The Snow Queen Intergenerational Project
Working in an intergenerational way has always been an important aspect of the Time to Dance programme, and Scottish Ballet was keen to work in the community with care home settings. They brought local primary school pupils into Erskine Home, Bishopton, to work together on a creative project. The Snow Queen Intergenerational Project aimed to engage more communities in the world premiere of Christopher Hampson’s The Snow Queen. Scottish Ballet’s Health Team worked creatively with primary five pupils and Erskine care home residents to explore themes from the production and promote intergenerational dialogue.
Participants were led through workshops incorporating movement, storytelling, visual art, and music, facilitated by a team of highly experienced professional artists. Drawing inspiration from qualities associated with The Snow Queen characters, the group shared stories of family, adventure, empowerment, and transformation; remembering and celebrating the females who had made an impact on their lives.
Erskine care homes is Scotland’s primary provider of care for veterans and their spouses, offering nursing, residential respite, and dementia care across four care homes – Erskine Park Home, Erskine Home Bishopston, Erskine Glasgow Home, and Erskine Edinburgh Home. In 2019 Scottish Ballet delivered six Time to Dance taster sessions, followed by a total of 24 Time To Dance workshops to Erskine Care Homes. The sessions had 517 participants, 332 of which were people living with dementia, with an average of 14 residents attending each session.
Through working with Erskine care homes on a regular basis they were able to establish more options and adaptations for people with reduced mobility to participate, this impacted all Scottish Ballet Time to Dance activities, especially their national tours where Scottish Ballet engaged with local care homes in Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.
Following movement tasters in the school and care home with each group separately, everyone was brought together as special guests at a matinee performance of The Snow Queen in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Thereafter, participants continued to work together for a block of weekly sessions at Erskine Home, Bishopton. The 31 pupils were split into two groups, A and B, to ensure the best possible experience. Each school group enjoyed a block of four mornings at the care home. The same core group of residents worked with both groups of children.
Through a collaborative process, the artists worked directly with participants to facilitate their ideas. The group decided how they wished their shared experience to be captured: this could have been through the written word, photography, visual art, movement.
At each session, time was given at the start for conversation and bonding between the residents and pupils.
After a welcome from the team, the participants were led by the dance artist and accompanied by a live pianist in 30-minute movement sessions inspired by The Snow Queen which included dancing together across the generations. Children were encouraged at points to dance with the residents as well as alongside them.
After the movement session, the children and residents enjoyed tea/drinks and snacks together where the further conversation could embed genuine relationships and bonding.
Each week an arts/ craft activity was shared collaboratively between residents and school children based on The Snow Queen and informed by the previous week’s stories and outcomes. The planning of the sessions was always fluid and in response to participants. Stories and verbal responses were recorded and stored from these activities, to help inform the final outputs. The children also wrote letters and drew pictures for the residents outside of the weekly sessions.
At the end of each session, the pupils were given time to say their goodbyes to the residents before going back to school.
Benefits for the Community
Children shared their positive experiences with family and friends helping to break down intergenerational barriers in the community at large.
Scottish Ballet employed a team of artists to work with the group to create a book of the artwork and stories the participants shared together. This will also be presented as an exhibition in the care home once restrictions have eased. The final resource will help promote positive messages about intergenerational relationships. You can see the resource online.
Benefits for the Younger People
School and care home staff fed back that the children were bringing in drawings and letters for the residents. One girl told staff that she was going to return with her parents at the weekend to visit Winnie (with whom she had worked very closely). Another girl was quoted by care home staff as saying she wanted to work in Erskine Home when she grows up.
The project delivery staff and school staff observed the following changes in young people;
Improved confidence to express themselves creatively,
Improved confidence to initiate and hold a conversation with residents,
Positive first experience of dance and theatrical visit,
Physical and emotional benefits from the movement session,
Learning from sharing skills and stories,
The children gained purpose and a sense of community and value from sharing their skills with the residents, such as leadership and communication.
Benefits for the Older People
The residents and pupils danced, shared stories, and made artwork together. They quickly developed a bond, which was incredible to observe. After just three weeks of working together, pupils ran to say ‘hello’ to the older person that they had been working with. Older people who would normally be looking down would look up, visibly happy to see their new friends. Residents regularly expressed their joy of sharing time with the children, with many stating it ‘made their day’ and that ‘they loved having the children here’.
One of the care home staff in Erskine has said of the project ‘It brought the children and our elderly residents together and broke down barriers. Some residents do not have much contact with family’.
The project delivery staff and care home staff observed the following changes in the older people;
Increased alertness and energy,
Notable improvements to posture,
Uplifted by the presence of the children’s energy and enthusiasm,
Increased self-esteem, sense of value, and purpose.
The project is funded by Life Changes Trust (Lottery Community Fund), Baillie Gifford, Elizabeth Frankland Moore, and Star Foundation, also The Robertson Trust.
The team constantly evaluated the project informally with participants throughout the delivery. After each session, the team evaluated orally, at their debrief meeting, how successful the session had been and re-evaluated the next session based on stories learned and inspiration gained. The fluidity and innate responsiveness of this project were at the heart of its strength. At the end of the project, both evaluations were sent to the primary school for the children to complete and to the care home for the staff to complete.
A resource for The Snow Queen Intergenerational Project has been disseminated. The resource includes poetry, artwork, stories, and photos created by the residents and pupils together. This is in digital format, with a small number of printed copies made available for the Erskine Home residents and Bishopton Primary School pupils who participated in early 2020. The resource will be shared publicly and across global networks in Arts, Academia, Health, and Social Care. You can see the resource online.
Scottish Ballet also measured the success of the Time to Dance programme by commissioning an external researcher to carry out a mixed-methods evaluation approach.
What would be done differently in the future?
During the project, the team has learned that it is important to plan and manage every step of the project to ensure its success. Going forward, they will communicate with the theatre much earlier to ensure guests are seated within close proximity to each other, including the wheelchair and companion tickets. They will communicate seat numbers and seating areas with the care home in advance to ensure they are able to staff the trip adequately. All guest tickets will be given at the theatre to the identified lead member of partner staff rather than to individual staff members in their team. Guests will be asked to arrive 30 minutes earlier to ensure adequate time to acclimatise to their surroundings, use the WC facilities and find their seats in ample time.
If doing this again the team will prioritise a 5-minute briefing prior to each session commencing and a 10 minute debrief with the care home staffing team. They are essential to the successful delivery of the projects and clear communication with them at all points is vital. A microphone could also be helpful when working in large spaces. This was a new creative model for Scottish Ballet which they plan to roll out in different care homes with different local schools and using different ballets as the stimulus.
This project links into the priorities of SB Health. Scottish Ballet has been developing its dance health & wellbeing programme since 2015, including the national Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland (DfPS) project, dementia-friendly dance project Time to Dance, and Elevate™ for people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). They invest in ground-breaking programmes that place the individual and their unique lived experience at the heart of its collaborative design, tackling pressing societal challenges in health and community wellbeing. We encourage our participants to be ambitious for themselves and for their community. As part of this work, they involve families and focus groups in programme designs, evaluation designs and use ongoing feedback to refine our programme models. For this reason, every iteration of our programmes is unique to the community they are working with.
Scottish NPF Objectives
Scottish Ballet is Scotland’s national dance company and one of four national performing arts companies. All of their engagement programmes and projects are measured against Scotland’s national performance framework.
All photos from the project were taken by Brian Hartley @Stillmotion 2020.
For more information about the work of Erskine with veterans please see their website.