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Older people – culture, community and connection

Woman with sticks and ribbons
Date: 13 May 2021
Time: 14:00 to 16:00
Location: Online
Woman with sticks and ribbons

A research workshop

What’s the impact of cultural participation in later life, and how do we capture its value for people and communities?

In this interactive workshop, you’ll help us refine the scope of our next research review so it’s as useful and relevant as possible to people working in the cultural sector, as well as those who fund cultural activity and develop cultural policy.

Our research review will examine the evidence base surrounding the cultural participation of older people, with a focus on community and connection*. Within this we are anticipating exploring themes such as loneliness, isolation, resilience and wellbeing, but this will be shaped and refined with your input.

Shaping our research topic – where should we focus?
The workshop will be facilitated by Chuck Lowry and we’ll also have guest contributors who are working in this field (names to be confirmed). We’ll start by introducing the initial scoping we have done in this area. Then we’ll work together as a group to define the questions and sub-topics you would find most useful for us to include in the research review.

Who’s this workshop for?
You’ll be working in the cultural sector specifically on projects with older people, or as a researcher or policy maker in this area. The workshop has a limited number of spaces which are prioritised for people working in this area. It isn’t suitable for students.

What’s a research review?
We review and summarise existing research within a topic area and share these summary findings in an accessible digest, so it can usefully shape future practice and policy. Here’s an example of a research review into culture on referral programmes.

*NB We are already undertaking a separate research review into older people, cultural participation and physical health. This event and the subsequent research review is focusing on older people and how cultural participation can build community and connection.

If you are unable to attend the workshop please complete this short survey to share your thoughts about this research review.

Image: Still from We Are All Artists, an Artlink West Yorkshire film by Sally Molineaux



Dr Robyn Dowlen

Robyn Dowlen

Dr Robyn Dowlen is an independent evaluator based in Manchester who specializes in understanding ‘in the moment’ experiences, using a range of participatory and co-creative evaluation practices. Robyn has been immersed in culture and evaluation throughout her career. Previously, Robyn worked for the Centre for Cultural Value as a Post-doctoral Research Associate. In this role, she hosted the Reflecting Valuepodcast.

Robyn completed her PhD in 2019 which examined ‘in the moment’ benefits of music-making for people living with dementia. After her PhD Robyn spent time as a research associate at the University of Manchester on the Neighbourhoods and Dementia study before joining the Centre team as the Post-Doctoral Research Associate.

Dr Karen Gray

Dr Karen Gray

Karen is a researcher and independent evaluator. She has a particular interest in how we gather, analyse, communicate and use the evidence around health and wellbeing benefits that might result from arts, culture and leisure participation. She currently holds research posts at the University of Leeds, exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector, and at the University of Bristol, where she is working on the Connecting through Culture as We Age project. Her recent doctoral research focused on the challenges of evaluating arts-based activities for people with dementia.

Jason Keenan-Smith

Jason Keenan-Smith

Jason Keenan-Smith is a movement artist and trained dance movement psychotherapist. His work as performer includes companies such as English National Opera, The Featherstonehaughs, Protein Dance, Union Dance and Walker Dance Park Music. An emerging choreographer, he has worked with The Gate Theatre, The Place Theatre and Getty Images amongst others. Currently senior lecturer at University of Chichester and Artistic Director of Three Score Dance, he continues to explore the portrayal of human experiences and the parity of expression.

Maddy Mills

Maddy Mills

Maddy Mills was appointed Director for Entelechy Arts in October 2020, joining the organisation after 5 years as Producer for Artistic Programming at the Southbank Centre.

Prior to that, Maddy worked as Festivals Manager for Kew Gardens, Associate Producer for Baku 2015 European Games, Producer for the Bloomsbury Festival and also ran her own cultural producing company, Hidden Cities. In 2019, she founded the Family Volunteering Club.

Her work is grounded in the belief that feeling connected to a community – in whatever form that takes – helps people lead healthier and happier lives.

Helen Manchester

Helen Manchester

Helen Manchester is an Associate Professor in Digital Inequalities and Urban Futures, at the University of Bristol. Helen is interested in ageing futures, digital inclusion, social connectivity, culture and the arts. She develops methodologically innovative approaches to research in collaboration with artists, technologists, civil society organisations and policy-makers. Helen has led a number of funded research projects working with cultural value, arts and older people, including Tangible Memories: Community in care, Tangible Memories: Parlours of Wonder and currently the Connecting through Culture as we Age project, funded by the Social, Behavioural and Design Healthy Ageing research programme.

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