Magic Me – Director’s Blog



Written by Susan Langford, Magic Me Founder & Director, April 2024

They shall not grow old…

Last Thursday 25th April I was changing tube trains at Mile End Station, east London, when I noticed a lady in the crowd. She was carefully rearranging a set of military medals pinned to her not-military jacket, on which was embroidered New Zealand

My train came in and I didn’t have a chance to ask her, but I imagined she was on her way to the annual ANZAC Day events in central London. ANZAC Day was first observed in 1916 to remember the Australian and New Zealander soldiers killed and wounded at Gallipoli in the First World War.

She was old enough to have served at some point and earned those medals herself, or maybe she’d inherited them and wore them for an older generation. Her care and pride in them stayed with me. 

This week has also been Global Intergenerational Week, a celebration across nations of the joy, power and many benefits generated when people of different ages come together. At the heart of Magic Me’s intergenerational work we challenge ageism. We are questioning the assumptions we can fall into about other people, older or younger than we are. How they look, what they do, who they are. 

And challenging the sometimes limiting assumptions we make about ourselves: what we should be, do, have, at the age we’ve got to. 

As I left that lady waiting on the platform some words were going round in my head. Words that I’ve seen all my life on memorials, or heard read in solemn tones:


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old *


Words for a lost generation, the ones who didn’t come back. The young men and women who didn’t get to find out what it’s like to have lots of ‘big’ birthdays and feel yourself growing and changing as the years go by. 

So this Intergenerational Week, whatever your years, take a moment to congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come. And when our next birthdays come around, let’s not limit ourselves with worry about being another year older – let’s celebrate that we’re here and make the most of it, together. 


* For the Fallen


Written by Susan Langford, Magic Me Founder & Director, January 2023

Do you have space to be creative? To get out some paints or an instrument, improvise a dance, with nobody watching? A place to experiment and try things out? To gather the materials and tools you need, and leave ‘work in progress’ without having to tidy up? 

For many of us, our creative space doubles up – the ‘art’ table has to be cleared so people can make and eat lunch; the quiet place for writing is your bedroom. 

So when I saw this photo of the Arts Studio at Appleby House Care Home in Epsom, my heart soared with joy for the people who get to work in it – and I felt very jealous! How fantastic that people living in a care home have the creative space that most of us don’t.

I love the paint marks on the table – evidence of past creativity and permission to splash colours and go for it. Objects, photos and artworks that inspire and set the scene. A place to hang or prop works to dry – a big table to spread things out and to gather around with others. 

One day, every care home will have an Art Studio. In the meantime, as artists always have, we start from where we are, with what we’ve got. 

As I write, the Magic Me office is full of colour, texture, scents. My colleagues Chloe, Kimberly and Rhovie are creating packs of materials to go to care homes across London. Hibiscus flowers, turmeric, acetates, cutglass plates and torches to bounce light into ever changing patterns on a ceiling. Inks, paints, light-sensitive printing paper. Magic Me artists will partner with care home staff to bring creative sensory activities to older people, in bedrooms, corridors, lounges – wherever they are. Our Magic Moments approach changes spaces, bringing the possibilities of the Art Studio into every room, every day. 

Read more about our Magic Moments approach here

You can find out more about Appleby House’s studio in this recent report by NAPA


* Title inspired by A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, 1929

Photo Credit: Alison Teader, Programme Director, Arts in Care Homes, NAPA


Written by Susan Langford, Magic Me Founder & Director, December 2023

“Hello. My name’s Susan.”

“Hello. So’s mine.”

Two Susan’s meet. It’s the week before Christmas in a care home for older people in Reading where I grew up. Brown Owl, who is also a District Nurse, has taken a pack of Brownies to visit residents at the home, sing a few carols and offer home made cards. I’m now 12, promoted to the Guides, come along to ‘help.’ 

The carol singing went okay. Some of our audience knew most of the words though others seemed bemused by what was happening or were asleep. But now it was the really tough part: “Spread out and give your card to one of the ladies (they were all ladies) and have a chat”. 

The conversation about being called Susan lasted about 1 minute. Only another 29 to go before we were leaving at half past. I felt very hot. I don’t remember what we talked about or how we got through it. I think I found a chair next to Susan and we commented on what other people were doing. I wonder what Susan made of it all. 

This December there will be lots of other Susan’s, visiting care homes with their Brownies, school or faith group for Christmas or Hanukkah, or hosting small groups of visitors, some confident, some tongue-tied. 

Talking to strangers is hard for most people. Arranging the room to mix people up a bit can help, so you don’t have two generational rows looking at each other across a big sea of carpet. Songs with actions, balloons, facilitated games or activities can spark interaction, laughter, movement without words. Some prepared questions can open up conversation that helps people really meet and find things in common. 

I’ve learned a lot of things over my years at Magic Me, from the groups I’ve worked with and watching our skilled Associate Artists support a room full of strangers to get to know one another. One of the most important is that meeting is particularly hard when no-one quite knows what the point is. At Magic Me a first meeting is one of a series, the start of a relationship, something that it takes time to build.

So this December, if you’re planning an intergenerational gathering, could it be the start of something new and regular? Maybe next Christmas you’ll be visiting old friends, with a year full of memories to celebrate.



Written by Susan Langford, Magic Me Founder & Director, November 2023

It was the first time the children, a Year 5 group, had visited the care home. They’d prepared for their visit and been excited coming along the road from their school, but all hesitated at the door to the lounge. The bold, curious ones led the way into the room and struck up conversations with residents. Shyer children and older people took their own time.

Ali entered last and by then just one older lady had no young partner. Rosie was excited to meet the children and waved at him, with her left hand. After a recent stroke, that hand was important. Rosie could no longer speak or use her right one. Ali was quiet and often needed support to understand in class, and I wondered how they would go together.

The group were focusing on water as a theme: places, jobs, hobbies, sports that all involved water. Supported by an artist and a poet, they drew pictures and wrote short poems. A school trip to the coast, working in a swimming hat factory, Army drills in terrible weather.

I kept an eye on Ali and Rosie as activities began and checked in after a bit. They were laughing, heads together, poring over papers and pens. As the session ended the artists invited us all to reflect on our time together and share one thing that we had found out during the afternoon. When it came to Ali’s turn one boy, clearly mystified, eagerly asked him: I don’t get it. How do you and Rosie talk to each other? Ali, looked at Rosie, smiled and said to everyone: “You all think that communication is about talking. Me and Rosie, we know better.”

Too often our society focuses on words, valuing the verbal and written word above all other means. Magic Me sparks relationships between people of different generations through the power of the arts. So children and adults can build connections and tell their stories in their own ways – with colour and touch, or movement and sound. Because they know better.



Written by Susan Langford, Magic Me Founder & Director, October 2023

I’m writing having just returned from a rich day of inspiring presentations and conversations at the National Creative Ageing conference, run by Equal Arts in Newcastle. Music, dance, poetry, fashion, it was all happening, demonstrating the power and solidarity of older people coming together. And as good conferences do, it raised many questions for me.

Creative Ageing has become the shorthand in the arts sector to talk about creative arts practice by, with and for older people, defined by Arts Council England as being 55+

I believe the arts are an essential part of life. As makers or audiences the arts can bring joy, challenge, and provocations to see the world in a new way. Working creatively combines thinking, feeling and doing. The arts can help us understand ourselves in new ways, in new situations and at new stages of life, whether working alone or with others.

Post-conference I’m left asking: at what age do we start ageing creatively?

We live in an ageist society, divided and categorized by our number of birthdays. I worry that the phrase ‘creative ageing’ is pulling us into an ageist trap – that of thinking ageing is something for ‘old people’.

Researchers predict that some 1 in 3 children born this year in the UK will live to be a 100. Ageing happens across the whole life span, from birth to death. If we want to be ageing creatively in the second half of life, maybe we should start doing it as early as possible.

A principle of Magic Me’s practice is that everyone, whatever their age, has a past, a present, a future and an imagination. If we want to know ourselves well, to create our best work, a great way is to spend time with people who are different to us, in age, outlook or life experiences. Intergenerational exchange disrupts our habitual thinking, offering fresh perspectives. It can enrich our arts practice and support us all as we age creatively.