Creative Encounters at Beaumont Court: Part Six

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by Lucy Clasper

Our final session at Beaumont Court was a poignant mix of celebration and finality. The end of projects are always hard… Yes, you get to celebrate what has been: what you have discovered and created together as a group and yet, you also have to say goodbye to individuals with whom you have become close and journeyed alongside. Of course, we will be back next year to continue the roll out of ‘Creative Encounters’, but in the transient environment of a care home you never know if this will be your final chance to say goodbye to the residents with whom you’ve had the privilege of creating alongside. 

As I walked around the home on this final day I was amazed at how familiar I had become with the environment. The faces I saw were no longer of strangers, but friends. I found myself greeting people in the corridors; names had stuck, even after the fleeting moments I had shared with them. We had had so little time in many ways; there had just never been a lot of time to sit and chat, to discover people’s histories and stories from the staff, and yet I felt that I ‘KNEW’ people… and as I reflected I began to think about how creating together simply helps to ‘create’, and perhaps accelerate, a sense of community. 

Our project was not without its ups and downs. It had had some difficult moments, from negotiating the very real challenges of everyday life in a care home to feeling very unsure as a team as to the direction we should go each week. But as we explored the plains and mountain peaks of creativity we became a group on a mission. And as with any team, our adventure had caused us to bond in a wonderful and unique way. Through the act of ‘creating together’ we simply got to know people beyond their words… 

Co-Creating in this way, with the aim of uniting a group of equals and not deferring to a hierarchy of artists leading a group of residents, is a terrifying and often uncomfortable balancing act.. (but as my friend Julian wisely said to me, “When is the act of balancing ever comfortable? You use every muscle to sustain a position that you know could be lost at any moment”..) But the fruit of this very act was so obvious in our final session. People had become visible through our artistic endeavours. They might not have been able to explain themselves with words anymore but I was able to see D, not only through the lens of her mischievous giggles, but through her strong maternal instinct as she held my face at the end of each session. I saw a sensitive and highly creative side to the hugely charismatic G, and inner strength in the self effacing I, who lead a piece on the tambourine with authority and poise, while wiping away his tears as the project was ending. 

I hope too, that I somehow revealed my many facets as we created together. I am always amazed by the courage and vulnerability of the people we work with to show their true selves. My belief is that when we as artists can both facilitate and match this level of authenticity then true connection and creativity can emerge. I hope I managed this in some way… 

As we left the final session we gave a postcard to each resident, with a personal message and ‘Thank you’ for all that they had given to the project. The beautiful card was a print of part of the 4 large ink paintings that the wonderful Lucy S had done with the residents over the project.. It was a token gift really, but wonderful to leave something behind as a memory of the journey and moments we had shared. 

And what did I take away? A little like the ink painting, each resident that I work with seems to leave an indelible mark on my life, meaning I’m never quite the same again. Moments that you share when co-creating in this way seem to last long beyond their own merit…