Posts Tagged ‘Participatory arts’

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.

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!