Re-imagining Our Day Out: Creative Arts East's response to COVID-19

Our Day Out, Creative Arts East- participants dancing
Our Day Out, Creative Arts East

A case study submitted by Mary Muir, Norfolk County Council

Creative Arts East (CAE), one of Norfolk County Council’s key regularly funded arts partners and an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation is an arts and community development charity which brings the very best arts and cultural activities to rural and/or under-engaged audiences across Norfolk, Suffolk and the wider eastern region. CAE aims to use the transformative power of the arts to make a positive difference to the lives of people living in rural communities.

In 2017, CAE received Spirit of 2012 funding to deliver Our Day Out, a unique dementia-friendly creative arts initiative for rurally-isolated older people. The initial three-year programme (2017-19) provided opportunities for people to engage creatively through fortnightly dementia-friendly, inclusive and interactive music and movement workshops in rural communities across Breckland and North Norfolk. 

Evaluation results from first three years of the programme showed significant positive impact on the wellbeing of participants. Most notably, according to research by Professor Camic of Canterbury Christchurch University, wellbeing for Our Day Out participants was improved and maintained over multiple session interactions. Further research by Dr Zeilig, University of the Arts London, found that: 81% of participants reported that these activities helped them feel better about themselves and 88% felt their involvement helped them to have a shared positive experience. 97% of participants said they felt their involvement in the programme helped them to make better social connections.

In November 2019, Our Day Out won the prestigious Royal Society for Public Health Arts and Health Award in recognition of its achievements in health promotion and community wellbeing. In particular, the judges were impressed with the success the project had in effectively reaching and engaging vulnerable older people who are geographically isolated.

In 2019, CAE was successful in securing further Spirit of 2012 and local authority funding to continue the programme for another three years in 8 community settings across Norfolk. As a result of COVID-19, however all physical sessions were suspended and CAE has skilfully adapted the programme to ensure that existing participants and volunteers continue to be supported and engaged in the programme remotely. 

In order to support continued social connectedness, decrease feelings of loneliness and maintain good wellbeing, participants receive regular phone calls, creative packages and a variety of digital content they can connect with.  The creative packs are sent twice monthly to all participants to support remote artistic delivery. Artists have been commissioned to create new suitable content both for the physical packages and digital offers. This new approach is enabling CAE to better understand the potential for reaching more of the most vulnerable residents within the communities where they are working and particularly those for whom physical attendance may always be a barrier. 

‘Life seemed to be closing in until I found Our Day Out. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and would miss it terribly. I love the sessions, I’m breaking out. I feel like I’m just dipping my toes in and the water is beautifully warm.’ 

For further information, please read here