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Young at Arts - An Afternoon of Music and Dancing, Meanwood © David Lindsay

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Young at Arts | 2015-2017

A two-year partnership project addressing social isolation of older adults through engagement with culture and the arts.

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About Young at Arts | 2015-2017

Young at Arts was a two-year project, part of Time to Shine, a six-year programme delivered by Leeds Older People’s Forum and funded through Big Lottery Fund Ageing Better.

Time to Shine takes a city-wide approach to addressing the social isolation of older people. The LEAF partnership’s Young at Arts is creating social opportunities through culture and the arts.

Young at Arts has reached over 640 individual older adults over the past two years through a huge variety of bespoke projects, performances and events. The project, designed to reduce social isolation and loneliness as part of Time to Shine funded through Big Lottery Ageing Better, has established a community of older adults who are now engaged in a variety of arts activities which are supporting them to form life-long friendships.

The project has delivered nearly 300 participatory sessions, 8 Weekends of Wonder and established a steering group of older adults who have worked to curate their own events such as Spring Fling, hosted at Live Art Bistro, in which people gathered to sing, dance, craft, eat and have a haircut!

“As you know I have been struggling to cope with caring for my mum and Young at Arts has really been a life line for me. So thank you to everyone who has made participating in all the events such a wonderful experience. You are always so friendly, happy & positive & I have been so impressed by your professionalism, empathy, understanding, commitment, interest & desire to help improve the lives of people as they age.” Young at Arts participant.

Alongside projects delivered in community settings, Young at Arts has worked in partnership with 4 residential care homes, delivering group sessions with live music and dancing and individual sessions for people isolated to their own bedrooms. This work has included mindful movement sessions to enhance wellbeing and small group work to encourage closer relationships between residents. Other Young at Arts projects designed to reach the most isolated older adults have included a home-visits project in which people reconnected with dance and memories of dancing.

The project has employed over 40 individual artists from musicians to dancers to poets and drawn on the talents of the LEAF partnership – Opera North, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Leeds Grand and City Varieties, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Yorkshire Dance.

Projects have included regular participatory dance sessions, established in Morley and Richmond Hill which are set to continue into 2018 alongside a range of bespoke projects which include:

Red, Green, Gold and Blues – an oral history and dance project focussing on sound system culture and the history of Blues parties in Chapeltown.
Food for Thought – an oral history project focussed on food which included monthly communal meals in partnership with Armley Junktion and poet Christian Watson.

Home – a project reaching socially isolated men by exploring their connections to the word home.

Being Here – a project reflecting back on stories of migration to Leeds.

Weekends of Wonder have been delivered in partnership with The Writing Squad and Luca Silvestrini’s Protein Dance whilst others have taken place as part of local festivals such as Morley Festival and Yorkshire Dance’s Juncture. The final weekend of wonder Food Glorious Food took place in the beautiful Left Bank and brought together over 100 older adults including groups from two residential care homes. The event featured a guest performance by Protein Dance alongside community performances and a communal feast.

One of the key successes of the project has been the co-design with older adults. The steering group have been outstanding in their commitment and enthusiasm and this is an area we hope to develop in future project work.

“(working with volunteers) is an absolute essential. It will surpass all of your expectations and can offer a completely new and alternative thinking to your programme. Don’t underestimate the power, commitment and creativity of older people.”
Shabina Aslam, Project Coordinator.

The LEAF Partnership • Leeds Grand Theatre & City Varieties • Northern Ballet • Opera North • Phoenix Dance Theatre • West Yorkshire Playhouse • Yorkshire Dance

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