A Creative Dance Residency and Well-Being Sessions for Carers.
A story by Indepen-dance
We delivered a creative dance residency for a group of disabled adults that took place in July 2023 for a period of 6 days & 5 nights for up to 30 disabled adults. The funding also supported four wellbeing events for carers in collaboration with the Wee Retreat.
What A Creative Dance Residency and Well-Being Sessions for Carers. did
For the Creative Dance Residency we took 19 disabled members of our Adult Performance Company (APC) away to Wiston Lodge in Biggar, Scotland from Sunday 23rd July until Friday 28th July. The residency was open to all members a collective of dancers who are bounded by their enthusiasm and commitment to dance. On the residency, participants engaged in a whole host of activities: dance classes run by Indepen-dance staff, an impromptu trip to the circus, archery, bushcraft, a trip to the local village and a range of evening games such as a fancy-dress fashion show, a quiz and bingo.
This residency also enabled the parents and carers of participants to have a short break from their caring role. Parents and carers reported they were able to do a range of things such as "take time out for myself", "family time", meals out, walks, day trips, and holidays abroad and within the UK/Scotland.
In order to ensure this project was a success, we had sustained communication with Wiston Lodge so that they understood the accessibility requirements of our members and our own staff members also attended the residency. This project was indeed successful, with 100% of participants stating they enjoyed their time, made friends, had grown in confidence and would like to attend a trip like this again. Simultaneously, 100% of parents/carers stated their sense of wellbeing has improved and that they feel better able to sustain their caring role.
We additionally delivered four two hour wellbeing sessions for parents and careers, involving the creation of a collage to reflect on self-identity, self-affirmation cards, collaborative transient art and self-care wheels/zines. These sessions were held during a dance class for our disabled members so that parents/carers were available. The sessions were in partnership with The Wee Retreat enabling an experienced staff member to lead them. All parents and carers who took part said they would like more sessions like this, with many reporting an improved sense of wellbeing.
Collectively these activities addressed the Creative Break principles of mutual benefit, targeted support, adding value and knowledge and understanding.
What Indepen-dance has learned
The location in which we held the Creative Dance Residency did provide us with more challenges in relation to accessibility than we anticipated. In the future we many need to use a different location and take more time with our project planning.
In relation to the four wellbeing sessions we provided, feedback from those who attended the workshops highlighted to us that in the future if we were to provide sessions like this again, participants would benefit from shorter sessions. We could for example run sessions that were one hour in length rather than two, or we could separate the two hour session with a break in between. This may be necessary as participants reported that it was difficult to commit to a two hour session due to needing to fulfil their role as a carer at certain points during the sessions. For instance, the wellbeing sessions ran over the break in the dance class when the person they were assisting may have needed support.
This issue we suspect may have contributed to lower turnout at the sessions than we expected. This was additionally due to the fact that many parents who are carers who we thought would have liked to attend the event were not there (or were unavailable due to needing to work) on Wednesday as members came independently or professional carers attended with the member instead who felt obliged to be on call to the person they cared for rather than participate in the wellbeing session. We therefore should have spent more time thinking about the specifics of our target audience and when best to hold the sessions in order to obtain the best attendance.
In the future in order to overcome this issue of low attendance, we would like to attach such wellbeing workshops to bigger events we run. These bigger events attract a number of members, offer a number of activities and are fully staffed, enabling a greater quantity of carers and parents to attend a wellbeing session that will run simultaneously.
How Indepen-dance has benefitted from the funding
The funding from Creative Breaks helped facilitate the Creative Dance Residency which in turn strengthened our organisations reputation. This was evident in that over half of the parents and carers of those who attended the residency specifically praised Indepen-dance as an organisation and its staff members for their work in facilitating the trip in their feedback. The carers for example said that we create a safe, enjoyable, caring environment and praised Indepen-dance’s overall “consistency". One parent/carer explained that this allows them to “rest assured” that the person they care for is “being well looked after” whilst they were away. Relating to this, one parent also said that in terms of other support that would help them sustain their caring role “anything Indepen-dance can offer would be great”. The Creative Breaks funding additionally enabled us to pilot the wellbeing sessions, which is a new service for Indepen-dance.
50 carers from Glasgow and other areas in the central belt will have more opportunity to enjoy a life outside their caring role.
This outcome was achieved to a high extent. Parents and carers of participants who attended the Creative Dance Residency said that they were able to do a range of things that they are not normally able to do due to their responsibilities as a carer, such as “taking time out for myself”, “family time”, meals out, walks, day trips, going on “holiday abroad” or trips locally within the UK/Scotland. One parent explained that although breaks from their caring responsibilities are very beneficial for their enjoyment of life outside of their caring role, they are often “so expensive” and therefore unobtainable. A trip like Wiston Lodge which was subsided by Creative Breaks is thus vital. A couple of the parents/carers who participated in the wellbeing sessions reported that they enjoyed the sessions as it was an "activity I wouldn't normally do" where they could prioritise themselves rather than the person they care for.
A parent of one of our members who came away on the residency said that the residency enabled them to have “a break from daily caring responsibilities and routines” which left them feeling better supported in their care role as they could “spend some quality time together and relax and recharge our batteries without having to worry” about their daughter. The parents said this quality time consisted of them chilling out in front of the TV, going on outings in and outside of Glasgow, and having meals out, which they were able to do in the knowledge that their daughter was “in a safe and happy environment having fun with all the Indepen-dance staff and her friends.” This case study relates to both outcome 2 and 3 also. One of the participants of the wellbeing sessions fed-back after the session that "I am starting to think more about my individual wellbeing and trying to prioritise myself and my needs once a week. I am feeling more positive as I have some new tools to help reinforce my new thinking.”
50 cares from Glasgow and the central belt will feel better supported to sustain their caring role.
This outcome was achieved to a high extent. We managed to get feedback from all the parents/carers of participants who attended the residency and every person (100%) said they felt more able to sustain their caring role after having a break from their caring responsibilities. The majority of the parents/carers commented that they felt better supported in their care role as the break was either “relaxing”, “restorative”, “refreshing” or provided “respite” from their “normal routine”. Many parents noted that the break made a difference to them as they were able to “charge” their “batteries” due to not having to be “on duty”. One parent/carer stated that the break allowed them “some time to get energised for when my son returned home.” Over half of the parents/carers that gave us feedback said that more breaks from caring, like the trip to Wiston Lodge (or shorter trips such as weekend or day trips), would help sustain their caring role.
On return from the dance residency the parent of a disabled member who attended the trip expressed that they had not realised that they needed a break. A statement like this is a good example of how our planned activities enable carers to feel better supported in their caring role and allows us to realise how important the services we provide are for those who care for others, whether they anticipated it or not.
50 carers and the 19 disabled adults they care for, from Glasgow and other areas in the central belt will have improved wellbeing.
This outcome was achieved to a high extent. 100% of all parents and carers of those who attended the residency reported an improved sense of wellbeing. Every participant who went away on the residency said that they had an improved sense of wellbeing and that their confidence has grown. All but one of the participants who gave us feedback stated that they felt a positive change in their wellbeing as a result of attending the wellbeing session. The one participant who did not feel a change said that this was only due to having participated in many other wellbeing exercises like this before. Multiple participants shared that they felt more “relaxed” or “chilled” after taking part in the workshop/s.
One of the participants who went away on the residency said that they enjoyed the trip, particularly the dancing, going to see the circus and being able to hang out with and make new friends. She also noted that as a result of being away her confidence and happiness had grown, and that she would like to attend a trip again.
Additional project outcome
Carers are able to feel more confident about having time away from the person they care for, and the person they care for simultaneously increases their confidence about being away and therefore their independence.
One of the participants who came away to Wiston Lodge had never been away with Indepen-dance before. Her mother said that she was “quite apprehensive” about her daughter going on the trip “as it was her first time away for such a long period without me”. When speaking to the participant herself, she also said that her parents were a bit nervous about her being away since it was not something they were used to because she was “poorly” when she was younger. The participant’s parents however reported that because she “really enjoying herself” at the residency, their anxieties about their daughter going away have “definitely lessened after her positive experience” and that their worries will “hopefully continue to do so over time”. The participant told me while they were on the residency that they were enjoying themselves and that they were looking forward to “the dancing, the experience, the independence and meeting new people”. They additionally said that being away enabled their confidence to grow and that they would like to take part in a trip like it again.
Additional project outcome
Carers and people who are cared for are able to build friendships with other carers through activities.
100% of the participants who attended the residency said that they made and developed their friendships. Most of the group who attended the final wellbeing session had previously attended a session together. The fact that people attended more than one session suggested that parents/carers found the sessions valuable/beneficial, and the person running the workshops highlighted that this created “a lovely supportive atmosphere”. Connection and the ability to come together with other parents and carers was also part of the feedback from one of the participants.