The name ‘lapwing’ comes from old English words meaning ‘leaping with a wink’ – an appropriate suggestion of joy for a project that is brightening the lives of elderly people in Kent
It is well documented that we are living longer. No one wants to languish in a chair with nothing to do, so how can we ensure that our added years are satisfying? LAPWING (Live Art Practice Wellbeing Inspired Network Group) is an innovative project in East Kent that has been encouraging older people, including those with dementia, to use their creative abilities.
Through LAPWING, a body of artists was drawn together to consider how they could make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people in the county, including the elderly. A partnership was born – led by AgeUK Canterbury (with local partners) and supported by Kent Creative Arts CIC, core funding was secured from Arts Council England, Canterbury City Council, NHS Canterbury & Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group and Kent County Council. Before long, 30 artists and creatives took part in an innovative training programme about working with vulnerable groups.
From this cohort, eight artists were funded and mentored to run sessions at AgeUK Canterbury’s day centre, Cranmer House Sheltered Housing Scheme, AgeUK Faversham, the Alexander Centre and Barton Court Care Home on the Isle of Sheppey. Soon elderly people were enjoying creative projects including ceramics, sewing, crafts, painting, flower arranging and poetry.
Fay Blair, Project Manager of LAPWING, notes that one of its most exciting elements has been the mixing of generations. Last year, 30 pupils from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School (SLGS), worked on Talking Trees – a project with programmed visits to AgeUK Canterbury and Cranmer House.
“The experience changed many students’ perceptions,” explains Fay. “They noticed how much the older people appreciated getting to know them, and how their faces lit up during the students’ visits. They developed a respect and greater empathy – with some students continuing their commitment after the project.”
Hannah Blaskett-Foord, Assistant Head Teacher at SLGS, saw how much the out-of-school experience had enhanced and developed a range of new skills: “It is helping to prepare a generation for life’s challenges ahead in an ageing population,” she said, adding: “and giving them a valuable volunteering and befriending opportunity. I am thrilled that some of our girls still keep in touch, maintaining some of these friendships.”
LAPWING continues to soar. It is recruiting a new group of students, with Fay supporting AgeUK Canterbury’s work in a new project, led by LAPWING artist Nicky Thompson, from Pebble Poetry. Nicky will work with Co-Ed Sixth Formers from the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, who will engage in similar work at AgeUK Canterbury. The project, entitled Postcards from Precious Places, is funded mainly through an innovation award from KCC’s Kent Dementia Action Alliance. Interestingly, the two grammar schools will also work together.
Training sessions about dementia begin in late spring, and will include social, creative writing and crafting sessions. Students will engage and support their older audiences over a series of (free) Saturday afternoon teatime sessions, to be held at AgeUK Canterbury’s day centre.
• To raise awareness and to promote the free sessions, students will be supporting creative activities at this year’s Westgate Parks Tree Trail day on Sunday 21st May, (near Canterbury’s Westgate Towers). The whole project has strengthened links with other elements of the community, too, with Westgate Parks Development officer Anna Bell and Lauren Baker and park volunteers playing an important part.