Between November 2020 and March 2021, we delivered a series of creative projects run by our professional artists with older carers at Merton Dementia Hub as part of our art:links programme: photography with Alicia Clarke, music with Mike Poyser and radio drama with Jack Pryor.
These projects, delivered online via Create Live! enabled a group of older adult carers to express themselves through different artforms while developing new skills, reducing isolation and forming lasting friendships.
We spoke to Georgina (61) about the three projects, the impact they had on her life and the connections she forged with other carers in the process.
“I started caring for my mum about seven years ago. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 82. It was good we got that diagnosis because it meant that we could then move forward with what we as a family could do to help her.
“My two brothers live with her. My role is to manage all the doctors’ calls. I keep a file on my mum so she’s got records of all the medication and the problems she’s had. When we go to the hospital, we take the folder so everyone knows what’s been going on.”
Participating in Create projects
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Photographs clicked by participants during this project
“I’ve been part of several Create projects with other carers. The first one that I did was the photography one with Alicia. It was really good. She got us to take photographs and upload them so we were able to see what everyone had done and how they’d interpreted the topic for that week.
We’re all different, we all come from different walks of life but one thing we all have got in common is that we’re all caring in some way.
“One of the things I’ve learnt from this project is about photographing at a particular time of day. Dawn and sunset are really good times. You also have to think about what your intention is when taking a photograph. What is it that you actually want to focus on? I think photography is something you can always build on.”
“The photography project was also the first time I met a lot of the other carers. It was a good introduction to everybody and I was able to see them again in the next workshop which is the one that Mike did, all about music. It was really good because we didn’t know what to expect and it was really fun.
Participants having fun during one of our music workshops; Georgina can be seen smiling in the second row, first from the right
“We got to write lyrics for a quirky COVID song and we made noises with everyday objects. It was really interesting because you could be really inventive with sound. Things you wouldn’t necessarily think that you could make a sound with, you could!”
COVID CHAOS: a song by participants at our art:links Merton music project
Participants at the radio drama workshop; Georgina is pictured in the middle
“We’re now doing a radio play project with Jack. We’re recording a story about magic objects that has become a really long story with all these different objects, what they do and where they take us. I’ve really enjoyed it. You have to get used to hearing yourself say things and do things that you wouldn’t normally do, and also critiquing your own performance. I didn’t know what to expect but it’s a good way of doing something completely different.
“I’ve learnt that I can have a go at things”
Georgina talks about her experience of attending our projects
“Through these projects, I’ve learnt that I can have a go at things. I can try things out and I can make a fool of myself if I want to and that’s ok because other people don’t even notice when I do. Maybe I’ve also learnt that I’m not so bad at coming forward.
I think we all need something different and fun in our lives, no matter what we’re doing, particularly when you’re a carer.
“I’ve also really enjoyed meeting everybody, getting to know other carers and being part of a group. We’re all different, we all come from different walks of life but one thing we all have got in common is that we’re all caring in some way.
“Creative projects like this add a bit of a fun element to life. I think we all need something different and fun in our lives, no matter what we’re doing, particularly when you’re a carer. It just adds another vantage point to life and I think it’s good to have that. It’s good to have lots of things going on to keep life in the balance. It’s quite refreshing to feel that you can offer something that isn’t the norm.”