LivingArts: Update 1

LivingArts is a new project which re-imagines care homes as arts centres, through an eight-week residence in Aspen Court Care Home working with musicians. Julian West, leader of the project tells us more about this new venture…


A couple of years ago, I was privileged to be asked to lead one of Spitalfields Music’s marvellous Takeover Festivals, where children in Year 3 of a primary school plan and deliver a day-long arts festival in their school. We had a fantastic time creating music, songs, movement pieces, visual art, puppetry… the list goes on.

When I was asked what I would like to do next, a thought flashed through my mind: I’d like to do this in a care home. I almost stopped myself from saying it, as it seemed too audacious, too challenging, but I said it anyway. And Spitalfields Music said yes.

I have done a lot of musically creative work with people who are living with dementia, but recently had been asking myself a lot of questions about what would happen if I could work alongside artists from other disciplines. I love music, and that’s where my skills lie, but it isn’t everyone’s bag. I’ve seen people responding through movement to music that I’ve been making, and I wondered how someone with a dance background might respond.

There is huge interest right now in the areas of arts and health, and arts and well-being. A lot of this interest looks at the application of the arts as therapy, or as “medicine”, both of which are extremely important areas of research and activity. With this project, I felt that there could be an opportunity to really focus on the creativity of older people, including people living with dementia.  What can the arts and creative processes bring that other activities can’t? Can we make new work in collaboration with people living with dementia? What might that look, sound and feel like? And how could it have an impact on our attitudes towards older people and those living with dementia?

I asked a group of artists who I have worked with over the last 20 years if they would be interested in joining me on this project:

Amy May musician, composer, writer, recording artist
Clare Whistler an artist with a background in dance and movement
Lucy Steggals visual artist
Timothy Cape musician, composer and Spitalfields Music Trainee Music Leader

We are also joined by Hannah Zeilig, a researcher affiliated to University of the Arts and University of East Anglia, who’s interests concern how participative arts can contribute positively to the lives of people with dementia, and the insights that can be gleaned from inter-disciplinary research.

Follow the blog for regular updates from members of the team as we move towards our festival day on Wednesday 6 April.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.


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