Brightlights Summary Report

The Brightlights project was funded as part of Brightlife’s ‘Bright Ideas’ strand. This fund encouraged local groups, voluntary organisations and businesses to come forward with ideas to reduce isolation and loneliness for older people within areas or communities of interest.

Brightlights was delivered by Little Actors Theatre Company, a non-profit provider of community performing arts activities, with an award of £9,120.

Key learning

  • Formalised business support and partnership networks can help delivery partners to develop their links with skills development organisations, while also enabling them to better serve their local communities by enriching their service offering.
  • Volunteering does not have to be done on a formal basis – members of the group can take on some of the required responsibilities while remaining ‘hands-on’ participants.

 

Development and delivery

The aim of the Brightlights project (originally called Neston Theatre Arts Club) was to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older people living in and around the Neston area, by delivering and encouraging participation in an over-50s theatre club.

During 60 sessions held over the course of 15 months, participants designed, developed and produced their own theatre show, with a view to performing it at the Leverhulme Drama Festival in April 2019.

Little Actors Theatre Company was well-established in the local community as a provider of performing arts activities for under-18s; Brightlights was its first such project involving older adults. A facilitator was recruited for the project, with support from the existing Artistic Director.

Participants were recruited through a promotional campaign in the local area.

It had been anticipated that a number of volunteers would also be recruited to facilitate delivery of the club sessions, however there was less interest than expected in this role – the project team reported that most people wanted to be involved as participants instead. In the end, five participants took on additional responsibilities to account for the lack of formal volunteers.

Participants decided on the name ‘Brightlights’ for the project, and successfully planned, produced and performed their show as planned (ultimately being nominated for several awards at the Leverhulme Drama Festival). An additional performance was given at Storyhouse in Chester.

 

Impact and legacy

The Brightlights project successfully engaged 27 older people, exceeding its participation target by 29%.

The project team reported that a number of friendships were established within the group. Many of these continued outside the project sessions, for example meeting for coffee and outings.

Many participants went on to support other areas of the delivery partner’s work, for example by becoming volunteers or by taking part in fundraising activities.

“One gentleman has helped with the youth theatre; painting sets, registering as a chaperone, front of house duties and a general enthusiasm for supporting our young people.”

In a survey by the project delivery team, the majority of participants expressed a desire to continue their involvement with the group beyond the end of the Brightlife-funded delivery period. However, responses suggested that a full fee-paying model would be prohibitive for some (or just unwelcome for most), so a sustainability model involving a combination of grant-funding and nominal fees was proposed.

The project team reported that delivery of the Brightlights project had been a positive experience for Little Actors Theatre Company, enabling it to build links with skills development organisations (such as Cheshire West Voluntary Action), while enriching its service offer to better serve the local community.

 

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