Norwich Theatre is honoured to have been awarded the Best Age Friendly Outreach Award at the national Fantastic for Families Awards last night [16 November 2021], for its engagement work with older adults, and especially isolated adults in sheltered housing and care homes during the pandemic year.
Fantastic for Families Awards celebrate the wealth of exceptional creative provision for families across the UK and the achievements of those who have made an outstanding contribution to family-friendly arts and culture.
Norwich Theatre’s award winning project was designed in response to the ongoing pandemic. The Creative Community Recovery Programme was for older adults who found themselves particularly isolated because of COVID-19. It covered a huge range of opportunities to interact or take part as an audience member: creative workshops such as drama, dance, and creative writing; activities including ‘Cloth of Kindness’ (needlework) and arts and crafts; and social opportunities including community choir.
On awarding Norwich Theatre’s project, the judges noted that it: “Exuded energy, a wide range of activities, a significant number of partnerships and reached impressive numbers of people in sheltered accommodation and care homes.”
Sam Patel, Head of Creative Engagement at Norwich Theatre said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this national award! We partnered with so many exceptional organisations, including Cotman Housing Association, Norwich Age UK, Connecting Bowthorpe and care homes. We also worked with myriad creative practitioners, who worked tirelessly and with passion and adaptability under extremely restrictive circumstances. Without all of these we could have done only a fraction of this work and so our huge thanks go to all of them.
“Working with these partners, we learned the extent of digital poverty and just how disconnected and isolated so many older adults had become throughout the pandemic, with no access to communal spaces during lockdowns. The project harnessed the power of creativity to help with this. We printed bespoke creativity packs and Creative Care Packages, with pre-recorded workshops and art materials for older adults, including residents in sheltered housing schemes and care homes across Norfolk and hand-delivered these. We also ran sessions online including podcasts. It really focussed on supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing.”
Wendy Ellis, Creative Programmes Director at Norwich Theatre said: “We are immensely proud of our team and this project, which truly shows how creativity and cultural engagement can bring joyful moments of collaboration and connectivity in difficult times. We are proud to have embraced new opportunities to innovate and adapt our activities to safely reach audiences. The feedback from the project and partners showed how impactful it has been: participants cited that our project helped with their mental wellbeing and created a sense of belonging and of collective identity. It also provided opportunities for self-expression and self-esteem, which is so rewarding to hear. Now to have it nationally recognised for its significance is the icing on the cake!”
Stephen Crocker, Chief Executive and Creative Director of Norwich Theatre said: “When the first lockdown began, amidst all of the uncertainty that prevailed, one thing was clear to us at Norwich Theatre. Even though our buildings were now closed, it was more important than ever before to keep our mission to provide life-enriching creative experiences alive against whatever odds and however we could. This meant mining new depths of creativity and adapting constantly and the creation of our Creative Community Recovery programme was one of our early responses. We were delighted that the feedback from those partners and participants who took part showed incredible impact and outcomes and I am beyond thrilled and proud that the resilience and creativity of the team who created and delivered this has now also been recognised through this award as well.”
Anna Dever, Head of Family Arts Campaign said: “Huge congratulations to the winners of this year’s Fantastic for Families awards! It has been truly inspiring to see the incredible work created for and with families during such challenging circumstances. May we also congratulate all of our nominees and everyone who applied. The amount and range of work developed has been astonishing and is testament to the spirit and the ingenuity of those working in the arts and cultural sector to support families most in need.”
The Creative Community Recovery Programme was made possible thanks to the generosity of individual donations through Norwich Theatre’s Coronavirus Crisis Appeal and specific grants from the Norfolk Community Foundation and Norwich Freemen’s Charity.
As a result of partnerships forged for the Creative Community Recovery Programme, a new partnership Age Healthy Norwich has been formalised, between Norwich Theatre, Age UK Norwich, Exercising People in Communities and Norwich Door-to-Door. Age Healthy Norwich brings together specialist support for older adults including physical and mental health, creativity, transport, and information, guidance and advice. Currently, the partnership is working with local Clinical Commissioning Groups and GP surgeries to ensure longevity of the partnership and to maximise outcomes for older adults.