The first Generation Arts intergenerational project involved creative movement and play with an older people’s group in Livingston, and 15 eight-year-olds from the local primary school. They discussed and played games, both traditional and modern, with great enthusiasm. The same group then embarked on a dance project working for 8 weeks to develop a South Asian dance. They performed it in a celebratory event attended by the whole school. The relationships forged during these two projects have endured and many of the older people are now invited into the school for a variety of activities.
Generations Arts moved on to work with people in an older age range with physical and mental health problems and also to engage with different art forms. A smaller group was created and 8 young people brought in from Bathgate Academy. They worked for eight weeks with a storyteller and writer. It was evident from the interaction that the two groups were very relaxed with each other although pupils tended to perceive the activity as school-related rather than community-based.
Background to Generation Arts
Generation Arts was begun eight years ago as a collaborative project between colleagues capitalising on West Lothian’s investment in ‘Open Door Complexes’ – sheltered housing incorporating hairdressers, cafes and communal spaces. In 2004, Generation Arts ran a pilot project in five localities across West Lothian, open to people in the complexes and local people. An hour’s creative movement and dance was followed by refreshments and an opportunity to socialise, concluding with an hour of live musical entertainment. This was so successful that the work was mainstreamed with funding from Arts Development and Social Policy. It developed into monthly tea dances in collaboration with the West Lothian 50 plus Network and successful ‘taster workshops’ open to older people’s groups throughout West Lothian. Generations Arts has developed into an independent charity with its own well-balanced management committee and most members participate in the programme. Arts Development and Social Policy have two representatives each and act primarily in an advisory capacity. They have funding in place to develop new projects over the autumn and spring.
Ownership and challenging new ideas
Generations Arts is well-known across West Lothian and has little difficulty in attracting participants through ‘taster’ sessions and word of mouth. While it is tempting to approach groups with a ready-made programme, it is more effective when groups decide what they want to do and how to do it. Older adults bring with them a wealth of history, talents and creativity. However there is a balance to be struck in challenging groups to try out new and different art forms and activities while retaining a shared responsibility for success.
It is important to adapt activities so that everyone, regardless of age, fitness and mobility can take part and feel valued. This works well in intergenerational projects where participants are encouraged to support each other in different ways.
Partnership working is effective providing there is clarity about -
- feelings, perspectives and ideas
- aims, purpose and focus
- flexibility and space for negotiation and fresh visions
- smoothing difficulties of changing personnel through a strong core purpose
- West Lothian Council
- Scottish Arts Council ‘Awards for All’
- The Robertson Trust.
Benefits of Generation Arts
Opportunities for young people -
- to interact with people in the community with whom they may have little contact
- to form relationships with older generations
- to revise any stereotypical views of other generations
For older people (particularly with no family close-by)
- new social circles and networks
- some dramatic changes in mobility, strength and flexibility
- significant impact on general mental health and well being
“I can fasten my own necklace now.”
“If you are lonely and feeling down, sitting in the exercise circle and lifting the parachute lifts the spirit.”
“Generation Arts is better than medicine!”