Findings of a pioneering project on the positive effects of bringing performing arts and theatre to Anchor’s care homes are being published today to help care providers across the country.

The Artists Residencies in Care Homes report and podcast feature reflections and insights from the four arts companies involved in Magic Me’s Artists Residencies in Care Homes Programme.

Views from staff and residents from the four Anchor care homes involved in the project are also included in the report.

The arts companies involved were alt-cabaret collective Duckie; contemporary circus and aerial company Upswing; immersive theatre company Punchdrunk and performance artist Lois Weaver. Each company was in residence for 10 weeks in an Anchor home, running weekly sessions with older people and staff. 

Marcia Forsyth, Manager of Anchor’s Silk Court in Ivimey Street, Bethnal Green, which hosted circus company Upswing, explained the apprehension both her staff and the Upswing team felt initially:

“At the start of the project we thought some of our customers will never be able to do some of this, and then you see one of them swinging on a trapeze!

“Our residents are frail and elderly and living with dementia but they also have underlying skills and abilities and we want to tap into those abilities by bringing opportunities to them.

“Any artists who want to come to a care home to work, we are open! Care homes are open so come and talk to us!”

Andrew Seal, Service Delivery Consultant for Anchor added: “This project has been a great success. Now through this report and podcast, we want to take this learning and capture the excitement from this project, and share the learning with other care homes and the wider care community.”

Performance artist Lois Weaver hosted weekly workshops in character as her Country and Western alter-ego Tammy Whynot helping residents from Anchor’s Rose Court in Lower Road, Rotherhithe, to explore creating alter-egos and life stories. Like the other artists taking part in the project this was her first experience of working in a care home, and the partnership with the care home staff was vital: 

“It was complicated tailoring workshops that would engage everyone all the time. It was necessary to involve much more one-to-one work that was expected before the residency, requiring all members of our team and the Rose Court staff to be involved.”

Susan Langford, MBE from Magic Me said:

“We know from our work that despite the pressures on the care sector in the current climate, many care homes are ambitious to offer residents opportunities and activities beyond the norms of the arts in care homes such as singsongs and bingo. 

This project set out to test and model how arts companies and care homes might work together, as well as showing the wider community that care homes can be exciting forward thinking places, where amazing things happen.”

The Artists Residencies project was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Wakefield and Tetley Trust and the Anchor Legacy Fund.  

The Artists Residencies in Care Homes Report and Podcast can both be be downloaded for free here.

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