Gwanwyn commissioned Cardiff-based photographer, Michal Iwanowski, to examine the question asked to most tattoo enthusiasts ‘What if you regret this when you’re older?’ Having invited people to flaunt their ink and share their stories, it turned out there were absolutely no regrets – none of the twenty-five people photographed had any.
No Regrets celebrated the beauty of skin and the stories it carries. Stories at times light and carefree but also very moving, suggest that time and age have very little to do with their body art. What prevails is the unconditional acceptance of their skin and a focus on living in the moment, celebrating individualism and a zest for life with pride and empowerment.
This commission sought to be bold, shocking and intimate and challenge preconceived ideas and stereotypes of older people and what it is to grow older in Wales.
It premiered in May 2014 at Fat Cap Studios, a graffiti studio in Cardiff, and then travelled to Kickplate Gallery in Abertillery and Doc Bach Cafe, Caernarfon (curated by Caernarfon’s Galeri Arts Centre as part of Age Cymru’s Age Positive Week).
Stepping Into Spring
Stepping into Spring was one of Gwanwyn’s flagship events for 2014. Working in partnership with Rubicon Dance and Sherman Cymru, the event was a celebration of dance from older people’s dance groups from across Wales. These groups came together for the first time to showcase and promote the sheer diversity of work being created by older dancers. The groups were;
- Striking Attitudes (Cardiff)
- Tystion, TAN Dance (Neath Port Talbot)
- Senior Moment(UM) (Powys Dance)
- NuWave (Newport)
- Atgofion (RCT)
- Rhuddem Dance (Theatr Felinfach)
The event included over 70 older dancers and nearly 250 audience members. Stepping into Spring built on the success of the Shake a Leg manual co produced by Age Cymru and Rubicon Dance that developed the leadership of dance practitioners to deliver dance for older people.
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Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Aberystwyth Arts Centre opened their doors to anyone aged 50 and over for a free arts and wellbeing day, with activities programmed throughout the facilities in the centre. The emphasis was on having fun and encouraging participants to try new things.
Participants took part in
- Life drawing
- Digital photography
- String art
- Tour of the University’s Ceramics collection
- Film screenings of Memories of Aberystywth
- Digital stories using the art centre’s Digi Lab
Using Galeri’s TONIC events, affordable afternoon concerts for older people, as a springboard, the relationship between Gwanwyn and Galeri goes from strength to strength.
Galeri screened the film Breath Made Visible, which documents Anna Halprin’s methodology and revolutionary dance career. Anna is 97 and a choreographer and dancer. The screening included an ‘in discussion’ event with leading Welsh dance practitioner Cai Tomos, who is being mentored by Anna. Cai shared his experience and passion for her work, and for developing dance for older people.
CAIN, a dance group of older women who were inspired to perform by Sadlers Well’s Company of Elders during a previous Gwanwyn festival, performed as part of Galeri’s TONIC event for older people. CAIN has been described by an audience member as a ‘true example of what community dance should be’.
Theatr Clwyd, Mold
In partnership with North East Wales Dance, Clwyd Theatr Cymru offered free creative dance workshops themed around Spring and reawakening. Each workshop was followed by a social with free tea and cake.
Clwyd Theatr also offered special offer Gwanwyn tickets for National Dance Company Wales performances and promoted their Dance Shorts performances of Wistful Thinking to older audiences.
Gwanwyn Film Festival at Penarth Pavillion
Gwanwyn established a new partnership with Penarth Pavilion and showcased a series of films throughout the festival which included The Lunch Box, YSL and Ping Pong. Each film was accompanied by a workshop session following the screening which related to the themes of the film.
Following YSL, participants took part in a portrait drawing workshop led by Pauline Williams. Guy O’Donnell led a workshop on review writing following the screening of The Lunchbox – a film about an older man in Mumbai struggling to cope with life after the death of his wife and how a mistaken lunch delivery takes him into a new relationship with a younger woman as they build a fantasy together over a series of notes exchanged through the tiffin boxes.
Ping Pong followed the stories of a group of older table tennis players. Terry (81), having been given a week to live, manages to get in sight of winning gold. Inge (89) uses table tennis to train her way out of the dementia ward she committed herself to. Australian legend Dorothy is 100 and finds herself a mega celebrity in this rarefied world and Texan Lisa Modlich, a newcomer at 85 years old, is determined to do whatever it takes to win her first gold. This inspiring film is as much about the tenacity of the human spirit as it is a meditation on mortality.
Gwanwyn worked in partnership with Table Tennis Wales to offer taster workshop sessions to audiences following the film. Many participants went on to become a member of Table Tennis Wales and took their free table top nets and kits to enjoy at home.
3rd Age Critics
Guy O’Donnell, from Response, led a workshop on writing critical reviews as part of the Gwanwyn festival at Penarth Pavilion.
Participants have since gone on to become part of the third age critic network.
Members of the 3rd Age Critics attended Gwanwyn events and reviewed Stepping into Spring.
Spare Tyre residencies Once Upon A Time
Spare Tyre, one of the UK’s leading participatory arts charities, worked with care homes in South Wales to deliver week long interactive storytelling programmes for people with advanced dementia, aiding communication and dignity in care.
Once Upon a Time is a multi-sensory interactive storytelling programme for older people with advanced dementia and a training tool for the staff and volunteers who support them. It is responsive to participants and bespoke to an individual’s mode of communication, physicality and engagement. Through the telling of a story, the artists created a shared space for communication and creative engagement. Projection, light, taste, touch, sound and smell are all used to create moments of shared joy that inspire the imagination of participants.
The programme also included bespoke training for staff and volunteers. Spare Tyre delivered practical training in using creative activity as a core tool in a person centred approach to care that focussed on dignity and respect. Each participating member of staff had to deliver a planned activity with their residents as a result of the training received.
Parkour Beginners Class for Older People
Parkour Dance led Wales’ first ever parkour workshops specifically designed for older people. The workshops taught the principles of parkour – overcoming physical obstacles in an urban environment – and encouraged older people to rediscover Cardiff Bay’s urban playground.
After a brief dance warm up, each session moved outside where everything from railings to children’s climbing frames were utilised in the pursuit to keep older people active and limber.
I Heart Books
Visual artist Emma Prentice accompanied the mobile library service on their routes across Rhondda Cynon Taf. Emma joined the drivers for 10 days over a period of 4 months and encouraged borrowers to put pen to paper and re-create their favourite book covers and quotes, using pre-prepared craft packs that could be left with each borrower to complete in their own time.
A selection of the work created was combined into a huge Mondrian-esque collage and is currently installed at Aberdare library.
This project targeted older people who are rurally and socially isolated in the valleys, particularly people who are housebound and who may not normally have the opportunity to participate in events like Gwanwyn. The service currently engages with over 3,000 service users and nearly 250 housebound clients.
The installation of their work at the central library provided an opportunity to raise awareness of this hidden community and for housebound customers to feel part of something in their community.
I’m in my 100’s so I don’t read as much now. I like a mystery. I like to guess the culprit
I like a mystery. I’d be lost without the talking books
I turn the rubbish off on the TV and read in bed. I love reading
I like Alan Titchmarsh books, a bit of romance and a bit of naughty
Gwanwyn Week on Rhondda Radio
Rhondda radio teamed up with Age Cymru to deliver Gwanwyn Week. The Treherbert based station has been running for several years, and organised another successful Gwanwyn week in May 2014.
Gwanwyn week included daily shows with advice, and interviews with local older people who are involved in the arts. Rhondda Radio is run entirely by volunteers and many older people in the community are already actively involved in the radio station. Many of these presented special Gwanwyn week shows, featuring music of all genres and discussion of subjects relevant to older people.
Gwanwyn grant recipients were also interviewed and promoted as part of the Gwanwyn week.
History in Tapestry
Members of the Rhondda Cynon Taff 50+ Forum worked to produce a series of five tapestries exploring the heritage and culture of their local area. The tapestries have then been exhibited at an ever expanding number of venues throughout the area, including community centres, The Royal Glamorgan Hospital and Dare Country Park.
The completed items are amazing. What talent and creativity we have, I am so glad we have done this. I am like a child in a sweet shop. The ideas and suggestions keep on rolling in. My back bedroom has become a sewing room again, there are bits everywhere… My husband is taking messages left, right and centre. I am never in.
The project has been an excellent demonstration of how well they worked as a team… The camaraderie was noted and they felt valued. One member produced truly beautiful art work and was so modest about it.
A wonderful reminder of the glory days of Pontypridd.
It has given me an additional interest in as much as using the internet to research the history behind the project.
Until something like this comes up, you really don’t know what you are capable of.
Sax For Fun
Inspiring Jazz workshops in Cardiff bay were followed by an evening of performances at the Windsor Arms in Penarth. Beginners had the chance to meet and play with more experienced musicians, enjoying the benefits of a friendly and supportive group in which to trade riffs and make new friends.
It has been a lifetime’s ambition to play the sax, but I thought it was too late to learn.
The best thing about learning with Bev is that she is so inspiring and patient and gives confidence where none existed to start with.
This is something I wanted to do when I was little but we didn’t have that sort of music in school back then. Then Ska and 2 Tone came about in the 70s and I felt I missed the boat to learn. Recently I’ve been thinking about doing all the things I wanted to do when I was younger, but having a family etc all came first then. Now I’ve got time to do what I want (in between having the grandkids … LOL!) I’ve been thinking about learning, but didn’t know where to start about getting started. Then I saw your tweet and followed link to you… Thank you!
Penrhos Polish Housing Association
Penrhos Polish Housing Association hosted artist Therese Urbanska. Residents worked with the artist to create beautiful everyday items like plates and soft furnishings inspired by themes from Polish folklore. The work is now on display in the dining areas and is enjoyed by the residents and their families and friends.
We had one lady who is 87 and is in a wheelchair. Her children are living in London so they can’t visit her so often. This lady is ever so happy that she could go out to the other people for those few hours and do something. She was very active in the past and our workshops increased her confidence and she was very moved … When her children arrived a few weeks after, she asked them to take her to the dining room and she showed them her work. The family was very happy as well.
Shakespeare Link’s series of Have-a-go Shakespeare workshops opened the works of the Bard up to rurally isolated older people in Powys. Participation in the workshops enabled some of the Have-a-goers to join the Willow Globe Community Company’s production of the Merry Wives of Windsor.
I have never done any acting but really enjoyed the session. After a little while the words came easily and once I had understood the plot it was very enjoyable.
I can’t tell you how important Have-a-go and our guided rebirth as Shakespeare groupies has been to us in a year full of unwelcome ambushes. You and Mr William Shakespeare have been more effective than a ward full of physicians. Bless you.
I’m partially sighted and have learned a lot about the use of my eyes as well as ways of approaching Shakespeare and indeed ways of being with people because of Have-a-go Shakespeare.
We celebrate the inclusion of people from all walks of life and all ages and believe that Shakespeare belongs to everyone. His work provides an unrivalled medium for discussion, debate, social stimulus and fun.
Blind Veterans UK
Blind Veterans UK have been working with visually impared members of the military since 1915 and arts and crafts have always played a very important role in their rehabilitation work. They organised a dedicated week of workshops and demonstrations in Llandudno, culminating in their presence at Woodfest Wales in June where they showcased their work.
This week we made new friendships and cemented old ones. I am going home with more knowledge than I came with, as you can always meet someone you can learn from. This week brought out the creative side of everybody. It built confidence and independence and everyone was keen to finish their projects. My favourite bit was spending time with the chainsaw carver Ian Murray. He was a friendly, down to earth man. He explained every bit and let us feel the work as he made it.
This week has inspired me so much – my head is spinning with ideas of what I can do.
Plas Maesincla Art in Health Workshops
Plas Maesincla is a residential and nursing home for people with memory difficulties. They invited artist Wendy Rogers to host five workshops exploring the participant’s imagination and ideas.
One participant’s son arrived and we showed him the artwork his mum had made so far. He was really pleased as he hadn’t realized that she was taking part. He said the he felt reassured to see her doing something that she was enjoying as she hadn’t been at the home for long and they were concerned if she was happy or not or if it was the right thing to do to move her into the residential home.
One gentleman was watching and said that he most certainly would NOT like to join in. We had a look at some bird books and he decided to paint a canvas. His sister and brother-in-law arrived and they sat with us and we all chatted as he painted. It was a really nice atmosphere and they talked about things they had done when they were children. He eventually did a lovely drawing of a bird and said that he had really enjoyed it. His family said that it was good to see him concentrating on something as often his attention slipped. He asked to join next week and was really enthusiastic.
Memories Choir – Red Café Community Project
This was a pilot project in Swansea to run a choir for people living with dementia. Singing is hugely beneficial for people with this condition as the muscle memory of performing can last beyond the stage where verbal language is lost. Ros Evans from the Welsh National Opera acted as choir leader for four rehearsals and they performed two concerts as part of the Gwanwyn Festival.
Involvement in Gwanwyn has enabled this exciting and popular project to secure funding for the next two years.
It is a time in the week when they leave their home and come together with up to forty others and laugh and enjoy company in a stimulating environment. The singing itself is beneficial physically with breathing and movement, emotionally with a feeling of connectedness and wellbeing, and therapeutically with a connection to memories and reminiscences. Performing boosts self esteem and brings a sense of self worth and connectedness to the wider community.
For the audiences at our performances I think it is positive to see people whose lives are affected by a pretty bleak disease living, enjoying life and expressing themselves creatively. It demonstrates that it is possible to live well with dementia.