Whether you’re 18 or 80 the arts have wide-ranging benefits, as Anne Gallacher, Director of creative ageing festival Luminate, explains.
“No matter what your age, the arts make a positive difference to our lives,” says Anne Gallacher, Director of Luminate, a festival dedicated to making the arts accessible to older people. “What’s fascinating is that the younger generation is far more involved in the arts than older people. Data from the 2014 Scottish Household Survey revealed that engagement with the arts starts to decline at age 65, and dips again at 75. Even those who were previously committed arts attenders seem to stop going,” explains Anne.
There’s no defined reason for this. It could be down to mobility or a lack of awareness of what’s on offer. But what is certain is the health and well being benefits that come from being engaged with the arts, and Luminate is keen to spread this message far and wide. “From 1-31 October, there will be around 400 events on offer across Scotland. From dance classes and theatre to knit-and-natter groups, there is something for everyone,” says Anne.
To make this possible, Anne works with community groups, artists, local authorities and publicly-funded organisations, “The Luminate team has only two members for most of the year, so to make the event a success, it’s essential that I collaborate with others, and we are fortunate in that a lot of people want to work with us to support the festival,” Anne says, “For example, there’s an artist in Sutherland who has been enthusiastic about Luminate since we launched and she works very hard to help us to plan events and reach the community up there.
“We also work closely with local authorities, and one that has particularly embraced the Luminate ethos is West Lothian Council. It has a vibrant and enthusiastic arts development team, who run some fantastic events for older people,” says Anne, “In the first year of Luminate they hosted a rock band from Helsinki (all of the band members had taken up their instruments after they retired) who came to Scotland to play a gig during the festival. Since then the council arts team has organised an inter-generational graffiti project and this year, they are hosting DJing workshops, which will conclude in a club night led by older people. They are very much breaking down the barriers of age, and are challenging some of the preconceived ideas that exist about what activities may appeal to people in certain age brackets."
As well as organising the festival, Luminate has an increasingly advisory role, working with different public bodies and organisations, supporting them to make the arts more accessible to older people, “We do a lot of outreach work and recently we collaborated with the Care Inspectorate on a new resource pack, to help support the development of the arts in care homes. The pack is being issued to every care home in Scotland and we’re hoping it will encourage arts to flourish in this environment,” says Anne. “Arts in care homes can enable residents to rediscover old skills or develop new ones, and contributes to people’s wellbeing in a number of ways, for example by giving a sense of achievement, increasing confidence and improving cognitive and communication skills.”
Luminate also encourages people who previously haven’t been involved in the arts to engage in some way, whether it be as an audience member or participant. The charity works closely with Dance Base, for example, which was where the semi-professional dance group, PRIME – composed of dancers aged 60 plus – started. Over and above the obvious physical benefits that come with dance, PRIME members talk enthusiastically about their work with professional choreographers and the importance of being valued as artists regardless of age. And, PRIME was given the ultimate confidence boost when they toured with Luminate last year and they’re back again for the 2016 festival programme.
Despite launching just four years ago, Luminate has had a huge impact across the country, and Anne is thankful to those, including Baillie Gifford, who have helped her to do so, “In order for us to grow and reach as many communities as possible, we need more support and Baillie Gifford coming on board last year hasn’t just been massively valuable in financial terms, but it’s also a huge endorsement and confidence boost, for which I’m very grateful.”
If you would like to find out more about the festival, please visit the Luminate website, where you can also download the 2016 programme of events.