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Care village arts strategy recognised with national award


A collaborative project aiming to tackle loneliness amongst older people living at Belong Newcastle-under-Lyme care village has been recog

nised with a national award win commending the positive impact on participants’ wellbeing, as well as the strategic creative approach to caring for those living with dementia.

We Belong Together (WBT) was devised through Belong’s partnership with Liverpool’s contemporary arts centre, the Bluecoat to support customers residing at Belong care villages when government intervention placed them in lockdown, limiting social interaction. Critically acclaimed artists ran weekly virtual sessions with tenants, using a range of art forms, including ceramics, sound and storytelling.

The initiative has been crowned winner at the National Activity Providers Association (NAPA) awards, taking home the Year of Creativity Award. Judges were impressed by the increased wellbeing experienced by those involved, and more widely, Belong’s use of creativity and arts as part of its approach to dementia care. They praised the village team as ‘truly dedicated to thinking creatively, trying new things and involving everyone, every day.”

Emma Palin, experience coordinator at Belong Newcastle-under-Lyme, said: “We’re thrilled to accept this arts award, both for us and for the Bluecoat. Their workshops gave our customers something to look forward to during a very challenging time.

Our belief is that activities are more than just a way to keep customers entertained; it’s about providing opportunities for purpose or to keep people connected, supporting them in meaningful occupation where they can contribute their ideas. The arts in particular are a vehicle for enhancing wellbeing and fostering relationships, both of which have tremendous health benefits, as seen during the lockdown.

Betty Ritchie, Participation Manager at the Bluecoat, added: “We are thrilled that We Belong Together has received the Year of Creativity Award from NAPA. WBT gave us the opportunity to connect and engage in meaningful creative activity with Belong tenants at a time when in person activity wasn’t possible. Thanks to our artists, Brigitte Jurack, Alan Dunn and Gav Cross, for their imaginative and innovative approaches to running remote sessions, Belong for their amazing enthusiasm and commitment, and to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England for the funding that enabled us to deliver this project.

Since 2019, Belong’s customers have worked closely with artists commissioned by the Bluecoat to promote wellbeing through creative pursuits and evaluate the use of arts for people living with dementia. The partnership commenced with ‘artist residencies’ which initially saw artists working in Belong villages, leading an array of art forms, ranging from storytelling and sculpture to sound art and dance.

The award win coincides with the launch of a new circus exhibition at the Belong Heritage Gallery, the 17th century listed building integrated within the care village, housing a range of displays to inspire and enthuse residents to explore art and heritage, as well as a creative studio and special needs potter’s wheel. Paying homage to Philip Astley, father of modern circus, the experience invites visitors to take a trip down memory lane with memorabilia from bygone eras of circus entertainment, as well as residents’ own handmade earthenware.

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