"What judgements are being made when people design inclusive projects? What is worthy of investment? Who decides? Ultimately, who defines the term 'arts' within an inclusive arts context?” (Stephen Deazley, 2019)
Supported by the British Council / Creative Scotland partnership, across the winter of 2019/20 a research exchange took place between Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation, and Kubia, the Centre for Competence in Creative Ageing and Inclusive Arts in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), Germany. Both organisations wanted to understand more about the other’s work, as well as the different contexts in which they operate.
In November 2019, a delegation of four people from Scotland – Luminate director Anne Gallacher; composer and choir leader Stephen Deazley; visual artist Anne-Marie Quinn; and head of engagement at Eden Court Highlands, Lucy McGlennon – headed off to spend four days in Cologne and surrounding areas. They visited creative ageing projects and met older people, artists and care professionals involved in this work.
A stand-out theme for Anne Gallacher ‘was the close working between artists and care professionals, seen particularly in Kubia’s well-established (and accredited) cultural gerontology training programme for artists and care professionals.’
Another aspect of the work in NRW that struck the Scottish contingent was the choice of creative material and repertoire used by many of the older people’s groups they met.
Delegates were fascinated to see participatory practice rooted in the tradition of modernism which has been so significant in parts of Europe. This led to discussions about the artistic choices that are made in participatory work, and about the assumptions that might be behind them.
In February 2020, a reciprocal visit welcomed Miriam Haller, head of research at Kubia, Imke Nagel, head of education and training at Kubia, and Sybille Kastner, head of education and engagement in Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg to Scotland.
They arrived in a storm which lasted all week and were guided by their hosts Luminate through wind, rain and snow to meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and to Erskine Care Home in Renfrewshire.
At the end of the German delegation’s visit, Miriam, Imke and Sybille reflected on the number of specialist posts focusing on community engagement within arts Scottish organisations, and particularly on the growing number of posts focusing specifically on health and wellbeing.
They saw the growth in these roles as a positive step to better connect the arts and health sectors. They were also struck by the growing awareness of the needs of people living with dementia - an important area of work in Germany.
As the exchange drew to a close and partners reflected on potential future collaborations, the coronavirus outbreak took hold and lockdown began in both countries. This situation ended up prompting a new conversation between Luminate and Kubia about the ageism that reared its head in both Scotland and Germany, as a backdrop to the pandemic.
The collective way forward might no longer look the way partners imagined, but the exchange has given them a strong foundation to respond together to future challenges.