Hensingham Multi Media Pilot Project

Cumbria County Council’s Hensingham Day Service has a strong track record delivering arts activities within the centre. The Hensingham team were keen to develop their expertise and work with Prism Arts to explore new opportunities. The project took place over 12 day long sessions. The pilot project was based at Hensingham Day Centre with initial staff training taking place at Rosehill Theatre.

The project enabled adults, with profound and multiple learning disability, to work with artists, supported by centre staff, in order to develop new creative skills, access new activities and explore new ways of communicating. The work was celebrated with a multi media installation of work made by the beneficiaries. The installation was premiered at Hensingham Day Centre on 7th June 2010 to beneficiaries, carers, partners and staff.

The artwork was devised by service users supported by artists and staff. Artists used a range of media and art forms (film, textiles, and visual arts, music) to enable the service users to communicate their needs and produce the work they wanted to achieve. Prism Arts ensured that artists working on the project had extensive experience of working with adults with learning disabilities.

The project aimed to actively involve support staff in all the creative sessions. This engagement strengthened the quality of the project.

Support Staff comments:
The workshops ran even better than we anticipated. All the service users enjoyed engaging in the workshops. Different service users enjoyed different activities and because of the range of activities on offer they were able to choose their preferred activities.

One service user is a very reserved person, who doesn’t often engage with people until he really gets to know them. After only three or four sessions the he was actively engaging with Prism Arts artists.

Sound and music provided a real opportunity for people with profound needs to be able to participate fully, giving them opportunities to have their work recorded and produced as part of the final exhibition.

Service users really enjoyed seeing their own work displayed as part of the final exhibition.

Ali McCaw, Lead Artist comments:
The project began with a training session for the staff. It was important that they had an full introduction into the approach the artists would be taking with the service users. We all learned from each other. This was very useful.

The beneficiaries are adults with profound and multiple learning disabilitity. This meant the workshops needed to take a diagnostic approach and that the development of the work needed to be modelled for the individual rather than the whole group.

In the training session for the staff we had stressed that we would be following the interests of the service users and that it was important that, in supporting them, we did not do things for them. If it took someone ten minutes to choose a pen, that was fine. The staff were very supportive of the process and it was clear that they had very positive and supportive relationships with their service users.

Case Studies:
One beneficiary found busy, noisy environments generally quite difficult. However, on several occasions this man came into the workspace during lunchtime to play the guitar. He didn’t like to be watched whilst playing. We found the best thing to do was give him the space to play as though we weren’t taking any notice. We understand that this man’s father is a guitarist, but he isn’t allowed to play his father’s guitars. Perhaps one day he may be able to have a guitar of his own.

One beneficiary with limited movement enjoyed using the percussion instruments. The chime bars and a small drum particularly interested him. The artist spent quite a lot of time with this young man holding instruments in such a way so that he could play them. Having the opportunity to make a conscious choice was very empowering.

Jonathon who is normally very agitated relaxed visibly after 5 minutes and stopped waving his arms. He responded to the sounds, looked around. He became very relaxed. He could copy patterns of percussion. His support worker said that they had never seen him behave like this before.

Joanne was initially very demanding, but as she worked she became so involved that her behaviour settled. She became happy and absorbed. She enjoyed working with tactile fabrics. Puppets were good for holding. She really enjoyed the opportunity to engage in something new.

Alicia was calmed by the music and the new space (we created a space within an existing room within the day centre). She loved the opportunity to interact with
fabric and sound. One day she had a bad morning and nearly didn’t come. The project calmed her and she stayed for 50 minutes which was exceptional, according to her care staff, because her concentration span is normally 1-2 minutes. Her support worker was able to observe her in a new light, she learnt to stand back and allow Alicia to explore.

Rachel developed her verbal communication. She was able to do this through making film animation. She began to work independently. She independently started to come into the workshop space at lunchtime. The artists felt that she had a high amount of untapped potential. Over the course of the project Rachel developed confidence and began to support other service users by helping them to communicate their needs. Rachael is now advocating for more things herself. For example she likes to be in the corridor because she likes to observe and watch what is going on. As a result of this project staff are now allowing Rachael to stand in the corridors and choose where she wants to be. Subtle changes like have made a big difference to Rachel’s wellbeing.

Lee It was vital to Lee’s physical health that he did exercises (Lee has a profound physical disability). Lee was resistant to this, as he found them boring and uncomfortable; this made him stressed. By working on a one to one basis the Lead Artist worked with Lee exploring fabric and textures, they created a very simple rod puppet. Lee was gently introduced to a swaying motion, which he became readily engaged with. The Lead Artist and Physiotherapist built up the motion to incorporate ‘figure of 8’ movements; one of Lee’s key exercises. Because Lee was so engaged with the puppet, he was readily doing the movement and building up the speed and the size of the movement. The qualified Physiotherapist was able to support this process and were delighted they had discovered a way to encourage Lee to do essential exercises in the future, without causing him undue stress. Lee was filmed making the movements. The film formed part of an exhibition which was held 6 months after the initial pilot workshops. Lee came to the exhibition and started to trace the movements that he had made on the screen. His Physiotherapist was amazed as this proved that Lee had a cognitive memory of 6 months. Previously Lee’s Support Staff believed that Lee had no cognitive memory. These discoveries led to sustainable improvements to Lee’s care.

 

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