Arts News


Creative Encounters in Tower Hamlets care homes, Spitalfields Music


Rising from the armchair with a soft smile, E reaches for C’s hand with his. They start a side-to-side waltz, a tiny lilt in their rhythm. Earlier, E was brought into the room in a wheelchair and helped by his carers to sit on a chair with his uneasy legs.

Finding treasured and poignant moments like these is the endeavour of Spitalfields Music’s Creative Encounters programme. Over a period of three years (2019–2021),Creative Encounters will engage 180 older people, 100 staff and 60 volunteers in 3 care homes across Tower Hamlets. Lead Artist Julian West and Researcher Hannah Zeilig will oversee a team of artists to deliver creative sessions with care home residents, including those living with dementia, and their carers. Using engagement with music, dance and poetry to increase mental and physical activity and reduce isolation, the sessions will be led by the residents and staff in a way that encourages new and deeper relationships to be forged.

Creative Encounters follows a successful pilot project in 2016 called Living Arts, which took place in Aspen Court care home. It is in this very same care home that the Creative Encounters story begins, with sessions taking place until June. Through magical moments that spark memories, allowing personalities to shine and long-lost stories to re-surface, Spitalfields Music is discovering the lasting impact co-creativity has on those living with dementia in care homes today.

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Photo, Crowds enjoying Garden of Light, by TILT. Lumiere London 2016, produced by Artichoke, supported by Mayor of London. Credit Matthew Andrews 2016.

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Photo, Jennie Gill, Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield. Photo Our Favourite Places / Nigel Barker for Yorkshire Artspace.