Partner profile: Leeds International Piano Competition and Be Caring

Through partnership working with Leeds International Piano Competition (LIPC) and Be Caring the 100% Digital Leeds team developed an arts and culture digital inclusion offer that aimed to address the digital inclusion need in care by:

  • highlighting the ways that care settings can utilise digital to engage with the city’s arts sector and increase arts participation for care residents.
  • making new and lasting connections between individual care settings and arts organisations in the city.
  • supporting the improved digital skills and confidence of staff and residents in care settings.
  • supporting improved arts participation for care audiences.

A live tea dance and a series of curated piano recitals were produced and made available to care settings through the Arts in Care Digital Programme, and an in-person event was held by Be Caring for staff and care recipients. The success of these activities will lead to more digital inclusion engagement for both LIPC and Be Caring.

“The way I’ve been thinking about digital more and more is that it’s a tool. We could probably never on any sort of scale engage with [a care] audience except for digitally because we can’t really take our competition winner into a care home because they need a Steinway piano. So really the only connection is going to be digital.”

Sally Egan, Leeds International Piano Competition

60% of staff across care homes nationally report low levels of confidence with using digital technology. This statistic was echoed in a recent digital social care record summary, where a digital assessment of care providers in Leeds reported that 43% of care homes didn’t have adequate wifi across their building, and 6% of settings have no wifi at all. There is a need to address the current offer of connectivity and equipment within care homes. There is also a need to address the confidence and skills of staff working in care homes to utilise digital technology and capabilities to best support the people they work with. 

The arts can provide opportunities for social interaction, movement, and activity which could play a role in mitigating some of the behavioural factors that are associated with increased risk of dementia. Additionally greater engagement in cultural activities has links with reduced frailty.

Working in partnership to maximise access to arts and culture through digital

This project saw 100% Digital Leeds partnering with LIPC and Be Caring to utilise digital to improve access to creative content for people living with dementia and their carers.

Leeds International Piano Competition

Founded in 1963, the Leeds International Piano Competition (LIPC) is one of the world’s foremost music competitions, holding performances over three days every three years and attracting a digital global audience. Alongside the competition the organisation runs an educational and outreach programme with schools, and a popular piano trail across the city. For 2023, Head of Creative Learning and Engagement Sally Egan was keen to expand their creative learning programme and wanted to test and learn new approaches to community engagement to see where they could have an impact. As a result, LIPC partnered with 100% Digital Leeds on the Arts in Care Digital Programme.

100% Digital Leeds Arts in Care Digital Programme

The Arts in Care Digital Programme aims to help develop the digital skills, confidence, and motivation, of care homes staff and care recipients. The programme is curated by 100% Digital Leeds with the support of a steering group made up of partners from across health, culture, and care settings.

The programme aims to foster meaningful relationships between arts and cultural organisations and care settings, to give care staff the experience of hosting digital sessions within their space. It also gives arts and cultural organisations the opportunity to reach new audiences, work with new technology, and for everyone to have a joyful and uplifting experience in the process. The aim with the week was to help to tackle some of the barriers to inclusion faced by care recipients and staff taking part in digital arts activity, and to develop their digital skills and confidence. In the process of managing the programme the team would also have the opportunity to form valuable relationships with the care sector, deepening our understanding of the specific barriers of engaging with digital in this context, and also what the individual motivators are. This creates stronger foundations for our ongoing work with care including the work that we are delivering for the digital social care record (DSCR) in partnership with Leeds City Council’s Adults and Health Service.

Be Caring

Be Caring is the UK’s largest employee-owned social care provider. Based in South Leeds their range of services covers everything from traditional domiciliary care to more complex needs like dementia, learning disabilities, palliative care and reablement. Be Caring partnered with 100% Digital Leeds to engage with the Arts in Care Digital Programme to see how they could better support the wellbeing of their service users.

“As an organisation, we want to transform the sector, innovating new models of care which better support the people we care for, and our employees themselves. We’re achieving this through engaging with our clients and colleagues, encouraging open and honest communication.”

Be Caring

Using digital to enable people with dementia and their carers to engage with Leeds International Piano Competition

The demographic of the LIPC audience means that some audience members are living with dementia, whether they have reached the stage of a formal diagnosis or not. The team was keen to make their programme as inclusive and accessible as possible for people living with dementia. They met with Tim Sanders, the Dementia Lead for Leeds, who is also a pianist. From this conversation, the idea for a Leeds Carers Piano Competition came about. Held in July at Opera North the competition was open to staff of Carers Leeds, people living with dementia and their families. 

“It’s not for us to tell people how to experience. We’re trying to create more relaxed settings where people can behave more authentically and experience [culture] in a way that suits them better.”

Sally Egan, Leeds International Piano Competition

Following on from the competition in July, LIPC planned to celebrate National Dementia Carers Day with a tea dance in the Civic Hall, in partnership with Carers Leeds. Sally contacted the 100% Digital Leeds team who organised a meeting with the technical team at the Carriageworks Theatre with the aim of recording the tea dance to show as part of the Arts in Care Digital Programme. This would enable them to widen their reach, to find new audiences and to re-connect with those audiences that may have lost touch with the competition after entering care.

“Loved the music, singing and dancing. Very uplifting.”

Leeds care home

The tea dance was recorded and then made available via YouTube alongside four curated piano recitals, introduced by members of the LIPC team. Despite technical hitches to the sound meaning that some of it had to be re-dubbed, the recordings proved to be extremely popular with care homes. The 100% Digital Leeds team were also keen to promote other digital resources that would sit alongside the event providing a more holistic approach to the digital opportunities presented to care staff. Alongside the LIPC offering 100% Digital Leeds signposted staff to Medici.TV  which streams classical concerts online and can be accessed with a Leeds Libraries library card, plus other resources such as Borrow Box and access to online newspapers and magazines.

“If you have sensory difficulties or if you’re very introverted, then going into a space with people you don’t know to hear something might be the last thing you’d ever want. If we think about the competition in the Great Hall in the university, we can get 200 people in there for one round. But we live stream it to 5,000,000.”

Sally Egan, Leeds International Piano Competition

The 100% Digital Leeds team presented at a Registered Managers Information and Quality Forum, speaking about how care settings could take part in the Arts and Care Digital Programme. Lance Gardner from Be Caring contacted the team to see how we could work together for the benefit of their staff and clients. 100% Digital Leeds facilitated a relationship with LIPC which led to Be Caring organising a tea dance for their clients at a café in Beeston, using the recorded tea dance as inspiration for an in-person afternoon tea.

This was the first time the group had met since the pandemic and the first time that one of their care recipients had left the house for 15 years. At the event she was also able to connect with her niece who she hadn’t seen for six years. The event was a resounding success, however a huge amount of time went into making it happen, including making sure that transport was in place for the participants. This time pressure is partially mitigated by the way in which Be Caring are constituted as a social enterprise, as staff are paid for all of their contracted hours rather than just the hours they are providing their in-person care. Lance is now keen to expand on their digital work and is exploring ways in which he can build on the success of that initial tea dance meet-up with support from the 100% Digital Leeds team.

“You’re doing this in my environment. This is my home, so I can feel good about myself and I become the centre of attention in a way that might not have been for many, many, many years.”

Lance Gardner, Be Caring

Next Steps

Both Be Caring and LIPC are keen to continue their relationship with 100% Digital Leeds to further investigate how they can use digital tools within their organisations.  Be Caring have made plans to continue meet-up events using digital as a motivator and are also looking at other digital approaches to encourage communication between their clients. One idea is that they give care recipients tablets to be able to keep in touch with each other from their own homes with the aim of maintaining and reinforcing social bonds, with wellbeing outcomes linked to improved mental health and reduced feelings of isolation.

“In relation to wellbeing, cultural participation afforded older people a range of positive emotional experiences, making them feel happier… Older people also reported feeling more of a connection with their own personal identity, as well as building a collective identity, which led to increased confidence and self-esteem. “

Baring Foundation, Every Home a Creative Home Report

LIPC are interested in working with 100% Digital Leeds on their Creative Learning Engagement Laboratory where LIPC have the freedom to experiment with innovative approaches for the benefit of their audiences and to increase the organisation’s reach, including audiences in care.