Why Intergenerational Arts?
“It’s like we take a Magic Carpet to the care home. And the old people can get on it with us and go anywhere they like”
A group of children in Bow, east London once asked me “Why is it called Magic Me?”. For about four weeks they had been joining older residents of a care home just down the road to share drama and visual arts activities. Now they wanted to talk about the people they’d met and what they were finding out. So before I answered their question, I asked them to tell me why they thought it was called Magic Me.
One boy said “It’s like we take a Magic Carpet to the care home. And the old people can get on it with us and go anywhere they like.” Its one of the best descriptions I have ever heard of the power of the arts to transport us from our everyday lives. To enable us to be where and to be who we want to be.
Global Intergenerational Week, 24 April to 30 April 2023, celebrates the wealth of ways in which younger and older people are coming together around the world, to enjoy one another’s company.
At Magic Me our vision is a world without ageism, where everyone can enjoy their unique creativity and full potential. For over 35 years we’ve been developing our intergenerational arts practice, and believe the arts are a particularly special and exciting way to bring generations together. Here’s some of what the arts offer.
A sense of Purpose Whether creating photographs or devising a performance, arts practice offers a reason for meeting, and a regular pattern of meetings that helps relationships grow.
Working in intergenerational pairs, with the arts project as a shared purpose, takes the pressure off when meeting new people. The arts combine thinking, feeling and doing – a variety of ways to be with other people, sharing skills and ideas, so conversation naturally grows.
A sense of Place The work made by intergenerational groups is uniquely theirs, a product of their combined talents, experiences and conversations, and the places and communities they call home. The arts help us to imagine how things could be different. They offer new languages, often non verbal, for fresh dialogue and unexpected discoveries in a place we thought we knew well.
A sense of Adventure Intergenerational arts projects offer challenge and stretch, take us beyond our comfort zones, and allow us to see things from others’ point of view. For some people the challenge and adventure is in performing for an audience; for others its having a quiet conversation with just one person who is unlike anyone we’ve met before.
A sense of Occasion Through the arts we can celebrate, show who we are and create magic moments for ourselves and those around us. Whether a weekly workshop that is the only regular event in someone’s diary, or the opening of a public exhibition in front of family and friends, the arts offer ways and times that make us feel special and important.
A sense of Achievement Creating something extraordinary and unique, building new relationships or overcoming shyness: the arts process offers multiple ways for us to grow as individuals and as groups. And achievements to look back at with pride.
Searching for Community
Image credit: Anita McKenzie
In our recent Searching for Community project three intergenerational groups each created a photographic image representing what they felt was currently missing in their community. Geoffrey, Amarjit, Etracy, Sarah and Georgina who made the image above said:
We stared at our community and saw isolation and neglect. We know we must love and include everyone for the community to flourish, but beware, it’s far from easy. A thriving community is the result of hard work and collaboration. A happy community is about inclusion and hard work.
At Magic Me the arts give us new ways to do that hard work, bringing all our five senses and our imaginations to the task of community building.
On 1 April 2023 Magic Me became one of Arts Council England’s, National Portfolio Organisations. Over the next three years, public funding as an NPO, and support from a wide range of other regular funders, will enable us to deliver and grow a rich programme of work with communities in east London, Essex and beyond.