During October, November and December 2022 we ran a second year of the Christmas Cheer Factory. This involved volunteers from the community in Stamford hand-making gifts and cards, created in artist-led sessions.
The gifts and cards were made in a ‘factory production line’ style series of workshops, allowing for mixed abilities to contribute. For example, some would paint the background, others would cut the shapes, and another would glue the pieces together.
We then distributed the gifts and cards at Christmas parties in local care homes: Priory Court, Digby Court and Whitefriars. We gathered the residents together and brought in two professional performers – a drama/spoken word artist (Darren Rawnsley) and a mezzo soprano (Gabriella Pineda-Rodrigues) – to entertain residents with light-hearted Christmas entertainment and carols. Then while the residents had mince pies and a cup of tea, the volunteers gave out the handmade gifts and cards, leaving time to chat to the residents towards the end.
This was a great way to connect the homes and their residents with the wider community, reducing isolation for both the residents and the volunteers through creativity. All our volunteers felt the project had a significant positive impact for them as well as other project participants and described feeling good about doing something for others and meeting new people.
The homes had a mixture of elderly people, many had lost friends and relatives and described Christmas as a difficult time. Others had dementia/ Alzheimer’s or other cognitive or physical limitations that contributed to their isolation.
The classic carols sung by Gabriella which the residents joined in with was particularly enjoyed and moving for all involved, prompting reminiscences related to their favourite carols. Darren was dressed as Santa and interacted with the residents throughout by chatting, dancing with them, making them laugh and holding their hand. As one of the homes managers described “It was excellent and an amazing performance by you all, the residents loved you and we are keen for you to come in again soon”.
Funded by Arts Council England.