Meet Me at the Albany - and the 21st Century Tea Dance

In 2013, CDAN worked with the Albany and Entelechy Arts in Deptford, London on developing a model of mainstreaming arts and activities for older people including those with dementia as a counterpoint to segregated day centre care. The bid for Lewisham Community Cares funding was successful so that in 2014, a pioneering programme called Meet me at the Albany went live. Currently running at the theatre once a week, it offers a wide range of opportunities to engage in creative arts, socialise, and relax for a diverse group of people of different ages and abilities. www.meetmeatthealbany.org.uk

What Meet Me promises is:

Arts activities, lunch and much, much more for the over 60s at the Albany. Pop in for some lunch and try your hand at a range of creative activities from singing to sewing, from circus to photography. Join in, sit back and watch or put your feet up and enjoy the company. Everything is possible.

 

That everything is possible is what I concluded when I met up with David Slater, Director of Entelechy to see how it was all going. In our discussion we got back to a place where we often get (David as an artist and me as a social worker with professional perspectives that reflect these) because I was excited by arts practice as day care, but David was clear this is arts practice as art – art not care.

 

I know that the arts is one of our best chances, as we head into an era of mass social ageing, of getting older people from the margins to the mainstream of society; CDAN was set up to help artists, arts organisations and cultural institutions who are building these bridges to help facilitate citizenship and social inclusion do this. However I also know that commissioners and managers in health and care want evidence of why they should be contracting with arts organisations to provide theatre rather than day care - and especially in a time of fiscal pressures. David knows this too though and the Meet Me programme will be robustly evaluated showing how investment by statutory authorities in arts can provide value for older people who participate, their carers and communities.

Whilst we had coffee I was struck by the social buzz that filled the café bar where older people, volunteers and artists were meeting each other, and spending the morning, writing and performing poetry, knitting and nattering, and preparing for the afternoon’s quarterly event - show time with a difference.

The 21st Century Tea Dance is an inspirational event and should be mandatory viewing for health and social care commissioners everywhere! A wonderful 2 hours of dance, song, fun, tea and delicious cake with outstanding individual performances by older singers, poets and writers in addition to the Entelechy choir and a crowded dance floor.

As usual Ida Barr the Mistress of Ceremonies ( or Christopher Green when he’s not an Edwardian lady) made me and everyone else laugh out loud with his skilful patter that references to the old ( Lambeth Walk) and the new ( Hip Hop). The whole afternoon’s entertainment looks and feels flawless but it draws on years of work by Entelechy artists who have helped nurture the abilities of an outstanding group of older people more apt to refer to themselves as actors and poets than older people. Many also contribute to Entelechy projects in a number of ways and I worked with several as co-researchers on the Little Boxes project.

Disability and mental illness often damage confidence and self-esteem besides reinforcing negative stereotypes of ageing which is why it’s worthwhile taking the over ground train to Deptford in March 2015 and finding out for yourself how to challenge stigma, address social isolation and have a jolly good time at the 21st Century Tea Dance and the Meet Me programme.

To explore the full range of Entelechy’s work go to http://www.entelechyarts.org/

For tickets to the next 21st Century Tea Dance book on line at http://www.thealbany.org.uk/event_detail/925/Theatre/A-21st-Century-Tea-Dance

If you cannot make it, do not despair, David and Entelechy artists are presenting a workshop about the Meet Me programme at the CDAN conference at St Hugh’s College Oxford on 16 April 2015 so catch them there or contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Maria Parsons, CE CDAN