Two art projects that engage with the community and highlight people’s experiences of isolation will be on show to the public this month.
Durham County Council’s Community Arts team has organised two pieces with local artists that bring older people together to share their experiences of being isolated, either before or during the coronavirus pandemic.
To coincide with September as World Alzheimer’s Month, from the end of September and throughout October both of these unique projects will be open for the public to experience either safely in person or online.
The council’s community arts team has commissioned musician Bethany Elen Coyle to run a series of four, one-hour online songwriting workshops for members of both the East Durham Dementia Friendly Choir (EDDFC) and the Ushaw Dementia Friendly Choir (UDFC).
The groups are being invited to write their own song about their experiences of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. Bethany will work with the group on their lyrics, then she will create the music and arrangement and record the song via zoom. The workshop is being launched on Wednesday 30 September and the song will be released in November.
If you are interested in joining the online dementia-friendly choir sessions or participating in the songwriting project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Bethany said: “Our wonderful network of Durham Dementia Friendly Community Choirs will come together to create a new collaborative musical composition and film, straight from the heart of our singing community.
“Through a series of online music sessions, we shall discuss and explore themes and issues prevalent to our community and write lyrics, create music, percussion and vocal arrangements of our song before filming our music remotely. These recordings will then be woven together to create a music film and shared publicly.
“Building on the success and hugely positive and supportive feedback of our lockdown music film ‘Stand By Me’, created in April 2020, and in spite of continuing coronavirus restrictions, we hope that this exciting new participant-led project will further showcase and advocate the power of music and song in uniting and supporting our wonderful, intergenerational and inclusive dementia-friendly community of singers and friends.”
Also, this month, artist Sharon Bailey will host her exhibition ‘Home Alone’ at Durham Town Hall until the end of October.
The exhibition, which toured across County Durham’s libraries earlier this year and welcomed a fantastic reception, showcases documents, photographs, and sound recordings from Sharon’s visits, over a period of eight months, to isolated older people living on their own.
It also features a specially recorded video of the monologue, which was developed from verbatim interviews and, before coronavirus restrictions, was previously a live theatre show. There will be an engagement programme alongside the exhibition, including art packs for older people.
The exhibition will be open to the public from Wednesday, 30 September to Saturday, 31 October and can be seen during Durham Town Hall’s opening times; Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm.
The town hall has measures in place to keep visitors safe during the coronavirus outbreak including mandatory use of face coverings (unless exempt), a one-way system, staggered entry, and some parts of the building will be limited to one household at a time. Hand sanitising stations are also available throughout the building. Visitors to the town hall are reminded to check and follow current government guidance on staying safe before they visit.
Work has been carried out by the council’s building and facilities maintenance team to put measures in place to make the venue as safe as possible. Weekly checks will be carried out and any changes will be implemented where necessary to keep people safe and in response to any modification to government guidelines.
Sharon said: “As we have emerged from lockdown and tried to get back to some sort of normality, let’s not forget those stuck at home, alone and lonely. ‘Home Alone’ now seems somewhat prophetic and this period has continued to highlight the problems in our social care system and the social and health inequalities in our communities.
“My project captures the day-to-day experiences of those living alone through photographs and words; a tangible way to remember these isolated older people and their hidden lives.”
Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult period for everyone and we have all experienced in some way what it is like to be isolated from friends or family during this uncertain time. However, in some cases, this is sadly a reality for a number of older people living alone.
“These two unique art projects have been able to gather together those who are isolated and allow them to share their stories and experiences with the public and bring some important messages to light. I’m sure there will be something in these projects that resonates with everyone due to what we have all experienced throughout the pandemic and I am looking forward to seeing the creative result of everyone’s hard work.”
For more information about the council’s Community Arts team and its projects, visit www.durham.gov.uk/communityarts