Access All Arts: SoundUp with Opera North, 2019
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SoundUp with Opera North was a four-week participatory arts and music workshop series, run by the dementia-focused community interest company SoundUp Arts. SoundUp with Opera North was delivered to two local dementia-care venues across four weeks. These workshops form part of our Access All Arts work, this area of work aims to bring arts and cultural activities into care settings. We work alongside arts organisations and venues to bring their programmes out to the community, making cultural engagement accessible, interactive and joyful for all access levels.
SoundUp with Opera North is the second year of our successful Access All Arts programme. This year extended upon the scale of our pilot workshop in 2018 which brought
the Royal Northern College of Music’s production of Gianni Schicchi to people living with dementia in a local care home in Manchester. In our second year we were able to double the beneficiaries that we reached, and increase the number of cultural partners in the programme by partnering with Opera North and the Lowry.
All our work at SoundUp Arts connects to our ethos that music and the arts can enrich everyone's quality of life. We aim to use arts and music to create opportunities for self expression, engagement, learning, agency, personhood and joy for all participants that we work with.
“It was really enjoyable and fulfilling to work with the participants and help brighten their day.”
- RNCM Student Musician who performed in the project.
We designed these workshops to give participants with dementia, their families and carers a taste and experience of each opera in Opera North's Autumnal season (Giulio Cesare, La Boheme and The Greek Passion). We use a variety of activities, performances and sensory experiences to allow people of all abilities to connect and interact with the sessions.
The workshop series combined high-quality performances from Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) vocal students with participatory music, movement and arts activities. Across
the four workshops participants had the opportunity to explore the story, characters, music, costumes and set design of each of the three Opera North productions. The workshops focused on audience participation, sensory exploration, individualised creative expression and group engagement; elements which have been proven to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia, as evidenced by arts and health government research reports from The All Party Parliamentary Group (2018), The Utley Foundation (2018) and the World Health Organisation (2019).
“I really enjoyed it. I was so happy. I was so happy with the singing, everything. Thank you so much.”
The sessions were facilitated and led by dementia arts specialist and classically trained singer Lucy Temby, who is an alumni of the RNCM and a junior fellow in Learning and Participation. Lucy trained seventeen RNCM students in dementia awareness, music for health and participatory arts facilitation skills. Sixteen of these students went on to perform in the workshops across the four weeks with eight of the students attending more than one workshop.
These workshops were designed and presented by SoundUp Arts in partnership with Opera North and the Royal Northern College of Music. They were sponsored by Belong Morris Feinmann and Limelight Community Centre and supported by Together Dementia Support and The Lowry.
Opera North was a partner in the workshops, as the sessions were themed around their Autumn season. We worked with Opera North’s education department who provided us with accessible information about the productions, as well as images and information about the design, music and performers. Opera North and The Lowry gave us greatly discounted tickets to all three productions when they toured to Manchester, allowing our group to have 15 pound tickets with carers attending performances for free. We were able to take a group of 20 people living with dementia to see La Boheme at the Lowry at the end of the project. In the final workshop we also had a very special guest performance from Samantha Clarke, an RNCM alumni and a current soloist with Opera North, performing the role of Musetta in the production La Boheme.
Seventeen Royal Northern College of Music students volunteered to be involved in the workshops as performers and facilitators. These students received specialised music for dementia training from SoundUp as well as dementia awareness training through the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends programme. The RNCM supported the project by sponsoring the transport of these students to, between and from the workshop venues. The RNCM also supported the musician volunteers by providing them bursary hours for their time commitment to the project. The RNCM’s props and wardrobe department loaned objects and costumes for the workshop series, transforming the care venues into theatrical spaces. The RNCM also funded the videographer Hallam Fulcher to make a film about the project. The videographer came to two workshop days, taking footage from the workshops. Hallam also conducted interviews with participants and the student volunteers after the sessions. The RNCM supported the entire cost of this video production and all associated marketing that went along side this film.
Together Dementia Support (TDS) supported the project by transporting eight members living with dementia in the community to the Limelight workshop sessions, who otherwise would not have been able to access the workshops. TDS also contributed to the cost of paying the accompanist in the Limelight sessions, loaned instruments and workshop resources and provided community volunteers in the Limelight sessions. TDS contributed to the monitoring of the project by collecting feedback from an independent surveyor in the fourth workshop. TDS also supported the advocacy of the project by promoting the workshops and SoundUp Arts on their social media platforms.
Belong Morris Feinmann and Limelight Community Centre each sponsored the workshop series by contributing 400 pounds towards the workshops. This sponsorship was spent on workshop resources and paying the musicians and workshop leaders.
RNCM Student Training & Development
Seventeen RNCM students were involved in the project. All students completed ‘facilitating music for people living with dementia’ training course run by SoundUp Arts in advance of the workshop series. They also all became dementia friends, receiving dementia awareness training. The student musicians were asked to give feedback on their experience of the project. 100% of respondents marked that they would 'definitely' want to volunteer/perform in a future workshop. 7/8 respondents scored 10/10 in answer to 'How effective did you feel the session was in promoting wellbeing amongst participants.'
Reach to beneficiaries:
“This experience helped me gain a lot of confidence. It was a really enjoyable experience.”
Project monitoring & feedback
In the final week of the series an independent evaluator from the board of Together Dementia Support interviewed 7 participants about their enjoyment of the workshop. 100% of respondents reported enjoying the workshop at a score of 10 out of 10.
SoundUp Arts collected qualitative and quantitative feedback from participants and the RNCM musicians across the project. Below is a summary of feedback across the four weeks where 49 participants gave feedback.
We collected scalic-ratings from 49 people across the four weeks. This is a summary of some of the qualitative feedback collected across the four weeks. The answers further down are direct quotes from a participant living with dementia.
How did you feel during and after the session?
*Transported into another world
*Elated, better at the end
*On a high!
*Quite emotional, peaceful and excited
*Great fun, it lifted my mood
*Gets you out of the flat and mixing with people, it felt good!
*When I come here, before I'm down, as soon as I am here I'm so happy
What was your favourite part of the session?
*All of it
*I feel like I can get up and perform with you
*It was absolutely perfect
*Remembering the good old songs from childhood
*The costumes and singing
*All the singing by the group
*Wonderful quality of singing
*Listening to singers
*Getting involved, the scarves and the instruments
What would you say to people thinking of coming to a session?
*I'd tell them to come.
*Go along! Definitely!
*I would really recommend it, I think this is an experience everyone should have.
*Come! You will leave feeling uplifted!
*It's a good thing, if you are living on your own it helps.
*Please come! It's very interesting!
SoundUp would like to say a huge thank you to the singers, musicians, volunteers, care staff, venues, and participants who all made the workshop so special. This project relies on so many people's contributions, and its success is certainly due to the generosity, kindness and openness of all the people and partners involved in this project. We would like to extend another huge thank you to the staff, family members, volunteers and participants at Belong Morris Feinmann and Limelight Community Centre, it has been an absolute joy to bring music to such wonderful communities of people. SoundUp would also like to wish a very sincere thanks to Opera North, The Royal Northern College of Music, The Lowry and Together Dementia Support whose partnerships have made this workshop series possible.