Worcestershire Arts Partnership Blog

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Worcestershire Arts Partnership December 2016 Newsletter

Well just over two weeks before the big day. Southampton v Spurs promises to be…I jest of course and refer to Christmas which for the arts is a busy time.
I am taking my daughter, Nina to see Cinderella at The Swan Theatre, Worcester and will be wondering if once again she will weave her way on stage and sing with the very funny Ben Humphries. This has become part of the Christmas tradition in the Wilson household and I am never sure where my little girl gets such flagrant exhibitionism from.
The Wilson's will also be off to see my good friend Stephan Bessant in his own pantomime, Zorro at the Artrix. Stephan is one of the best actors in the county and I always love watching him on stage. Talking of Artrix I went to see Chris Difford who for those under er 50 is one of the lead singers in Squeeze who made some great records in the 70's, 80's and well up to the present day. It was a packed gig and great to bump into the very nice guy, Mark Hogan, editor of Slap Magazine.
November has been a very busy month and we are WAP have been working on a range of projects and activities. I really loved seeing Gin Lane by The Clik Clik Collective which formed part of the Worcester Christmas Fayre. It was a wonderful visual feast and for me one of the highlights of that weekend. We also took part in the Christmas at The Hive weekend and ran a great lantern parade which was followed by a carol and Christmas sing along.
One of the projects that our Children and Young People Group have been working on has been called Moving on Staying on. This project is being undertaken with the University of Worcester and is about keeping skills in the county and is aimed at those who have just graduated. It began initially through two annual conferences but thanks to the generous funding of the University and Elmley Foundation we have been able to turn it into a year long project. The project sees five companies/artists each receive mentoring to develop their own creative enterprise/business. Four of the five artists chosen are:
1.    Provisional Act, who are Victoria Agache and Nicole Roman. They are developing and running their own theatre company and have just completed their first play which was performed as a work-in-progress at the University and was based on interactions they had with people who have used drugs. Nicole from Provisional Act states, "We believe this project benefits the community and especially the people suffering from drug addiction, as it puts their lives on stage in a light hearted and comical way without pointing any fingers or judging, but instead highlighting an ongoing issue. The benefits gained are the mutual trust relationship we have built with the people who we interviewed and being able to put their stories on stage and show a different, more realistic side to the problem. We strive to continuously bring former and current drug abusers to our show in order to feel there is a piece of theatre depicting their lives, in a safe, realistic and creative way.We have also received positive feedback from the interviewed people, expressing their gratitude for the relationship and mutual trust build that enabled them to talk about their hard past."
2.    Blok are Emily Malin and Katie Hodson who were interested in setting up an artist collective and studio space. Through working with their Mentor Rachel Bradley and getting great support from the University they are now resident at The Worcester Arts Workshop.
3.    Georgie Bull is developing a solo theatre performance which she plans to tour to Festivals in Summer 2017. We are supporting her to make contacts, get in touch with Festival organisers and help her plan a tour.
4.    Nathan Hill has started to approach artists to contribute to his comics anthology themed around a hotel. He’s looking into printing options and talking to small comics presses and attending conventions.
New Prescriptions
Our arts and health group have been working on a number of initiatives including our next Arts and Health Conference, A Bigger Picture which is on the subject of Obesity. The date for this is 19th of January and will be held in Pershore. For more information contact Diane Thomson on dethomson@worcestershire.gov.uk
Inspiring Futures for the Arts
Inspiring Futures with the Arts is funded by the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner with the aim of providing arts activities to those who are at risk of going into the criminal justice system.
It aims to provide artistic interventions to enable people to better understand themselves, gain new skills, develop empathy, find something enjoyable to do and prevent or reduce crime.  The tools provided can be great preparation for job interviews and work settings. The project is within Priority 5 of the Arts Strategy action plan.
The programme will benefit;
·         Increased confidence and self-esteem
·         Greater empathy with others
·         Interest in the arts/further learning
·         Creative skills for work/training
·         Reduction in likelihood of offending
We have been working with Laura McFall who is one of the artists. She has got some quotes from one of the participants on the project. These are some of them:
“It's good that you’re putting your trust in them”
“Me, myself, I’d rather have my eyes open and be in control. If your eyes are shut you can’t see the bad or good”
“I was thinking at first, I don't know what to say, when you sit and think you realise you can do it and have a go and get the hang of it. When you start going back out there all your confidence goes down, when you’re in here, you get all your confidence. With me, I’d rather be in a small group than in bigger group. I feel more comfortable. I’m in my own bubble mostly, but this session has helped me grow stronger and realise I need to have boundaries and feel in control and get to know people slowly and over time before trusting”
“I wish I could go back into the past and not do the things i did”
“I got to up and drama got me going. I’m not normally a morning person”
“When we got to do the character and role play, you had to think on your feet. I enjoyed that”
We are around half way through the programme and will be reporting back on it throughout.
Orchestra of the Swan
Another arts and health project we have been working on is being run by Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS). They are committed to bringing high quality musical experiences to people living with dementia. During 2016 alone they have made over 90 visits to care homes in the region and are continuing to fundraise to ensure they can continue this much valued work. During 2017 OOTS are planning to return to Worcestershire and follow up our very successful 2016 project. Between April and May 2016 four instrumentalists from OOTS played for a total of 12 sessions to people living with dementia in Worcestershire, funded by John Martin's Charity.  Working as two duos, musicians performed in four Evesham care homes, which included specialist dementia homes where many residents had advanced dementia and sometimes challenging behaviour.   The venues were: Hawthorns Nursing Home, Greenhill Park Residential Care Home, Cedar Lodge care Home and Brompton House Residential & Nursing Home.  OOTS is committed to supporting musicians wishing to play in care homes to maximise the benefits for resident, carers, staff and players’ personal and professional development. Each duo played for three successive weeks in the same two venues. This enabled them to get to know residents and staff and develop their performance accordingly.  Care home sessions lasted for 90 minutes, with the last 15 minutes dedicated to reflection on how the session had worked.
In terms of benefits: the evidence shows that people with dementia benefit greatly from musical activity. It allows them to be “in the moment” and celebrates that moment. The music makes real connections with people and unlocks memories of the past that can be shared. Session also enable people to interact in any way they can; tap their feet, nod their heads or sing along.
Here are some quotes from musicians:
“A (resident) asked for Martha Eggert songs last week, we couldn't find any sheet music but made a spotify playlist and played her a recording at the end. She was really moved and talked about watching her in films in Germany. She wept.”
“One lady singing her heart our, with visiting grandson looking wondrously – I don't think he'd ever seen her sing before!”
“I shall always remember that look on V's (resident) face!”
“Partway through one of the songs, V (resident) gathered her whole body strength and let out a single, powerful note. My instincts said “Ah, that was a trained voice” and upon enquiring later, I learned that in fact she had been an “opera singer”. So for that one note, she was her old self and that was very special to me.”
And Finally…
I just want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a great 2017. Keep the faith!

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