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Building intergenerational relationships through a creative process is the key driver behind Chat Back, my RSA Catalyst backed project.

My background is in performance and research, and I was inspired to set up Chat Back through my experience of working with young people in the arts and on social action projects.

The project has direct connection with the RSA’s key theme Creative, Learning and Developments'   aim of seeking ‘to close the creativity gap, working with learners, educators and leaders to develop new approaches that enable everyone, regardless of background, to generate original, valuable ideas and make them happen’ and this inspired me to take the project forward through the RSA.

I wanted to develop a two way conversation using the arts as a vehicle that produced something tangible. Care homes are required to provide stimulating activities for their residents following a report by Sube Banerjee and education establishments want to embed their community work into their curriculums more as well - it seemed a perfect fit.

The project takes young people into care home settings, creating intergenerational contacts by encouraging students to draw residents’ stories from the past and recreate them as performance pieces. The students get to learn about residents’ lives, as well as being exposed to the social care sector. The residents are able to be heard and feel valued.   

It exceeded expectations and original ambitions – in numbers and on a much deeper level of community engagement, cohesion through the benefits of therapeutic storytelling and relationship building.  We worked with Hans Price Academy on the Bourneville Estate in Weston Super Mare, one of the most deprived areas in the South West. Building a partnership with Alliance Homes Housing Association, we brought 23 GCSE drama students into a supported housing scheme on a weekly basis to talk to 24 residents. The project formed part of their curriculum and had a direct and positive impact on their grades. Another project in Bedminster in Bristol with St Monica Trust and Jacob Wells Dance students was hugely successful. One resident said it was a ‘profound and prayerful experience’. We are keen to continue to develop this work in this field and have forged partnerships with local arts organisations and other older people’s groups such as Link Age.

The Catalyst grant became a complete catalyst in taking my practice and work forward.  Off the back of this work I became involved in organising The Festival of Ages ‘uniting generations’ event in July 2015, where we were able to show the films from Chat Back.  I also formed Wyldwood Arts CiC with two colleagues to work on developing arts projects in the community.  We have been able to secure funding from a number of other organisations; Arts Council England, Bramble Trust, The Grateful Society, Quartet Community Foundation, St Monica Trust, Greater Bedminster Community Trust, and Alliance Homes that have enabled the projects to grow, all out of the initial catalyst funding.

Do get in touch if you're interested in intergenerational work and have experiences to share or if you would like to collaborate on a project in the Bristol/Gloucestershire areas.


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