Derry City & Strabane - Council aiming to build on success of Heart of the Sperrins project




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Council aiming to build on success of Heart of the Sperrins project

20 December 2022

Over the year Derry City and Strabane District Council have rolled out an arts and cultural programme to engage with older people living in the most rural communities areas across the District.

The Heart of the Sperrins project aims to address the under representation in the arts by over 60-year-olds and is set to be developed further during 2023.

The programme attempts to highlight challenges and address issues affecting older people which were highlighted in the North West Audience Development Project Research Report carried out by Thrive in 2021.

It is part of the Arts and Older People Programme, jointly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Public Health Agency and the Baring Foundation.

“The Arts and Older People Programme aims to strengthen the voice of older people and promotes positive mental health and emotional wellbeing through the arts,” explained Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Sandra Duffy.

“Our Arts Development team have developed projects to be delivered within rural communities including day care facilities and working with people living with dementia.

“The programme provides outreach to the wider rural community and reaches isolated older people and those with disabilities and their carers.”

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Arts Development Officer with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland added:

"Thanks to The National Lottery players the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this project through our Arts and Older People Programme. Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress. 

“The Arts and Older People Programme aims to providing meaningful opportunities for our older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better."

Arts Development Officer at Council, Jean Smyth, explained some of the issues that the programme has highlighted to date.

“The issues affecting our older people are not unique but the last two years highlighted issues of isolation, loneliness, health, deterioration of living situation impact on senior peoples mental wellbeing.

“From our pilot, we witnessed the issues in community groups, residential care homes and listened to community networks recognising the lack of opportunity for their older residents in community areas.”

“In partnership with Council’s Museum Services team we will work with the day care homes and (LCGPB) Local Community Growth Partnership areas to identify need, network with older people’s organisations, use facilitators with relevant specialisms for this age group. 

“We will provide support and training to maintain safeguarding of participants and provide a future legacy from these funded workshops.

“This second project with its outcomes will continue to develop our arts and cultural strategy when considering the next five year’s targets,” she added.

This year programme of participatory arts for Derry City and Strabane District Council senior residents will offer six participatory sessions from a number of disciplines identified by health carers and recruit local facilitators.

They are: music therapies, dance, circus skills, movement, arts, crafts, reminiscence, historical artefacts, museum tours and heritage.

Council’s Museums Services and Arts Development teams will work together on the project, which involves connecting with day care attendees from rural areas.

The programme will include opportunities to visit the Tower Museum for activities around their exhibitions.

For further information on the project contact