This is a guest blog written by Geraldine Montgomerie, Partnership Manager at The Swan Song Project. Geraldine is a member of the cross-sector steering group behind 100% Digital Leeds’s recently announced digital inclusion and arts participation programme in celebration of Arts in Care Homes Day.
“Please Come Back”: a guest blog from The Swan Song Project
This year marks the fourth Arts in Care Homes Day since it was established in 2019 – and in Leeds we have been sharing good practice every year; bringing together different care providers and arts opportunities and hearing the difference arts can make to not just care home residents, but their families and the staff who support them.
At the Swan Song Project we work with people living with terminal conditions, planning the end of their lives or dealing with bereavement and help them to write their own original songs. The people we work with value having dignity, personal control and choice over their circumstances, feeling connected to other people, taking part in interesting and pleasurable activities. Our songwriting work meets these needs, and the people we work with tell us how proud they are of their songs and how much fun they had during the process. They say that the process has helped them come to terms with their situation and helped them articulate and communicate their feelings in a way they might not otherwise have done.
We have supported people to write songs virtually, enabling us to reach people who are unable to meet us in person.Geraldine Montgomerie
During the pandemic we have supported people to write songs virtually, enabling us to reach people who are unable to meet us in person including people living anywhere in the UK. We continue to offer a weekly online singing group where we encourage people to relax and breathe as well as learning new skills and gaining confidence in singing. We are joined by people around the world who describe the group as helping them sleep better, feel less tense and generally improving their mood.
We started our project in hospices but as Covid-19 restrictions have lifted we have begun to bring our work into care homes and work with other care providers, celebrating people’s lives, making memories and leaving legacies through making new songs.
There are almost 200 care settings in Leeds, many of which have enjoyed touring theatre productions and opera performances, live concerts and poetry, dance classes and opportunities for craft and even immersive art installations such as changing a care home lounge area into a ‘park’. The benefits of these activities can be significant – for example dance classes have been shown to reduce frailty, increase activity levels and boost wellbeing.
“Despite the range of local expertise and the best efforts of wellbeing and activity coordinators, it can be difficult to provide a daily offer of activities that suit the tastes and specific needs of people needing care.”Geraldine Montgomerie
Despite the range of local expertise and the best efforts of wellbeing and activity coordinators, it can be difficult to provide a daily offer of activities that suit the tastes and specific needs of people needing care. With staff shortages care providers have limited resources to build relationships with local arts organisations and to finance regular high quality, interactive sessions. Covid-19 is also still presenting challenges, with care providers still closing to visitors with very little notice, so it remains a great time to share how we have learnt to offer online and remote arts activities and to adapt them to better meet people’s needs.
“We have found care settings have been really open to working with technology.”Geraldine Montgomerie
We are always looking for ways to improve access to our work including continuing to offer online songwriting sessions and singing groups. We have found care settings have been really open to working with technology – whether joining us in online sessions to share memories we associate with key pieces of music from our lives or allowing us to visit in person and connect care home residents and hospice patients to online resources.
In partnership with 100% Digital Leeds and other arts and health organisations, we are working on an Arts in Care Homes Day programme in September 2022 to support care providers to open up opportunities to residents through a mixture of in person and online activities, overcome barriers to accessing online activities and bringing technology into care homes to enhance experiences and build confidence.
We have learned so far that there is a huge appetite to experience and engage with arts and creativity… that with every session we offer in a care setting we are urgently invited to come back.
Learn more about The Swan Song Project
Learn more about the digital inclusion and arts participation programme
- Learn more about the digital inclusion and arts participation programme in celebration of Arts in Care Homes Day.
- The programme of activities will run from Saturday 24th September to Saturday 1st October
- The final programme will be announced towards the end of August
- Arts and culture organisations can submit their activities for inclusion in the programme by completing this form by Monday 1st August.
- Care providers can request support to access the programme by completing this form at any time until Saturday 1st October
- For more information about this project or how you can support contact firstname.lastname@example.org