Recently I’ve been performing and running workshops with older people in care homes, people with dementia and young people with disabilities. In these settings it can be difficult to know what the impact has been. So how do I evaluate what I have done?
Working for other organisations usually means there’s an evaluation procedure at the end and this is always valuable. There’s a lot to be learned from evaluating, from everyone’s perspective, and people who do the kind of work I do need also to be reassured that they are on the whole getting it right. A recent project in a care home, commissioned by Wychavon District Council, ended with these wonderful words which boosted my confidence. (You’d think by now I wouldn’t need that, but I do!)
“The poetry with Heather was a big success. Heather has set a spark amongst our residents and inspired us all to have a go at poetry. Everyone who attended these session has asked me to re book Heather for more groups. She had everyone in the room hanging off her every word, we had funny moments and thought provoking moments …. She talked with the residents and everyone warmed to her straight away. What a wonderful woman she is. I hope she will be coming here for many years to come.”
When working with people who aren’t able to express themselves in words, it can be more difficult to assess the impact. This week, 2 people in particular have demonstrated very positive reactions. During a session yesterday, a young woman with severe autism who had stayed in her chair for all of the previous sessions, came up and danced with me then later stole my tambourine and sang Yellow Submarine whilst tapping a rhythm in perfect time. She thought it was hilarious, the rest of the group joined in and I was so pleased that we had made such a connection. This session was part of a project run by Creative Health http://www.creativehealthcic.co.uk/ who commission arts and health work in the West Midlands.
This morning a man with dementia danced, hummed and whistled as I played my song Alzheimer’s Army which – ahem – is available on CD with 2 others songs to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. You can listen to the song here https://soundcloud.com/heatherwastie/alzheimers-army-by-heather-wastie. Contact me for details or come to one of my performances; I always have CDs with me. Here’s a link to my performance diary http://www.wastiesspace.co.uk/Wasties_Space/DIARY.html.
Another man this morning (at an Alzheimer’s Society memory cafe) thanked me for the lyrics to one of my other dementia songs, written especially for his group. He keeps it in a folder which he described as his ‘autobiography’.
All of this shows how much difference the arts can make and I’m so lucky to be able to use my skills to be one of the many people out there making that difference.