‘Ageing artfully’ has introduced vulnerable older people to BollyWalking. Christina Christou and John Pinder of Akademi explain all.
Akademi South Asian Dance UK has for decades been exploring the natural affinity between South Asian dance and movement practices and wellbeing. More recently, with funding from Arts Council England and London Councils and with the support of the Baring Foundation, we published‘Inter-Action’, a pioneering dossier exploring best practice for South Asian dance with older adults in community settings. This inspired us to further our creative learning programmes for older adults, and we ran a pilot programme in partnership with the London Borough of Camden’s sport and physical activity staff, which took place on Hampstead Heath last summer.
We then extended our expertise of working on site-specific productions and outdoor spaces by trialling the concept of dance walking, a phenomenon started in New York which encourages dance participation in mass movements with unplanned groups of people. Our director Mira Kaushik adapted this idea to conceive the BollyWalk, devised by dance artist Khavita Kaur Rendhawa and our education team. BollyWalk blends walking, Bollywood-inspired moves with theatrical storytelling to create fun, playful and enjoyable group experiences.
A successful application to NIACE via the Community Learning Innovation Fund enabled us to create a more holistic programme called ‘Ageing artfully’. It supports 60 vulnerable older residents of Camden in developing knowledge, skills and strategies for managing their physical and mental wellbeing. From last September to this August artists and our education team will work with black, Asian and minority ethnic members of the community and adults at risk of social exclusion. The project, which is taking place across five different community centres responsible for carrying out the recruitment process in the different boroughs, starts with a series of ten weeks of creative workshops. These combine South Asian movement classes, walking, gardening in local allotments and healthy cooking classes with celebrity chef Manju Malhi. A project blog has been set up to document the process and publish the recipes and dishes concocted during the sessions. Then in the spring another series of BollyWalks will be organised on Hampstead Heath.
A crucial part of this process is to empower participants to evaluate their own needs, track achievements and progression routes for the future. For this, each participant will be given their own Individual Wellness Diary (IWD), designed by illustrator Shehnoor Ahmed. These diaries are used during regular one-to-one consultations between participants and health advisors and help participants identify local services that they would like to access during and after the project. The entire IWD process is also informed and supported by the expertise of local primary care trusts and the Camden Active Health team.
Through ‘Ageing artfully’ we are also training ten volunteer health champions who will promote the aims of the project for 12 weeks after the end of the workshops. Champions will have the opportunity to train as group walk leaders and we will support them in leading activities of their choice to ensure that the original impulse and momentum of the project continues to be felt in communities beyond 2013.
Christina Christou is Education Director and John Pinder is Education and Community Officer of Akademi South Asian Dance UK.