When I met 4 year old E in our second session at Warberries Care Home, she was incredibly shy and reserved. Although she did engage a little, we walked over the rainbow bridge together, hand in hand. Four-year-old C spent most of the session fixing the rainbow bridge, with immense concentration, using brown tape. E noticed this and chose a different colour – blue, to add to the rainbow. We did this together on the floor, no talking necessary.
During the third week, E entered the room apprehensively and her child minder said that she had been anxious about meeting the residents. After 5 minutes of being in the space, Hugh had used his purple lycra to play hide and seek with C. Eventually all of the children had joined in, including G, an 89-year-old resident. E was hiding with G and all the other children, laughing and giggling…. And her participation didn’t stop here.
We journeyed and sang ‘Over the Bridge’ and rowed and sang over the river, until we could hear the birdsong (Inspired by G, but that’s another story). The birdsong inspired us to create our own birds; everyone got stuck into the task with much enthusiasm. E was particularly focused and instigated sharing her creation with all the residents one-by-one. We walked around to each person in the room and we had a moment of flying our birds together. E was so proud of her work and thoroughly enjoyed sharing her creations. She gathered all of the birds she could find and independently circulated the residents to show them her flock of flying birds – on her own, without me or her child minder or any other children. With each person she encountered, she spent a few moments engrossed in performing her flying flock of bird movement and then continued onto the next.
At the end of the session, E said goodbye to all the residents in turn, shaking hands, waving and smiling.
As a drama practitioner, I often state that drama, dance, music and all art forms increases confidence. I say it all the time as a matter of fact and so do teachers, artists, practitioners, lecturers and theatre makers etc. – we all use that phrase to convince our funders or anyone that will listen, that our work is valuable for a child, young person, or vulnerable adult.
E’s story here is a small, but potent example of this and I don’t say this lightly. If I think back to the moment that helped E feel less anxious about interacting with the residents, it was the provocations made my Hugh, Steve or I during the session – to play with the purple lycra, to hear and really spend time listening to the bird song, to be invited to choose an instrument to contribute to a song or composition, to repeat a song each week – something familiar – a song that takes us into our play space, our story and also to create something yourself – to make a bird, to choose the colour that feels right for it and to bring our story to life.
These provocations sparked ideas and the rhythmic, familiarity of the sessions, provided by Hugh, Steve and I, have formed a safe and secure space to respond creatively in the room as artists. E responded as an artist in her own right, she was inspired and her inspiration and creativity gave her the confidence to interact with everybody in that space with a sense of purpose and pride.
Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. The project is funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.