Residents of a Gateshead care home have proved age is no barrier to creating thought-provoking art in a unique project with professional artists. 

Northbourne, in Durham Road, which is run by Anchor, became home to artists Claire Ford and Kate Sweeney for the project. It included painting, photography, pottery and guerilla knitting - or yarnbombing - a type of street art involving colourful displays of wool or yarn. 

Resident Margaret Naylor, 93 was among the residents involved. 

She said: “I very much enjoyed being part of the arts project. I like to be creative and take part in the many activities organised in the home. We have never done anything like that here before – I wouldn’t have expected it in a million years."

The aim of the project was for the artists to work alongside residents to shift society's perception of living in care homes.

As part of it, 70 knitted envelopes were produced by residents containing personal postcards and were placed by outside the nearby Costa coffee shop to form pen pal friendships with the community. Many responded to the postcards and returned to the care home and will continue to write to one another.

Activity Co-ordinator Amy Rushworth said “Meaningful activities organised in a care home are essential. It allows for an individual to continue with their hobbies and interests when they come in to the care setting, as well as also trying some new experiences. 

We were overjoyed that Anchor's Legacy Fund, alongside the Arts Council and Equal Arts have been able to fund and support this project. It is important to build relationships with the local community and what a fantastic way to achieve this through a creative arts project.

“A big thank you goes to Claire and Kate who have brought new experiences to our residents especially with the yarn bombing and handcasting to name just a few.”

Alice Thwaite, Equal Arts' Co-Director has been closely involved “This has been an amazing project, which shows what can be achieved when artists have residencies in care homes rather than just weekly sessions which is the norm.  I believe that artists in residence programmes should become integral to future care.”

Kate Sweeney, one of the artists and who is also based in Gateshead, said “living as a resident in a care home has deepened my understanding of this environment and made me re-evaluate the role of the arts in care settings. I have greater empathy for the needs and issues which the residents and staff deal with every day. As such I have tried to develop methods of making my work include and reflect all the people who live and work at Northbourne.”

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