Artists' Residencies in Care Homes Essex

Four cutting edge arts organisations: Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Fevered Sleep, Gecko and curious directive, are paired with four care homes in Essex run by Excelcare UK. The project is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

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On the first National Day of Arts in Care Homes on 24th September 2019 Magic Me announced a new round of Artists’ Residencies in Care Homes, this time featuring Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Fevered Sleep, Gecko and curious directive paired with four care homes in Essex run by Excelcare UK. The project is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

At Magic Me we have a reputation for challenging the preconceptions of what arts in care homes look like and this new round of artists’ residencies (the pilot project ran 2015-2017) will be even more innovative.  Working with arts organisations who are at the cutting edge of their art forms and leaders in their field, the project will challenge not just the public’s perception of what ‘old people’ living in care homes want, but also the artists themselves who will be exploring a whole new audience and way of working. Staff and management of the care settings will also gain a greater understanding of what arts can do for their residents and of the hidden talents of the people they care for.

People over 75 are one of the most marginalized groups in terms of arts participation. Ageism is still rife and socially acceptable in a way that other prejudices are not, colouring the way older arts audiences are viewed as less important, not open to new work and even, not ‘on brand’ by some arts organisations. Care homes are the butt of jokes or feared places of last resort, not people’s homes.  Thanks to funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation this project can start to address these prejudices. I passionately believe that just because someone lives in a care home they don’t stop being entitled to high quality arts and culture, or to a participative experience that is more than just something to pass the time.

Susan Langford, Magic Me Director

ARCHE takes a radical new approach to working in care homes. Each residency seeks to create something new with the care home residents as co-creators and collaborators rather than simply participants or audience. This is the challenge set to the professional artists and arts companies of ARCHE – bringing their core creative practice to care homes and adapting it to this particular audience and environment whilst firmly maintaining the integrity of their work.

Find out more about each of our partners here

This new round of artists’ residencies takes place in Essex as a response and challenge to the view that exciting creative work in care homes in the south of England is too London-centric.  It also provides an opportunity for Magic Me to explore how their established models work in new types of home in a different type of community and what adaptations or innovations might be necessary.  These high profile residencies will provide a focus for both arts and care organisations in the county and Excelcare will share learning with another 29 care homes that they run in London and the east of England.  Working closely with Essex County Council, Magic Me plans to build a network of arts organisations and practitioners keen to follow the progress of ARCHE both on-line and through jointly promoted events. They will also work with the council to co-promote the project impact, learning and their expertise and to use the Anglia Ruskin University research and tools to argue the proven case, within and beyond Essex to care providers and commissioners.  Magic Me has already been working with Essex County Council, through their Creative Journeys programme, to help set up intergenerational arts projects and train staff and artists and they will build on what they have learnt from this process into the project.

Find out more about our work with Essex County Council here and about Anglia Ruskin University’s role in the project here

The project will see each organisation paired with a care home run by Excelcare in either Maldon, Harwich, Chigwell or Colchester.  Over the three years of the project the arts organisations will work with their chosen care partner to develop and test ideas in the first year, deliver the residencies in the second year and then in the third and fourth year ensure that learning from the projects is disseminated and embedded in order to facilitate further artists/care home partnerships.

Find out more about Excelcare here

The ARCHE project is a key strand of Magic Me’s current and future strategic plans. Funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled the charity to develop projects for the east of England and ARCHE is the first major piece of work to result from this.  Funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation (with support from Essex County Council) ARCHE enables Magic Me’s strategic growth in the east of England, building relationships with key care providers and commissioners and locally based arts partners, curious directive and Gecko, and also brings into the mix two organisations with strong links to the east of England: New Adventures and Fevered Sleep.  As well as exploring new territory geographically the project enables Magic Me to take forward another key aim of supporting other arts organisations to create work in and for care homes, to help facilitate new relationships between arts organisations and care providers, and to raise expectations of what the arts can be and do in care homes.

We’re excited to see how Magic Me helps to deliver new opportunities for engagement in the arts in unusual and new settings. This grant will support Magic Me to extend their Artist Residencies programme, forge new partnerships and build a legacy of improved access to high quality arts for residents. We look forward to supporting the residencies and to learning from the experiences shared as part of this work.

Faiza Khan, Paul Hamlyn Foundation


Year 1 Prepare – October 2019 – March 2020: Build skills and understanding among artists and care home staff, 4 pilots to test emerging ideas, Fine tune ideas and methodologies for residencies, Share plans with a wider audience, Offer ongoing digital engagement with process and emerging learning

Year 2 Residencies – April  2020 – March 2021: Digital project updates, Commentary, Arts showcases, Learning, Deliver 2 residencies Draw out learning and key success factors with partners, plan legacy activity 

Year 3 Legacy – April 2021 – March 2022: Deliver first Sharing the Learning event in Essex for artists, arts organisations and care sector– 

Embed learning and legacy with arts partners and care homes (e.g. sharing learning with internal teams), Deliver training for Activity Organisers Essex-wide, Broker new partnerships of interest between local arts organisations and care homes (Essex) 

Produce and launch research publication; deliver second Sharing the Learning event in London 

Year 4 Embed April 2022  – March 2023 Magic Me and partners continue to share learning via media and networks, Support development of new artist/care home partnerships and projects 

Featured image (on grid) for this page is from the Artists’ Residencies in Care Homes pilot project. Upswing’s residency photographed by Marcus Hessenberg


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