One of the most interesting aspects of this research is the filtering process after each meeting, or at the end of the day.
Eating lunch with the amazing Gail Kenning, artist and researcher at University of Technology in Sydney, our chat moved from hackers and lace-making, to evaluation of arts projects and the deficit model of ageing. While I made copious notes about arts and health funding and why wellbeing is not the only indicator of a successful project, it was a different idea stayed in my mind.
What struck me, later on, was that the key barrier for writers working with older people might be the rigidity of some of the settings. Who wants to work in a place full of rules, and have to negotiate all the restrictions? As Gail said, how can artists respond to the structure of a residential care environment or a hospital, while continuing the stuff of their own practice? Many artists need quiet, daydreaming time, thinking space. Is there a way of translating this way of working into tight schedules and clinical environments? How would it be if artists didn’t feel they had to provide an experience with strong and measurable outcomes? What other ways could they work?
And in turn, how can we promote quieter ways of producing projects with older people? There are many brilliant arts programmes in care homes and for groups of older people which have strong performative aspects: choirs, theatre shows, songs, dance, group entertainment. It feels to me, even more as I pursue this research, that there is space for an offer to individuals, for those who prefer their art gentler and more subtle, who don’t want to be on show, but might enjoy new ways of reading, making poetry and exploring forms of storytelling.