Arts Council of Northern Ireland

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The heroic NI arts organisations reaching out to isolated older people during quarantine

Monday 11th May 2020 at 1pm 0 Comments

Greater Shantallow Arts and Studio 2 in Derry has been leading the way in making sure that the most vulnerable, isolated elderly people across the city are receiving nutritious, free meals daily, recently hitting the 14,000 meal mark! Image: Greater Shantallow Arts and Studio 2 in Derry has been leading the way in making sure that the most vulnerable, isolated elderly people across the city are receiving nutritious, free meals daily, recently hitting the 14,000 meal mark!

From music and dance to crafting and drawing, many of Northern Ireland’s arts organisations are reaching out digitally to support isolated, vulnerable older people by using the arts to promote well-being and boost mental health during quarantine.

The Spectrum Centre in north Belfast, recently commissioned musician, Eve Williams, to record a series of music for singalongs in care homes as part of their current Chatty Tuesday Programme.  CDs of the music were sent out to ten care homes in the Belfast area along with art packs, activity sheets and ‘keeping in touch’ newsletters.  Over the coming weeks, the Spectrum Centre intends to extend this project further within the Greater Shankill community to reach out to lonely adults and older people who may be interested in joining their Chatty Tuesday Programme. 

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre, in Enniskillen, has been getting older people physically active with their free programme of movement activities especially designed for older people as part of their Arts & Older People funding from the Arts Council. The movement sessions are available for everyone at www.dylanquinndance.com/contemporary-exercises

In partnership with Health and Social Care Trusts throughout Northern Ireland, Arts Care engages 19 Artists-in-Residence, a team of Northern Ireland ClownDoctors and many project artists who facilitate and co-ordinate participatory workshops to patients, clients, residents and staff in health and social care settings.  Due to Covid-19 they recently moved their activity online to enable them to continue to deliver their arts programmes.  Their new YouTube channel, Arts Care 4U, enables Arts Care to continue to deliver their weekly programme in hospital wards, care home and healthcare units.  The channel offers a range of art participation workshops, especially for older people, in residential care or who are self-isolating at home.  The channel can be accessed at https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCQ85xLA2BlQQdrnWBhKw1hw

Greater Shantallow Arts and Studio 2 in Derry are delivering their Arts Council funded Arts & Older People Programme digitally to older people in their community.  In addition to continuing arts activities online, the organisation has been leading the way in making sure that the most vulnerable, isolated elderly people across the city are receiving nutritious, free meals daily, recently hitting the 14,000 meal mark!  They’ve temporarily turned their community arts centre into a community relief support centre to help those most in need and established a call service and communications system that allows those in need, their families or carers to contact them and register requests for support. https://youtu.be/By00q_kASC

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“It’s truly inspiring and uplifting to see how our arts sector has responded so positively during this incredibly difficult time.  Older people are often some of the most lonely, isolated and marginalised in our society and this is only heightened during Covid-19.  We know that taking part in arts activities can help alleviate loneliness and boost mental health and well-being for all.  Despite the challenges and uncertainty ahead, many of our artists and arts organisations have adapted their work to continue to bring high-quality arts to older people in care homes and in the community, in an innovative way.  The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is extremely proud to support this terrific work through National Lottery and exchequer funding.  Well done to all those who are using the power of the arts as a tool to lift our spirits and bring us all closer together at this time and thanks to National Lottery Players too.”

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