Earlier in October we celebrated the launch of the Arts Gymnasium project. The project, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, is work in partnership between the Belgrade Theatre, Age UK Coventry and Coventry University.The project uses theatre and arts activities to contribute to the quality of life and positive well-being of people living in Coventry. Weekly sessions, exclusively for people aged 50 and over, are currently run at the Belgrade Theatre. A particular strand of the programme is tailored to meet the needs of people living with memory impairments and/or early stage dementia.
The launch event took place on 6th October at the Belgrade Theatre. It included presentations from Arts Gymnasium partners, a live performance from Shine On (i.e. the Belgrade’s current over 50s group), and a presentation from the Alzheimer’s Society Coventry about their current services.
The Councillor Faye Abbott also spoke at the event about the Arts Gymnasium’s key role in Coventry’s development of its Age Friendly City initiative.
The project will be evaluated by researchers at Coventry University, led by Dr Katherine Wimpenny (DMLL). Dr Wimpenny explained that the evaluation will focus on what theatre performance and art activities can especially do for a wide range of people in the city. She also referred to the project’s unique position in the growing arts and health field as it will explore new methods for engaging some of the most vulnerable communities and will test theatre practice as a way of achieving health and wellbeing outcomes for the 50+ community, with impact on the wider community.
Arts Gymnasium is part of the Belgrade Theatre’s Community & Education programme, and uses theatre and arts activities to contribute to the quality of life and positive well-being of people living in Coventry. These sessions are exclusively for people aged 50 and over, and run once a week during school term time at the Belgrade Theatre.
There are 3 strands to the Arts Gymnasium Programme:
- Shine On is an opportunity to share stories through participating in a variety of drama activities. The Shine On group has been in existence since 2012 and they have performed in a number of productions at the Belgrade including: Shine On, 2012; From the end springs new beginnings, 2013; I burn, I pine, I perish 2015; workshops and activities in community settings; and performances as part of local events and festivals.
- Living Well is a drama group that is tailored to meet the needs of people living with memory impairments and/or early stage dementia. These sessions will encourage participants to take part in individual and group activities, promoting the use of imagination and movement.
- Reaching Out is a drama group that focusses on working with those who are isolated and from the least arts-engaged communities within the city, promoting positive well-being and connectivity within Coventry. These sessions will build confidence through providing a space for play, and exploring experiences from different backgrounds through drama activities and storytelling.
If you would like to know about the research headed by Coventry University involving the Arts Gymnasium project, click here