Fergus Early is excited about the funding Green Candle Dance Company has secured for a dance and exercise project for groups of older men.
Green Candle Dance Company is based in Bethnal Green in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. For several years we have done short and medium-term dance and exercise projects with groups of older men in the borough, in particular a group of older Bangladeshi men from a local estate and another group of men who meet at the Sundial Centre, a day care and resource centre run by the Peabody Trust. Neither of these groups has been running recently, due to lack of funding.
I was then really excited when I saw that the newly formed Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for Tower Hamlets was offering ‘Innovation bursaries’ for projects which offered innovative approaches to health and wellbeing. I proposed a project to be called ‘Older men moving’, in which we would work with three groups of older men, running dance and exercise sessions over a period of a year and bringing all three groups together three times during the project to share their work and a meal together. The groups would be the two we had already worked with and one more – a group of Somali men meeting at Mayfield House in Bethnal Green, a Somali day centre. We would do some simple evaluation in the form of ‘before and after’ questionnaires to assess the participants’ sense of the value of the sessions and whether they had made any difference to their wellbeing.
The CCG indicated that those shortlisted should make a Dragon’s den-style presentation, so on hearing that we had successfully got through the first stage, I prepared a short Powerpoint presentation and went off to the interview together with our administrator, Suzanne Firth. This went off well and quite soon after, we were informed that we were to receive a bursary of £10,000 for a one-year pilot project. The CCG wants us to extend the scope of the evaluation, so we have devised some simple tests – measuring heart rate after exercise, flexibility of hamstrings − to be done six times in the year in addition to the questionnaires.
It is an exciting project because men in general, and older men in particular, are so hard to reach and their health and wellbeing is comparatively poorly catered for. Men are always in a small minority in day centres and resource centres and on average have a much smaller take-up of activities on offer. Add to this, cultural and religious attitudes to the concept of dance and the fact that these groups of men have expressed real interest in participating in the project is remarkable and heartening. The project gets underway in February.
Fergus Early is Artistic Director of Green Candle Dance Company.