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Lucy Geddes, a Director of String of Hearts CIC, shares her experiences of establishing a creative ageing organisation to tackle issues such as isolation for people aged 50+ across the UK and in their local town of Sale, Trafford. Lucy is a member of the Creative Ageing SIG.

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String of Hearts CIC tackles isolation by providing people aged 50+ with supported access to music-making later in life. We deliver activities where members of the community can connect, share ideas and create music together, improving wellbeing and self-expression.

The proportion of people aged 65+ living in Trafford is projected to grow by 29% by 2031 (Age Well Plan for Trafford). Older people tell us they can go days without social interaction, and research shows that social isolation has debilitating effects on mental health, particularly depression.

We’d like to learn more about the reasons why older people in Sale are isolated, in order to fully understand how we can support them.

What are we doing?

To begin tackling these issues, we delivered a day of music-making workshops and consultations with people aged 50+ in the local community. The Square Shopping Centre in Sale gave us free use of an empty shopping unit in the town centre. We created a flyer inviting people aged 50+ to join us for free music-making workshops and shared our aim of setting up a relaxed music group in the local area.

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The workshops were a success; over 30 people participated in the music-making (singing, lyric writing, composing music) and shared their views on a vision for the new group. People commented that they felt “very uplifted” and “it’s a bit different, never heard of anything like it before”. One person told us they live with chronic depression, but that taking part had “brightened his day” and he looks forward to the next workshop.

The workshops gave us the motivation to make this idea a reality and have directly informed our plans for the first 12 months of our new organisation.

What’s worked well so far?

Setting realistic goals (e.g. delivering one workshop/month), has helped us begin addressing our strategic aims. We’ve reached new people through The Square Shopping Centre providing free space for people to walk into from the high street, and through our older neighbours spreading the word. 

The format of our consultation was relaxed and open; the groups explored many creative ideas, which helped inform our understanding of local needs.

It has been crucial that the artistic approach and delivery plans are responsive to change through the insights and ideas of participants. 

What’s next?

Our next step is to deliver further consultation workshops in order to consolidate our model of delivery and enable more local people to experience the effects of music on wellbeing. In six months, we will have established a core community-based group which is co-designed by the people who will benefit from it.

By year two, we aim for this programme to become a core activity of our organisation. Through regular participation in our music activities, older people can be the influence of positive change for themselves and the wider social community. The creative works produced by each group can be shared publicly, to challenge perceptions of older people’s creative abilities and decrease stigma surrounding ageing. 

We have connected with a range of organisations in our local area, such as Culture Champions Trafford, and are excited to identify further collaborators. Now that every borough of Greater Manchester has a social prescribing scheme in operation, including the partnership between Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group and Trafford Council, we hope to establish a clear methodology for collaborating with link workers to enable local people to access community services to benefit their health and wellbeing.

The content of our workshops after Covid-19 will inevitably need to be flexible depending on whether people want to:

  1. explore the impacts of this difficult collective experience or
  2. move on from it to explore new experiences and ideas.

Whatever people decide, String of Hearts will actively support the process of bringing the community together through music-making.

You can follow updates from String of Hearts and Lucy Geddes on Twitter.
Thanks to our Blog Editor Kate for editing this blog.

Stay safe, well & creative – Emily BSG Creative Ageing SIG Founder & Chair

Follow us on twitter BSG Creative Ageing SIG , find out more or click to join!

This vibrant community of interest is cross-disciplinary, international, and growing in stature, as a rapidly evolving evidence-base demonstrates the potential for creativity to contribute widely within the lives of individuals and communities.

If you’re a member of the Creative Ageing SIG & would like to write a blog, please email Emily.