At 2pm every Tuesday and Friday over the coming weeks, and possibly months, a new short film will be posted online by Luminate to inspire and guide older people through a creative activity that can be done at home or in a care home. The [email protected] programme is designed to help people stay engaged and active until the crisis has passed and the activities will be presented by professional artists who work regularly with older people in community and care settings, and will feature different arts forms. Chris Stuart Wilson who led an online dance class on Friday 27th March spoke with The Fountain about this project, and what inspired him personally to get involved.

TF: Luminate have responded to our present situation with a kind demeanour, what do you think about their online focus for older people?

I think that not only Luminate’s innovative idea for [email protected] but also their quick response to implement it at this unprecedented time shows what an incredible organisation they really are. With this wide range of creative ideas it once again recognises the value of the arts to older people, and that is always going to be good thing to identify. It has also highlighted that despite its many flaws, the internet and social media have become somewhat of a lifeline at this very isolating time. Bravo, Luminate

TF: What made you get involved in this creative campaign?

Anne Gallacher, from Luminate very kindly asked me whether I’d like to contribute, given my history of providing dance exercises to older people, of course I was very keen to be involved. For me, this is a straight forward way of making a positive difference to the lives of older adults living in isolation. Of course there are benefits physically but there’s no doubt that light relief is what everyone needs at the moment, so if someone somewhere says, “For today’s lockdown, I did a bit of flapping and stomping in my kitchen” then I think that’s a pretty darn good achievement!

TF: What is your background Chris, what inspired you to host this type of workshop?

I am, amongst many creative things, a choreographer. I have had experience of working with people of all ages and all abilities over the years and through that time have witnessed that regardless of what people might say about themselves, anybody can dance – it’s something we inherit. You don’t need to have perfect flexibility or posture to move, and once we allow our bodies to get lost in music, we can really improve our mood and well-being. Before I started work in the performing arts, I gained a Medical Science Degree from Edinburgh University and I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between dance and science, which is why I created my “Seated Swing” program that gained significant media attention a few years ago. This programme, based on dance styles from the swing era, I introduced to care homes about 12 years ago in an attempt to improve/sustain both cognitive and motor function whilst at the same time, invoking positive memories through the music and opening up wonderful conversations. What I was discovering was amazing – for what was a relatively basic set up (ie. turning up into a communal living room with my mini portable sound system and dancing for 40 minutes) was making a huge impact to the well-being of these groups. The same applies under these circumstances – we may all be in isolation, but with a bit of space cleared aside and a chair (not to mention modern technology of course), we can still engage! If you can laugh at yourself doing it, then even better which is why I chose a style that tends to be a bit silly and fun!

TF: And you have done a dance workshop last week, how did that go? Will you be doing another one soon?

Well it was the first time I had ever had to do a workshop in this manner and I’m not going to lie, my first attempt was met with a few teething problems – everything from camera running out of storage to camera falling over to attracting the neighbours attention and so on. In fact, I had to re-record the whole thing at 5am on Wednesday morning in order to meet the deadline after it failed to upload the night before! That said, I’m so happy and thankful that I was able to contribute! Hopefully this community will get something positive out of it and having done it once, I have learnt from the experience and feel armed and ready to do another! The question is what style shall we do next???

TF: What other creative disciplines would you like to see Luminate focus on during this time?

I would encourage as many creative disciplines as possible – writing, reading, painting, singing, the list is endless. As my opening comment suggests, the arts in all its wonderful forms can contribute to the well-being of individuals and groups. I am also a big fan of inter-generational activity, so it would be amazing to see some artistic contribution from a youth group for instance.

For more on [email protected], click here