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Some of Imagine’s highlights from 2016


Light Night

Recollections of “real lions in the Market Square” are amongst the memories shared by some of Nottingham’s older people in an art installation they created with local artists.

We worked with residents from Sycamore House and The Oaks, and visitors to Radford Care Group, to create the 6 by 12ft interactive artwork in the window of our Hockley premises.

Residents visited the artwork on the 12th February, touching areas of artist Joe Pick’s huge illustration to trigger their memories of the seasons. These are powered by conductive paint linked to a sound board. The artwork incorporates a projected stop motion animation, created by artist Graham Elstone and care home residents, Mik Godley’s portraits, produced with the Brushes app for iPad and unique films by Ben Wigley.

BBC East Midlands Today showed up to film the visit, as well as capturing a little of the special event we laid on for our guests where musicians Angela Warren and Paul Quinn led a rousing sing along to songs including Summertime, Autumn Leaves and Winter Wonderland.

Care home residents visit window installation
Residents interact with Light Night installation


Architects of Air

An exciting collaboration was developed with Architects of Air – they develop amazing sensory experiences through visitors entering their inflatable domes, experiencing the beauty and colour of their internal spaces.

Residents were invited to the Harvey Hadden sports village to experience the dome for themselves. Residents from The Oaks, Sycamore and Millbeck House and Radford Care Group came along to see musicians The Uke Box and Erhu (Chinese violin) player, Freya perform in this wonderful space.

Residents commented that…

“It was a good morning out!”

“It was a little weird inside the dome and felt like a massive camping tent, it was very good and the music sounded loud inside the dome”.

“Some people found it a little bit daunting at first, with the air lock and the darkness, but once inside and seated it was a different story. Thanks for arranging the transport; everything seemed to go to plan”.

Musicians perform in the little dome
Architects of Air – Uke Box


Live Music Now

Music was brought to residents at The Oaks and Sycamore care homes in partnership with Live Music Now.  Accomplished musicians Bright Season performed and also facilitated the writing of music with residents.

According to a recent analysis of 400 published scientific papers, the old adage that “music is medicine” may literally be true. The neurochemical benefits of music can boost the body’s immune system, reduce anxiety, and help regulate mood. The time has come for doctors and therapists to start taking music much more seriously. LMN has been working over many years to bring the benefits of music to a wide range of people in need, through unique live music sessions.

Performer singing
Bright Season

National Care Home Day

National Care Home Day is a UK wide initiative inviting care homes to open their doors to their local communities. Thousands of care homes across the UK take part each year, welcoming the public and arranging events and activities that help to create lasting links between care home residents and their local communities.

In  June celebrations took place at The Firs Day Centre (Abbeyfield Society) with residents, care home staff and visitors. Performers this year included classical singer Chloe Saywell and pianist Stephenie Leung from Live Music Now and percussionist Biant Singh Suwali.

Residents attended from Sycamore House, The Firs, Kenyon Lodge, Carnarvon House and Larch House/Birch walk – sheltered accommodation on site. Residents commented on how much they had enjoyed the event and taking part in the drumming workshop.

Biant, Chloe and Stephenie
Biant, Chloe and Stephenie

Nottingham Contemporary

Associate artists Gill Brent and Jo Dacombe have been working alongside activity co-ordinators from The Abbeyfield Society and Eastgate Care to improve access for older people to viewing excellent art in their venue.  Activity co-ordinators have been learning new skills and approaches that will enable them to independently deliver excellent and sustainable arts provision in their respective care homes.

Two trips to the gallery were organised for residents in May and June  to visit the Simon Starling exhibition; the Turner Prize winner who studied at Nottingham Trent University. This exhibition presents the largest ever exhibition in the UK of his artwork.

Residents visit to Nottingham Contemporary
Residents visit Nottingham Contemporary

Nottingham Carnival

Millbeck and Sycamore House’s, and Radford Care Group worked with artist Jess Kemp  to design and embellish two new commissioned ‘Magpie puppets’ Burt ‘n Joyce (Mr & Mrs Magpie) featured in Nottingham Carnival 2016.

City Arts & Can Samba’s Flying Free Carnival Troupe at Nottingham Carnival featured samba beats, dancing bees, twirling ‘Bianas’, mobility-scooter floats, Pandora the giant parrot, made by residents in previous years through Imagine and the two brand new magpie puppets.

Betty Speakman (at 96 is our oldest troupe member) from Millbeck House joined us once again on extravagantly decorated ‘mono-floats’, built around shop-mobility scooters.

“Mum, Betty Speakman and daughter Rosie were so proud to be part of the team. The costumes and scooter disguises were excellent and what can I say about the 3 wonderful birds following behind, awesome!”
Daughter of Betty, Rosemary Bolton

Nottingham Carnival
Betty at Nottingham Carnival


Armchair Gallery

This project offers virtual tours of world-class cultural collections to older people who circumstances do not allow for physical visits. Professionally filmed guided tours form part of the ‘Armchair Gallery’, an iPad app, currently in development, which will allow older people in care settings to explore some of the country’s best art collections. The finished app will include instructions for creative activities that care home staff can run with older people.

For the pilot project, we have worked with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to give care home residents access to Chatsworth House’s collection of art and antiques and more recently Dulwich Picture Gallery. In a series of short films viewers are given personal tours of the venues and access to amazing arts  collections.

During 2016 the short films are being used in creative workshops at Abbeyfield’s Millbeck and Sycamore House’s, Radford Care Group and Nottinghamshire Hospice supported by artist Jo Dacombe and dancer Andrea Haley. Residents are taking inspiration from the treasures of the Chatsworth and Dulwich collections to create their own artworks.

“A special moment when one lady spontaneously decided to read aloud the poem I had brought in, the whole room went quiet as everybody listened to her reading and then they all complimented her on how well she read. She asked me if she could keep the poem.”

“I like the combination of looking, describing with words, then handling and listening or reading poetry, then making, and try to do a combination of all these in each session to stimulate as many senses as possible.”

Patients engaging with Armchair Gallery
Workshops – Armchair Gallery


iPad Portraits

Artist Mik Godley has been commissioned as part of the Imagine programme to produce a series of stunning portraits of older people from Nottingham who are involved in the programme. The artwork has been created using the Brushes App on an iPad. The portraits capture the distinct personalities of each subject and leaves us with a lasting legacy from the project, enjoyed by the viewer, but most significantly for the individuals involved, their family members and friends. The work has been showcased at Light Night, the National Tandem Arts and Dementia: research into practice conference and Abbeyfield Exhibition.

iPad portrait of man by Mik Godley
iPad Portrait

International Arts and Health Conference – Sydney, Australia

Kate Duncan from City Arts and CEO Evan Dawson from Live Music Now were asked by The Baring Foundation to prepare keynote speeches in Sydney at their 8th annual conference about the work that we do with older people.

Kate Duncan spoke about The Imagine programme and showed artwork created by Mik Godley using the Brushes App and Ben Wigley’s film piece both of Amelia, a resident at Sycamore House. The work was well received and the Armchair Gallery was also presented to around 10 participants in an hour-long workshop. The artwork within the Gallery of New South Wales, ‘On the Wallaby Track’ (1896) by Frederick McCubbin, was utilised for the purposes of the workshop. The Timeslips method was demonstrated to participants who included artists, care workers and gallery staff.  The Armchair Gallery App was then introduced to the group for their own use. After the conference several of the delegates have emailed Kate for the link to the App and toolkits that Claire Ford has developed alongside the App.

This experience was a fantastic opportunity to show the Imagine Programme to an International audience and learn about other programmes and work with older people in Australia.

Kate Duncan at Sydney conference
Sydney conference

Recipe of Life

“What one word would you use to describe your thoughts in response to Your Recipe for Life?” Very beautiful words offered by the residents: “patience, love, family, honesty, just go for it”

This particular strand of work has been building during 2016, beginning with a series of pilots to establish responses to puppetry through a series of workshops facilitated by different puppeteers in four of the partner care homes. The concept of further work is to create a co-produced theatre piece with residents via a series of interactive and sensory workshops (20 in total) with a writer and puppeteers over an intensive period of a month.

In October writer Matthew Pegg was recruited through a national open call to work towards developing a script with care home residents that will then be shown in care homes in the summer of 2017. We also have the expertise of puppeteers Sean Myatt from Nottingham Trent University and Nenagh Watson who has worked as a creative associate at the London School of Speech and Drama (University of London). The care homes involved are Sycamore and Millbeck Houses, The Firs, Park House and Nottinghamshire Hospice.

shadow puppets