Inside Out 2021

Our new Inside Out project for 2021 sees care professionals in three care homes in East London working in creative collaboration with Magic Me artists.

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Our new Inside Out project for 2021 sees care professionals in three care homes in East London working in creative collaboration with Magic Me artists. Pooling knowledge, skills and expertise, care professionals and artists will work together to understand the unique challenges care homes face – developing creative interventions and activity to benefit the residents and each home during this time.

Inside Out Update May 2021:

Picture shows a trolley with four shelves painted in bright colours and containing all sorts of exciting things including pot plants and a radio - this is Sandra, Agnes & Georgia’s Entertainment Trolley, Work in Progress, for Inside Out 2021May 2021

Inside Out 2021 is in full swing! Since March this year, care professionals from three care homes in Waltham Forest, East London and Magic Me artists have been pooling their knowledge and expertise to design and experiment with new creative activities that will bring stimulation, joy and connection to each care home. The Covid 19 pandemic has presented new challenges to all of us and these teams of artists and care professionals are finding new ways of tackling the particular challenges faced by care homes.  Each Inside Out collaboration is designed and shaped to meet the unique needs of the care partner.  They have worked together to identify a central question relevant to their care home and this has guided and inspired the activity design.

Planning diagram by Sandra, Agnes and Georgia for the Entertainment Trolley for Magic Me's Inside Out 2021 project

At Alliston House, Walthamstow, care professionals, Sandra and Agnes, and artist, Georgia Akbar, ask the question: 

How can we create a sense of occasion across units, whilst taking care to include residents who prefer to stay in their rooms?” 

During the pandemic care homes have had to impose restrictions on gathering in communal lounges and dining with others, and bans on visits from family and friends over the past year. This lack of human interaction and stimulation has had negative impacts on resident’s well being.  Even though restrictions are beginning to lift the question remains relevant as some residents still prefer to stay in their rooms. Sandra, Agnes and Georgia’s response to the challenge is an experiment with a colourful, carnival-inspired, mobile entertainment trolley on wheels that can move seamlessly through the care home to different units and rooms. Exploring music and film, producing a collaborative Alliston House scrapbook, the trolley’s variety and changing selection of activity will be tailored to each resident’s ideas and interests.

The question posed is one that resonates for care homes generally, outside of Covid contexts. Where restricted mobility makes communal socializing challenging, solutions still need to be found to provide stimulation and activity.

At George Mason Lodge, Leytonstone, care professionals, Pat and Maxine, and artists, Chuck Blue Lowry with Paula Varjack, are tuning into the particular challenges that the past year has posed for the home’s residents, the vast majority of whom are living with dementia. 

The team asked the question:

How can we create activities and events that can be carried out in a covid-safe way? That bring variety and connection to the residents’ lives?” 

Tools for stimulating conversation and reminiscence are important for residents living with a dementia; further connecting them with fellow residents, and supporting their care staff to deliver more tailored person-centred care. When visits take place in rooms the  ‘reminiscence walls’ – a place to post photos, clippings and imagery important to them – help to stimulate conversation with visitors and staff.  With most interactions taking place in communal spaces and newly constructed outdoor pods, the collaborators are experimenting with producing a mobile scrapbook version that can more easily be taken with the resident to all the places they can meet their family and friends as restrictions ease. 

The care professionals and residents have been able to meet in small units to take part in group activity – working on their individual books. The care professional team members report:  “…it really got people talking, and brought a bit of light back to the home.” 

The creative team have identified that their next steps will involve experimenting with different materials including polaroid camera photography, working towards a (socially distanced, covid-safe) garden party this summer.

Picture shows a bakers shop in Waltham Forest with an array of baked goods on the counter.

At Mapleton Road, Chingford, care professionals, Cathy and Linda, and artists, Ishwari Bhalerao and Leonie Rousham (known collectively as Kneed) bonded over baking and bread at their first ever ‘virtual cuppa’ meeting earlier this year. They ask the question: “How can we create group euphoria?”

Their response involves the collaborators experimenting with bread-tasting activities with residents, bringing in freshly baked bread from different bakeries from the Waltham Forest area –  sharing information about the local bakers and the different cultural traditions and ingredients. The tastings included an invitation to the residents to share their views and explored how sharing bread can elicit memories, tell stories and start conversations. The connection to the local bakeries will also help to build networks with the local community in new ways. 

Connecting care professionals and artists in creative partnership can bring a fresh eye, new reviving energy and a sense of possibility and potential to care homes, their staff and residents.  A six word poem reflecting on Inside Out by one of our Care Professionals captures this beautifully:

“The light goes on we know…” 


The inspiration for the project

During lockdown many care home residents had become disengaged from meal times as they could no longer be communal, social event events. Residents had meals in their rooms, which meant an increased workload for care staff, providing one to one support. In response artist Kathy Horak-Hallett created an activity called ‘Dream Dinner Party’ –  participants were asked to imagine their dream dinner party – draw up a guest list, create a menu and decide on a soundtrack or entertainment.  The activity was successful in gently bringing residents back to thinking positively about food, providing opportunities to instigate conversation and stir the imagination. Dream Dinner Party was part of The After Party which was our first remote project with care homes in April 2020’s lockdown.

The way in which the artists worked with the care homes to deliver it was part of the inspiration behind Inside Out 2021. With 30+ years of intergenerational work behind us, Magic Me has the experience and understanding to begin this new project. The After Party saw how the feedback from our care partners could help shape creative activities that responded to the needs of residents, and of staff, working through some of the most difficult months of the pandemic. The value of care staff as collaborators and facilitators was a vital part of the delivery of The After Party, and this new project encourages care professionals and artists to combine their specialist knowledge. Our aim is that activities will meet the unique needs of each individual home, benefitting its residents and staff (and, hopefully, as restrictions lift, family and friends.)

In the long term, Magic Me hopes learning from Inside Out will add to the range of ways in which creative work in care homes is developed. Our current 4 year Artists’ Residencies in Care Homes programme in Essex is also exploring how artists and arts organisations can work with, and in, care settings and we will exchange knowledge and learning back and forth between the two groups. The three care homes were chosen after a careful recruitment process, to continue to build our relationships in the Waltham Forest community. Magic Me has been working in care settings in the London Borough of Waltham Forest since 2014 with our Cocktails in Care Homes Project and Inside Out in 2019 which was part of the London Borough of Culture. 

We have recruited care professionals and artists eager to share and combine their knowledge, skills and expertise, keen to experiment and try new ideas.  The care professionals are given protected time by their employers to take part and the artists are contracted directly to Magic Me: we view both as equally important to the success of the project.

For more information about Inside Out 2021, contact Project Manager Sarah Watson: 

Our Inside Out creative collaborators are: 

Artists Chuck Blue Lowry and Paula Varjack with Care Professionals from George Mason Lodge, Leytonstone

Artist Georgia Akbar with Care Professionals from Alliston Road Care Home, Walthamstow

Artists Ishwari Bhalerao & Leonie Rousham (Kneed) with Care Professionals from Mapleton Road Care Home, Chingford

Inside Out 2021 funders:

Postcode Neighbourhood Trust

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The Rayne Foundation

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Wates Foundation

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Woodroffe Benton Foundation

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