Hearts and Minds

Between 2011 and 2013 Age Exchange designed and delivered a creative arts and reminiscence programme for people who use mental health services in South London. The programme was funded by the Maudsley Charity. Work focused on provision of reminiscence arts in care settings, and one outward facing arts production each year enabling the public to experience the methodology and creativity of Hearts and Minds.

Projects in SLAM continuing care units

Throughout the three years of activity Age Exchange worked in partnership with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, delivering intensive reminiscence projects a year in SLAM continuing care settings. Along with group reminiscence arts sessions in the homes Age Exchange also provided one to one sessions for residents needing individual support. Working closely with care managers Age Exchange provided ongoing training for Health Care Assistants who worked alongside our own team on the projects.

The reminiscence arts group and one to one sessions were created in response to the needs, interest and life story of the participants. Activity included thematic reminiscence and exploration of memory through visual arts, music, and movement and dance. This Programme was delivered to groups of service users at a number of mental health provider units in Croydon, Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth. In total Age Exchange delivered five group projects a year lasting 10 weeks each with eight to 10 users per session in each home. In total Age Exchange delivered 75 one to one sessions for frail older people at bedside.

The specific objectives of the Creative Arts and Reminiscence Programme were to:

1. Bring users together and develop group dynamics to reduce users’ vulnerability to the effects of isolation, loneliness, and exclusion
2. Improve users’ ability to communicate with fellow users, relatives and care staff to reduce feelings of unhappiness, frustration, or anger
3. Use movement and dance to improve physical capability and expression, helping to generate catharsis
4. Use complementary reminiscence, arts, and movement practice, to improve users’ levels of self-confidence and esteem
5. Develop users potential creativity by engaging them in art, drama, dance, new media and film making
6. Provide carers, community artists and mental health professionals with training in reminiscence work, and specifically tailored training thus providing them with the skills to secure and build on the improvements in the mental well-being and physical health of service users.

Two trained and experienced project workers facilitated the project sessions. Project workers trained in reminiscence had professional backgrounds in either visual and performance arts, or health and social care.

Sharing the experience and creativity of participants with audience

From the beginning of the programme it was envisaged that each year there would be a collaborative arts project that would showcase Hearts and Minds – the lives and creativity of participants, and key issues relating to mental health, perception and stigma. The result was three unique productions, made possible through the fantastic commitment of service users, and partnerships with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, BFI Southbank, Green Candle Dance Company, and CoolTan Arts. Production of a documentary film, a contemporary dance piece, and a reminiscence theatre production resulted in performance and showings at BFI Southbank, St Peter’s Residential, Age Exchange Bakehouse Theatre, and wide viewing of the resulting films of the work on line.

Year 1 “Overload” - collaboration with film maker Ivan Riches, participants from CoolTan Arts, BFI Southbank, & Age Exchange

Year 2 Green Candle Dance Company with St Peter’s – collaboration with residential care partners St Peter’s, Green Candle Dance and Age Exchange

Year 3 “Paddling to the Palais” – a collaborative production with Age Exchange’s carers’ group Inspired Caring, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

In each of the productions the process of creation, rehearsal and performance enabled all the participants to learn new skills and discover abilities in movement, dance, writing, acting, film-making and editing. Involvement in a final public production boosted participants’ confidence and self-esteem, helped them feel valued, enjoy and share their creativity and have their say.

Monitoring and Evaluation

During the course of the three-year programme, monitoring and evaluation took place at all stages. Input and feedback from professional staff as well as users and family carers was also collected to feed into the monitoring process ensuring that the programme developed according to the needs and interest of all participant service users. The programme in SLAM continuing care units was evaluated externally by Royal Holloway, University of London and the resulting findings were made widely available both to SLAM and to arts and health professionals.