Metropolitan are one of the key partners – and only social landlord – working with Creative Living, a creative arts project that supports older people in Derby to live rich and fulfilling lives within their communities. This happens through weekly art and creative workshops which focus, in particular, on people who are isolated and lonely.
The tight-knit art group that meets in the communal room at Cantley Close, a Care & Support scheme for older people, spends at least half an hour enjoying tea and biscuits and putting the world to rights before getting their paint brushes out. They are at pains to say that it’s an informal group. Just the way they like it. It doesn’t even have a name.
Neighbourhood Investment Delivery Co-ordinator, Ewa Van De Schootbrugge, says arts activities were delivered between April and July 2018, but the artists so enjoyed it, they decided to continue the group on their own.
“Residents are fully in charge of continuing the provision, however they can have access to professional artists should they wish to. At present they choose not to and take a real pride in carrying out activities independently,” explains Ewa.
Most participants – usually 8 to 10 people – are residents but anyone in the community aged over 55 is welcome to attend the two-hour artistic rendezvous. Sometimes they take inspiration from themes like Easter, Aboriginal art or art nouveau. Other times dipping into a bag of pictures or propping up a model to copy, does the trick. Resident, Phyllis, has been part of the group since its inception: “It gives me great enjoyment; it’s an opportunity to get better at drawing, plus I know everyone and take inspiration from them.” The artists have drifted into their own niches: some enjoy landscapes; others like getting stuck in and producing detailed drawings. Sandra savours taking her time to capture every detail. She is currently busy drawing a picture of a bird from a model. She also excelled at drawing 1930s ladies when the theme was art nouveau. Now that Sandra has more time to herself (she used to care for her mother-in-law who had Alzheimer’s) she is enjoying developing her artistic skills. “I saw it advertised in a flyer and thought I should join. I live around the corner so it’s ideal for me. It helps me when I’m feeling down,” says Sandra who suffers from severe tinnitus.
Like Sandra, Emrys lives in the community and has made his Thursday morning art class a firm date in his diary. “Nothing stops me from coming to this group,” says Emrys who is a prolific artist. He loves being out in nature: especially on his electric bicycle in Elvaston Castle Country Park. “I love painting rocks, trees and flowers – I think it’s the texture I like.”
Doreen, who is involved in various social activities at Cantley Close including gardening and setting up a book club, says: “The art club is one of the nicest things to have happened here. It has been extremely therapeutic for me. When I lost my daughter I was in a terrible place. I would force myself come to the group and it helped me tremendously.” Doreen’s art works include acrylics on canvas of a lavender fields in Provence and a light house. Marion says she can’t draw very well but loves joining in for the company: “I’m trying, and there is always someone to ask if I get stuck. You never feel alone.” Chris, who is the resident contact at Cantley Close, says: “This group has been a godsend for many people. It helps those who may have difficultly socialising. Some people never used to leave their rooms, but now they enjoy talking to people.” Jean, for example, who has learning difficulties, has become more confident since joining the group. It has been a springboard to other activities such as coffee mornings and bingo.
Chris says the art group has re-ignited her interest in creativity: “I hadn’t done anything since school, though I was a map colourist for London Atlas for a short time before I had children. I’ve re-discovered the joy of so many things – mixing colours, drawing shapes, and much more. I enjoy landscapes, though there is plenty of artistic licence with mine! I enjoy being able to do what I like. And it’s therapeutic as I’m in pain most of the time.” Chris keeps a meticulous record of all the art that the group creates by photographing the completed pieces. She says: “Most people have no idea what they can do – they end up surprising themselves.”
The group is being supported to purchase materials by the scheme manager. In the future, the group will be able to apply for additional funding from “Make it happen” an internal fund for residents.
Written by LAS
Fact-checked by LAS
Pics by Paul Meyler