Workshops help residents 'find their voice'

Older and disabled rural residents are "finding their voice" after teaming up with artists and singing tutors.

Yorkshire County Council has teamed up with the Rural Arts initiative to hold workshops for older and disabled people.

The new project, which is called Resident Voice, encourages residents to enjoy the chance to be creative and share their life stories in the process.

Rural Arts was established 25 years ago to provide creative opportunities to some of the most rural areas in North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley.

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As a project, Resident Voice has been specially designed for people who live in the council's Extra Care schemes, many with dementia, frailty and physical disabilities,

The council has committed £40,000 to the project in collaboration with Rural Arts, the first time such an intensive programme has been created.

It is proving highly successful in tackling isolation, getting people to discover new interests and rekindle memories.

Nearly 200 workshops are being held in creative arts such as ceramics, textiles, block printing, drawing and painting as well as singing.

Richard Webb, North Yorkshire's director of health and adult services recently attended a Resident Voice workshop with his great aunt Elizabeth aged 102.

"The Resident Voice workshops are so varied and engaging," said Richard.

"This is a fantastic initiative and I hope that people living in our Extra Care Schemes will enjoy attending them.

Rural Arts has provided artists with experience of working with older people and in many cases the work they are creating together has made a significant difference to people's sense of well-being and of feeling involved where they live."

Angela Hall, director of Rural Arts said: "We have got people who have difficulty in speaking engaged in singing.

"We have got people wanting to paint who have not painted for years. People come back time after time to the workshops and they want to share the stories of their lives."

One woman with a brain tumour had once been an artist but had lost confidence and hadn't picked up a paintbrush for years.

"Though she was in pain she was determined to come to the sessions."

"A former police inspector who lives in Extra Care came to one of our workshops on block printing and ended up showing us all how to take finger prints.

"The whole thing got him talking about his former career.

"Because these workshops are taking place over a number of months they really get people going, sharing their stories and their skills.

Funding so far has been provided by the council's stronger communities programme and public health.

The project is now looking at how the scheme can be kept going beyond the summer.


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