Older People

Wolverhampton Conversation Clubs

Conversation Clubs are based on a simple but effective concept, encouraging older people to get together for a good conversation.

Project Information

WAVE (Museums, Galleries and Archives of Wolverhampton) is renowned for the breadth of its community and health engagement work. In 2006, WAVE and Creative Health CIC have worked together to develop a pioneering programme combining arts and social care. In particular, they have developed the concept of Conversation Clubs, using the Gallery’s handling collection to initiate conversation between groups of older people.
Conversation Clubs are based on a simple but effective concept, encouraging older people to get together for a good conversation. A facilitator uses items based upon a specific theme, from the Gallery's handling collection as a way of gently easing people into a conversation and talking to each other. People can come and just listen, they can contribute items themselves to talk about or they can initiate conversations and suggest ideas for future conversations. As they sit together the group conversation starts to flow and participants are also able to make a lasting reminder of their conversation by working with a visual artist to create their own art work.
The Conversation Club programme was developed by Jane James, Arts and Social Care Coordinator, and was informed by a growing evidence base on the issue of loneliness and isolation and older people. (www.campaigntoend loneliness.org.uk). Each club was developed in a way that valued each member’s contribution, knowledge and existing skills and experiences, and enabled participants to shape the activity. It was mindful of the need to manage groups carefully ensuring they are open and accessible. This is in line with a piece of research undertaken by Catton (2005) which outlines broad characteristics underpinning a good loneliness intervention.
Jane's role was to develop the project, set up local clubs, and facilitate each conversation. Development work started in November 2012 with a number of taster sessions to introduce groups and their leaders to the concept. The programme of Conversation Clubs started in January 2013. The programme ended with an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in October 2013. Karina Thompson was appointed artist in residence and worked with members of each Club to use the conversation as inspiration for their own art work.

During 2013, eleven Conversation Clubs were established across Wolverhampton as part of the programme of work. Seven of the groups were new or newly established. In these cases, the role of the Conversation Club was to help establish the group, introduce people to each other and enable people to make links and connections. In the other cases, the purpose of the Club was negotiated with the group leader and included providing a new model or way of group working for leaders, and support was provided to help ensure groups remained open and accessible to new members. In each case, planning time was spent with group leaders and members to support them to continue to use the approach in their everyday meetings.

To download the evaluation report for Wolverhampton Conversation Clubs, click here.

Photo credit: Jo Hallington