Case Studies

Living Room Artist Residencies: Bradwell Hall

  • Artist(s):
    Sally Tonge
  • Artform(s):
    Music, storytelling, poetry
  • Funder(s):
    Staffordshire County Council
  • Venue(s):
    Bradwell Hall Care Home
  • Duration:
    August - October 2015
  • Health Need(s):
    Dementia, Older People
Summary:
For the Living Room Residency at Bradwell Hall, Sal Tonge proposed to lead a group of residents in the development of a short musical review to be performed to family and friends along with other residents at a final celebration. Sal set out to explore residents’ favourite songs from the past, those which evoked shared memories from a particular era or well known event, music genre or tradition.

Project Information

Sally Tonge was selected by Bradwell Hall to work with residents over a three-month period. The activity coordinators were new in post and keen to use the opportunity of working with a professional artist to gain new skills in performing arts. In the process of developing a completely new activities programme, in which they were keen to include family members and staff, the activity coordinators were finding ideas for group work challenging due to the range of differences in the abilities of residents.

For the Living Room Residency at Bradwell Hall, Sal Tonge proposed to lead a group of residents in the development of a short musical review to be performed to family and friends along with other residents at a final celebration. Sal set out to explore residents’ favourite songs from the past, those which evoked shared memories from a particular era or well known event, music genre or tradition.

A shared love of American popular music from the 50’s and 60’s - particularly the songs of American singer and entertainer Perry Como - emerged very quickly. As a body of songs built up over the sessions, residents would reminisce and share their thoughts about the lyrics. This led to the idea for the final show based on Perry Como’s famous novelty song 'A’ You’re Adorable and the creation of Bradwell Hall's Alphabet of Life, celebrating the rich tapestry of the residents’ lives and the lessons that life had taught them. Family, friends and care staff joined in with final special musical celebration, which included singing and sharing poems and stories, with residents performing their own solo slots.

In response to feedback from staff and families that they would like to replicate and revisit some of the simple ideas that Sal had introduced, Sal created the Alphabet of Life interactive memory box and tool kit. The tool kit consists of a box containing 26 laminated cards and a CD, each card featuring a letter of the alphabet along with an activity suggestion, a discussion topic or a song. This enduring resource is now available to support coordinators in leading creative group activities and to work with residents on a one to one basis.

“When the project first started residents only used to entertainment where they just sit and watch but as time went on they became more lively, they grew in confidence (both individually and as a group) as they knew they were expected to participate.

“After Sally’s sessions residents were calmer, more content and tired. It has helped in overcoming an attitude that the Activity Programme is an add-on. We need to gain recognition from care staff that it is more essential, that it has impact and benefit.

“One resident joined the sessions half way through the Residency. Up until then he had stayed in his room (only coming out for meals). But he loves music and once he’d joined the Residency he now joins in all the activities. If it’s music he’ll stay for the whole session. He doesn’t even have to be asked.” Keele Unit Activity Coordinator

"What I really liked was that it got residents personally involved.  It was really different.  It’s given me ideas to work with residents on my unit to create their own Alphabet of Life." Activity Coordinator (not directly involved in the residency but observed final celebration)


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