The Belgrade's Art Gymnasium Project: Making drama accessible to the 50+ community

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    The Belgrade’s Arts Gymnasium Project: Making drama accessible to the 50+ community People over 50 years old are more likely to live with various long-term conditions, resulting in a number of vulnerabilities that over time require support and medical care. Therefore, as the population ages, the sectors for health and social care will have to re-examine existing models of health and care delivery and adjust them to the needs of the individual (i.e. patient, carer). In other words, further to traditional health organisations, other organisations and sectors could be approached as partners in public health research. This paper puts forward the idea that one such potential partner is the cultural sector, and specifically theatre organisations. Research shows that engaging with theatre and the arts can enable people to gain awareness of their strengths, increase social networks, develop creative and personal skills - especially skills in movement and non-verbal forms of communication - and enhance their health and well-being (Savin Baden et al., 2013; Wimpenny & Savin Baden, 2014). A growing body of recent research shows that participation in performance arts activities within a community theatre context serves to promote both socio-cultural integration and wellbeing in people with dementia (Dupuis et al., 2016; Zeilig et al., 2016). Drawing on this, this paper presents the Arts Gymnasium project, which uses theatre and drama activities to contribute to the quality of life and positive well-being of people aged 50+ living in Coventry. The project is work in partnership between The Belgrade Theatre, the Age UK Coventry and the Coventry University. The paper reports an evaluation of Year 1 of a drama for health programme for people 50+ that is taking place at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry in 2016-2017. It places attention to a particular strand of the programme being tailored to meet the needs of people living with memory impairments and/ or early stage dementia. By examining this strand, the purpose of the paper is to show (1) how does the theatre and drama activities may yield new insights into supporting a person with dementia; and (2) dow do people with dementia and their carers experience the significance of the theatre to their own lives? The underlying assumption is that the drama activities appeal to the participants’ creativity and imagination and, in doing so, could stimulate cognitive and communication functions, and at the same time reduce their feelings of isolation and depression. Evidence collected during the sessions by the participants and project staff will be provided and focuses on the participants’ experience when engaged with drama activities. Qualitative and quantitative data will be presented; focus group interviews with the participants, health and wellbeing scales (e.g. WEMWBS), along with video data from the sessions. Essentially the paper contributes to the growing arts and health field by providing new methods for engaging some of the most vulnerable communities and tests drama practices as a way of achieving health and wellbeing outcomes for the 50+ community, with impact on the wider community and professional practice. References Dupuis, S.L., Kontos, P., Mitchell, G., Jonas-Simpson, C. & Gray, J. (2016). Re-claiming citizenship through the arts. Dementia 15, 358-38. Savin-Baden, M., Brady, G., Wimpenny, K., & Brown, G. (2013). Evaluation of The Belgrade Theatre Creative Gymnasium Project: an arts-informed evaluation. Report. Esmée Fairbairn, UK Wimpenny, K. & Savin-Baden, M. (2014). Using Theatre and Performance for Promoting Health and Well Being amongst the 50+ Community: An Arts-Informed Evaluation, The International Journal of Social, Political, and Community Agendas in the Arts, 8 (1), 47-64. Zeilig, H., Killick, J. & Fox, C. (2014). The participative arts for people living with a dementia: a critical review. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 9 (1): 734
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Apr 2017
    EventCulture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference 2017 - Bristol, United Kingdom
    Duration: 19 Jun 201721 Jun 2017


    ConferenceCulture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference 2017
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address

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    This paper will be published in the Research For All journal.


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