City explores age and creativity

A NEW festival exploring the creativity of older generations is being celebrated on Wearside.

The national Age of Creativity Festival was planned for May and had to move online because of the spread of COVID-19 – but this hasn’t stopped Sunderland Culture from developing a range of activities to ensure Wearsiders can still get involved.

Inspired by an acclaimed exhibition at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland has programmed a series of projects and events as the city’s contribution to the festival.

The exhibition, Received Wisdom, is the city’s first Arts Council Collection National Partner Exhibition and after opening in February, was due to close.

“We had planned to celebrate the final week of our first Arts Council Collection exhibition Received Wisdom by taking part in the national Age of Creativity Festival, bringing together and highlighting the creativity of older people in our community,” explained Rebecca Ball, Sunderland Culture’s Creative Director.

“Venues have closed because of the spread of COVID-19, so the Age of Creativity Festival has moved online. The city will be taking an active part in the festival and every Thursday we’ll share on social media the work we have done and continue to do with older audiences – and encouraging those audiences to take part. Do please get online, get involved and support Sunderland Culture,” added Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly

Received Wisdom explores the relationship between age and creativity. It presents a body of work created by artists working in their later years and challenges ideas about what is expected at different stages in our lives.

“The exhibition highlights what we know to be true from our work with older audiences: that age is no barrier to creativity,” said Rebecca.

The regular Thursday social media promotion has already included a celebration of Creative Age, a weekly group designed for people living with the early stages of dementia based at Arts Centre Washington. The group works in a variety of mediums, including printmaking, painting and sculpture. Arts Centre Washington has also been working on a Creative Age Phone Project with Sunderland Museum.

Rebecca explained: “We are delivering a special programme of craft activities over a period of 12 weeks for participants in Sunderland and Washington. At the beginning of each week participants will receive step by step instructions and photos via email and will be ready to work on their piece during their usual Creative Age time. Staff will follow up through a phone call to check in on participants, have a chat and offer remote support with each activity.”

Other activity planned as part of the Age of Creativity Festival will include showing a film of Sunderland Culture’s Who Do You Want To Meet? project. The film is of a dance performance delivered by people who attend Falling on Your Feet, a dance programme for people aged over 65, and Friends of the Drop-In (FODI), a group that supports asylum seekers and refugees.

Another project to be promoted through the Age of Creativity publicity will be a Coalfields Connectedness event that Sunderland Culture, Sunderland City Council, Washington Mind and Gentoo worked on jointly. The project brought young and older residents together through a circus project.

Rebecca explained: “We worked with Bare Toed Theatre Company who brought their aerial rig and circus equipment which was enjoyed by participants from ages five to 95. We also held a silent disco and ran wish flags workshops. We had some special moments with residents from local care homes and a nursery who interacted with each other through creative activity.”

Later in May, Age of Creativity Festival activity will include exploring the innovative work of The Little Onion Club, a Community Interest Company (CIC) which runs a programme of intergenerational programmes in Washington. The club has been working with residents of Donwell House Care Home on an Intergenerational Arts Award linked to the Received Wisdom exhibition and exploring themes such as change and human lifespans.

During May half-term week (w/c May 25) Sunderland-based artist Andrew Holder will share worksheets for families to work on remotely and intergenerationally.

Rebecca explained: “Andrew’s idea is that grandparents or elderly loved ones will share a piece of music with their grandchildren or younger folk in their family. Both generations will then complete drawing exercises in response to the music chosen. It’s a simple idea and will work really well via video calls or email, with drawings being exchanged between the family members.”

Rebecca added: “The Received Wisdom exhibition and the Age of Creativity Festival have given us the perfect opportunity to celebrate the creativity of older Wearsiders. At a time when many of our older relatives, neighbours and friends are having to self isolate, we thought it was more important than ever that our programme provide opportunities to support and champion the creativity of older people and to provide opportunities for different generations to connect through culture and heritage.

“During this time we are encouraging anyone and everyone to share their creativity, whether you’re someone older than 50 being creative, or someone under 50 sharing their joy with older generations.

“We’d love to smash some of the stereotypes about who is producing work at home and the misconception that older people and younger people are from two separate worlds – we are all creative.”

For more about the Age of Creativity Festival, go to www.festival.ageofcreativity.co.uk and more about Sunderland Culture activity www.sunderlandculture.org.uk and to keep up to date with their Age of Creativity activity, follow them on Twitter @SundCulture