We Belong Together project
Senior Lecturer Dr Alan Dunn is one of two freelance artists commissioned to deliver a programme of 60 workshops across seven Belong Villages, specialist dementia care home providers in the North West.
Funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) through Arts Council England and managed by Bluecoat, Liverpool’s centre for contemporary art, this project aims to provide immediate, targeted relief to those most at risk of loneliness as a result of Covid-19.
The workshops focus on listening and making noise. Each week, participants meet up via Zoom and spend an hour together exploring sounds, from reciting tongue twisters to performing wonderful soundtracks using megaphones, rubber bands, bicycle bells and twanged plastic rulers. Talking about how the programme has been going so far Dr Dunn observes that despite the fact “participants perhaps don’t know each other that well outside of the workshops, within minutes we can see them helping and laughing with each other. And in it all, we have found some absolute experts at fast tongue twisters and some who can delicately tap a steel dog bowl with water in it to create the most beautiful sounds.”
Through the workshops, participants feel less isolated, with an increased sense of belonging and wellbeing and they have been encouraged, along with staff, to play an active role in shaping the programme’s activities. Research suggests this kind of engagement with the arts is also beneficial for people in later life in terms of having a positive impact on self-esteem, cognitive capacity and general quality of life.
The workshops will conclude by end of May 2021. For more information about the wider project visit the Bluecoat ‘Where the Arts Belong’ page.
Dr Alan Dunn is a Reader in Art & Design and Research Student Co-ordinator and has been with Leeds Beckett University since 2008. He currently teaches on undergrad Fine Art and supervises practice-based PhDs.