenging as they didn’t have good contacts for people. Jenn needed to ring every member to ascertain if they wanted to try the zoom experience and had the IT to do so. She learned a huge amount about the group in the process but couldn’t reach everybody.
  • They gathered a core group of 20 people. It was disappointing to not be able to have everyone attending. Some people didn’t want to engage online. Lots of stories of people helping each other to connect.
  • Invitations need to be sent information in different ways – some need email, some text. It can be very labour intensive.
  • One block of flats have three households who take part with one of these helping the others with equipment and setting them up each week
  • Volunteers have dropped off updated word sheets to participants if needed.
  • The group like to have structured meeting times. They get excited about seeing each other.

The sessions

  • You can’t replicate the choir experience on zoom
  • You can’t sync voices live
  • A piano track is recorded and leader records vocal line on that which is used alongside live elements going over specific bits of music
  • They started doing  30 minutes but they now do an hour and make it more social
  • Sessions start with a welcome and chat
  • David will mute participants as they explore different songs
  • They also have points where singers come and sing for them – so participants can sit back and relax
  • They were hoping to have a final sharing. But it’s clear now that the school can’t join as anticipated . They are now exploring doing a zoom session between the school and the choir and invited guests.
  • Schools are now very busy and are over stretched. It’s hard to connect with the children in any way particularly around issues of child protection and concerns about children’s home environments being seen on screen as well as issues of availability of I.T equipment. WNO are still considering how they might share at the end.
  • It’s hard to see when group singing might be able to happen, so they are exploring other ways to keep the project going.
  • They might try to open out the session for other care homes, although they don’t want to lose the community feel. They are working with Pembrokeshire County Council to explore how this might happen.
  • But it has helped WNO to explore the digital space and how people can take part virtually which will definitely be incorporated in future alongside resumed live sessions if possible.
  • Schools are sending out learning produced by WNO for pupils to learn their songs via google classroom but the school are telling them that only 30% of children are engaging more broadly across the whole of the school with online content (ie for set school work)..
  • Community Choir in South Wales were doing a performance and that is much harder to take online as very much designed as a live performance project
  • All sessions with the Cradle Choir are closed sessions – but if we were broadcasting that would be different – there are big issues around rights and copyright when using material.



  • Working with care homes is difficult. Some haven’t been affected so much, but some care homes have had to shut down. Age Cymru is sending a newsletter out to all cARTrefu care homes and are happy to share any activities that people have.
  • Importance of talking – Age Cymru can support with phone calls if you have any participants who you think need support – Friend In Need  or Advice Line 08000 223444
  • Older People’s Commissioner – have guides about how to get people online.
  • Avant Cymru – always have half an hour of social time and they advertise this as part of their sessions. This is really important for people. It developed organically as they started to experiment with how sessions ran on zoom.
  • Eye Contact – Karin (Re-live) commented that for people who have visual disturbances or problems with eyes can find the zoom space very hard. One participant has managed to get his laptop to work on his TV – this gives him space. They also do a lot of work with eyes closed – so people rest their eyes. They also play a game where they have to turn their camera on and off. This helps people to have agency and also centralises the aural experience of the session.
  • Reading people’s body language is challenging and is something that movement practitioners find hard. – Karin (Re-live) commented that the check in at the beginning of a session could really help this – asking people to describe themselves as the weather or the sea – this helped them to understand where people are at. The sensory clues we normally rely on are gone. The more we check in with our group, the more confident you can be about. So they check in throughout the session. You can do this with movement as well. You can also use the polling element of zoom.
  • Tracey (Rubicon) – they have been engaging with participants on the phone. They’ve spent some time talking to really find out what participants want. Active over 50 groups are nervous about a dance session in case they fall. What do you do if someone falls in their own home and they live alone?
  • Self Care for Practitioners – running zoom sessions takes a different energy. We need to make sure our practitioners are supported.
  • Reaching new people – Karin (Re-live) is looking at setting up a national life story project that can connect across Wales and beyond. Zoom offers the potential to do this.
  • Digital Gap – some people have no connection to the internet. Are there any funders who are offering funding to get people online? Grandpad – a tablet that has the internet connection built in – you just need 4G. It’s £399. Community Covenant has some grants to support veterans to get online.
  • Some rural areas can support costs of getting online – Dyfed Telecom offer funding.
  • Copyright – this might dictate the work we make. It needs to be considered and we are learning more about this. It would be good to share some knowledge about this.
  • Prue – Autobiographical work involves talking about other people and this involves consent issues when you are putting work online.


A further meeting will be held called Beyond the Lockdown. Date and time tbc. List of meetings can be found at ArtWorks Cymru.

Huge thank you to Rhian for the notes!


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