'Creative ageing festival' under way in Scotland

Image caption Older people have produced a series of drawings and collages of vegetables in arts workshops run by Third Stage in Banchory

"It's amazing what you get out of it," says an enthusiastic participant in the Luminate Festival.

The month-long event bills itself as "Scotland's creative ageing festival".

Its organisers say there is evidence that engagement in the arts drops off as people get older and they would like to change that.

The festival covers a wide range of events including plays, exhibitions and writing.

At a regular weekly tea dance at a theatre in Kirkcaldy, as well as the dancing there is plenty of chat at tables round the edge of the floor.

The music and steps take many people here back to their younger days.

"Fife was full of dance halls," says one of the regulars, Tom Young.

His attendance here has led to his recruitment for a show which will run as part of the Luminate festival. Dancing Days, being staged later this month, tells stories from the dance halls of Fife.

"There's no acting involved in it really," he continues, "it's just being yourself."

"It's relaxation, it's therapy, to be quite honest. It's someplace for them to go as well, and it gets them out of the house."

'Challenging stereotypes'

Organisers say Luminate is largely about engaging older people in the arts, but also challenging stereotypes of ageing and older people.

"What I hope the festival does is that it inspires more of this kind of work, more work with and for older people, more older people to become involved all year round," says Luminate director Anne Gallacher.

This is the festival's second year and she says already some arts organisations have been telling them that they are thinking more about how to involve older people in their work.

At the Maggie's Centre at Glasgow's Gartnavel hospital, huge windows connect the inside of the building to the tranquil sight of the trees and plants outside.

This centre is part of a network providing care and support for people affected by cancer.

"I was speechless. It was as if my body closed down and I couldn't fully hear what was being said anymore," says Terry Durkin of his cancer diagnosis more than two years ago.

Writing classes

Along with some of the other support at Maggie's, like yoga, tai chi and nutrition classes, he has found the writing classes and his own writing more generally to be hugely important.

He explains: "What will happen if you sit in silence long enough, what will surface, what will emerge?

"Not the inner critic, not the inner censor that says 'the specialists say this, the authorities say that' - it really encourages you to be an authority to yourself.

"If you give yourself the time and the patience to listen, listen deeply, the writing will inform you, the body movements and meditations will inform you - that's what I've found.

"What we do in our little room here is, in our own individual way, writing our own individual story."

Maggie's well-established creative writing programme is marking the Luminate festival by running a series of writing workshops.

Arts workshops

The wider festival covers a range of events like the project which local group Third Stage in Banchory took part in. It provides arts workshops for older people.

For the last year or so they have been working with textile artist, Deirdre Nelson. Using the local allotments as inspiration,

Image caption Patterns of vegetables have been digitally printed on fabric, notebooks and mugs

They have produced a series of drawings and collages of vegetables.

"Throughout the year we have been drawing, designing producing these patterns," says Third Stage chairwoman Irene Byth.

The patterns have been digitally printed on fabric, notebooks and mugs which they hope to sell as "seedcorn back into Third Stage".

Ms Nelson, who works with various groups around the country, thinks older people often have more creativity within them than they realise.

She adds: "I think a lot of older people have maybe more of an opportunity now and are beginning to discover that they had talent that they didn't think they had."


Back in Fife, there is real anticipation of the upcoming performance

"It's not something I've done before," says Betty Cunningham, who will be performing in Dancing Days.

"I was a wee bit nervous about it at first but it's amazing how much you enjoy it and what you get out of it."

Dancing Days was written by local writer Stuart Paterson.

He has found the glory days of Fife's dance halls to be fertile creative ground and he has enjoyed working with people for many of whom the stage is a new experience.

"There's something wonderful about people who are full of memories and full of experience," he says.

"We want to try and create a really magical and inspiring piece of theatre and I'm not saying we will do that but that's definitely the aim.

"I think already you can smell something special about working with people this way."

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