Gloucestershire care home explores ageing through art

Sir Nicholas Mander, Bt, recently retired OSJCT Trustee for Gloucestershire, and resident Mrs Jean Reed
Sir Nicholas Mander, Bt, recently retired OSJCT Trustee for Gloucestershire, and resident Mrs Jean Reed
Robert Race in workshop
Robert Race in workshop

The Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT) is proud to announce the launch of a new piece of public art, created by older people for the enjoyment of hundreds of their peers living in residential care.


In partnership with New Brewery Arts (NBA), OSJCT applied for funding from The Baring Foundation’s “Late Style Programme”. With the grant awarded, Robert Race, an artist who is over 70, himself, was commissioned to create an automaton on the theme of ageing. An important part of the project was to engage and involve older people, ensuring that it would be accessible to all, including those with varying levels of cognitive impairment.


Working at OSJCT’s Millbrook Lodge care home in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, Robert has, over the past six months, inspired and assisted participants to print, cut, fold and craft to create their own small automata, making something new each week. He has used this experience, and his own thoughts on ageing to shape and inspire his final piece.


Jayne Mann, Activities Co-ordinator at Millbrook Lodge, commented: “The residents have really enjoyed the making. It has been lovely that everyone who wanted to was supported and enabled to join in, and fantastic that family members have also been able to take part. It has been a really positive experience for the home and the residents.”


The artwork, titled Getting On, was launched at a celebratory tea party at Millbrook Lodge on Saturday, 4 July. From there, it will go “on tour”, visiting Gloucester Cathedral and national and international symposia on ageing and dementia, as well as several OSJCT care homes across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire.


Victoria Elliot, OSJCT’s Principal Care Consultant (Research & Innovation), said: “This project has proved to be a fun and interesting opportunity for residents, working with the artists, to learn and/ or revisit art skills, particularly in relation to the intricate art of origami. I very much look forward to the unveiling of the automaton, which is a product of the artist and residents’ combined reflections and views on ageing. To have this unique piece of tactile art, which can engage and amuse audiences of all ages within our homes is a wonderful privilege and we are grateful to both NBA and the Baring Foundation for their support with this project.”


Annie Gould, Fundraiser for New Brewery Arts, said: “New Brewery Arts is very proud to have been selected for The Baring Foundation’s Late Style Programme, recognising our contribution to the Arts for Older People Agenda. It has been a privilege to commission Robert Race. We know from experience in our own gallery the enjoyment his automata bring to audiences of all ages and so we are delighted to be working in partnership with The Orders of St John Care Trust who will enable Robert’s work to reach up to 3,500 older people in care, a group traditionally isolated from public art opportunities. It has also been a privilege to work with the residents at Millbrook Lodge, who helped inspire Robert’s work, and we hope the tour will be a catalyst for further art and wellbeing opportunities.”


Robert Race said: “This commission for the Late Style Programme has been an exciting opportunity to use my skills and experience to explore my own feelings about growing older. Automata have wide appeal to people of all ages – powerful and enigmatic objects. The idea of machines as animate objects, animate beings as machines evokes deep responses. Looking at ageing, an automaton might be an effective means of communicating difficult ideas and feeling with clarity and humour. I like working with reused and recycled materials because they retain traces of their previous uses – like us older people they have a back-story and a continuing potential.”



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