Meet our finalists – Creative Arts Award

January 22, 2021

The finalists in the Creative Arts category are going out of their way to provide access to the arts for all – despite restrictions resulting from COVID-19. Find out what it is they do and why they wanted to be a part of the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards.

Head2Head Sensory Theatre

Head2Head Sensory Theatre is a registered charity that is dedicated to the special needs’ community and makes theatre accessible to all.

What made you want to enter the awards?

We entered the awards to raise awareness of our unique charity. Head2Head Sensory Theatre helps children who have a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities to enjoy interactive theatre experiences. Established in 2006, the charity is led by a team of volunteers who are passionate about bringing the magic of theatre into the lives of these children. Our professional acting team performs in special schools that can provide the facilities needed by the children. As a result, we do not receive press reviews or any recognition outside the special needs community we serve.

At the time of applying for the award, we were a provincial company touring multi-sensory shows, pantomimes and immersive experiences throughout London and the South East. All that has changed.

Since reaching the finalist stage, and in response to COVID-19, we have developed new ways of delivering our products.

We have created a range of activities that families can access online. Advance packs encourage them to find or craft items that will make each viewing an interactive and sensory experience.

All our actors use Makaton signing and our films now include a signing interpreter, so children with hearing impairments can join in the fun. Families and special schools are contacting us from all over the UK and now, more than ever, we need to let more of them know about us and how we can improve the lives of their children. What better way than to reach the finalist stage of such a prestigious award.

creative arts award

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

Imagine our surprise to learn that our small charity had made it to the finals! We felt so proud yet humbled that, from all the amazing charities working hard in their various sectors, we were chosen.

Many of our volunteers give up much of their leisure time to ensure the success of the charity. During lockdown, they have juggled full-time jobs with home schooling and running our charity.

To reach the finalist stage of such a prestigious award has been a tremendous boost to morale and has encouraged motivation at a time when many people are running on empty tanks.

The emotional spur that we are still connecting with these children has helped but the thought of national recognition has created a real buzz.

The young people with special needs on our Work Experience Programme have, as you can imagine, not been able to perform and this has been tough for them. Two appeared on a podcast interview with Samantha Renke, our patron. As a result, we resurrected our Work Experience Programme virtually.

These young people are now assisting our professional actors in delivering Zoom sessions and there are also plans to include them in forthcoming films. It will be wonderful to publicise their talent and enthusiasm for the theatre. We have our fingers tightly crossed that they will be given the recognition they deserve through interviews generated as a result of our being made a finalist. Their stories are entertaining and gripping. They deserve to be told.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

We saw it as an amazing opportunity to seek advice and support from national institutions. We do not have a publicity department and need help in raising the profile of the charity. We recognised that this could be achieved through the Markel 3rdSector Care Awards and that the publicity could help us to reach those families who, because they have clinically vulnerable children, remain in isolation.

One parent commented, ‘we have tried other Zoom sessions over lockdown with limited success in terms of getting R to join and/or stay focused. The session you ran was superb. It really held his attention. Above all, it was inclusive at all levels. A great success and a refreshing change that was really appreciated. Thank you for the creativity and energy that you put in.’

Our charity works throughout the year entertaining children and their families/carers. We respond to their needs but the thought that we have finally been recognised for what we do has been inspirational. For example, just before Christmas, a mother asked if we could help as her baby had just been diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. Our team immediately got to work and produced baby-sign sing-along sessions over the Christmas period. These not only introduced parents to Makaton signing to help children with little or no communication, but they also provided some sensory experiences to try at home. Needless to say, they were a great success and were the impetus for plans to launch a learning experience series on our YouTube Channel.

How have you had to adapt your services for COVID-19?

When the pandemic started, overnight our small charity transformed itself from local to national, from live to online. Families with clinically vulnerable children were, and still are, sheltering. We had to adapt from being a small-scale touring company. We had to find funds to move to bigger premises with a large room to use as a film studio; we had to resource videographers, graphic artists and much, much more. It was worth it because our fantastic artistic team found a way to bring our sensory tools and interactive experiences into the homes of families throughout the UK. Our work is not seasonal. We know that families need us 24/7 and we are there for them.

Partnering with the Kent Deaf Children’s Society, we now include captions and signing interpreters in our video performances to ensure that children with hearing impairments are fully included.

We continue to bring our performances to life so that our audience feels part of, and engages with, the experience. But now we are doing it on a national scale, serving the special needs community throughout the UK (and beyond!).

And we haven’t stopped at performances. Now that our creative juices are flowing, we are producing interactive adventure games written on several levels to cover a wide range of disabilities, Zoom sessions with characters from our shows, and even a historical event turned glamping fest. Curious? Please check out our website.  It is packed full of activities that the whole family may enjoy.

Intergenerational Music Making

A pioneer of intergenerational music projects, Intergenerational Music Making (IMM) is the UK’s first intergenerational music therapy CIC, connecting and bringing together generations in their local communities through music therapy projects.

Intergenerational Music Making

What made you want to enter the awards?

At Intergenerational Music Making, we are interested in projects that challenge hierarchy and convention, shed light on the overlooked, and create spaces for new conversations and otherwise marginalised voices. We strive to adopt the highest holistic approaches, nurturing the individual, the wonderful intergenerational relationships, the carer, family and community through the power of music.

The world turned upside down in March 2020 and, since then, our incredible team of music therapists, community musicians, artists, researchers, performers, volunteers and students have been working tirelessly, determined to support our clients, our existing intergenerational communities and those new ones that have emerged out of the pandemic.

Our work is centred around connection and community, working with those living with dementia, those who are experiencing mental health issues, loneliness and isolation and those socially and economically deprived, both young and old. It is through awards such as the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards that we are able to share our story, raise the voices of both generations and encourage awareness and understanding around intergenerational music practice.

We believe everyone should have the chance to live life to the full. Everyone has the ability to respond to music, to explore and develop in the music. Our work aims to bridge the gap between generations, creating stronger, more resilient communities whilst improving the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of both the young and the old.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

The news of us being a finalist provided the team with some much-needed light and joy! We are all so incredibly passionate about Intergenerational Music Making, so to receive the acknowledgement from the panel that our work is important is truly special!

The past nine months have been extremely challenging for everyone. With so much loss, separation, isolation and uncertainty, it can be hard to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Music has acted as a crutch for so many of us – used to invite and empower new voices, to understand personal feelings and emotions and to remind us of positive moments with the people we love the most.

We believe that music will be the essential ingredient in how we heal and rehabilitate, both individually and as a community. We are determined to help mitigate the impacts on the nation’s wellbeing, improve the lives for those living with dementia and mental health concerns, but also to harness the power of strong creative connections for the future.

Individuals and their stories, whether sung, spoken, written, drawn, enacted, young or older, must be heard, exchanged and recognised. It’s through stories, whether factual or imaginary, that people tell us who they are, where they’ve come from and where they dream of going next.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

We are honoured to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards. To be acknowledged and recognised for the innovative and vital work we deliver is incredible.

For many years we have been working across the health, care, education and community sector delivering unique music projects, events and workshops, bespoke training, consultancy and research. At the heart of IMM is music, paired with incredible partnerships, fuelled by passionate people and their remarkable stories. Music is the vessel in which culture and heritage can be shared, understood and respected – whether you are five years old or 100 years old!

More and more people now appreciate that arts and culture can play a valuable part in helping tackle some of the most challenging social and health conditions. Our work addresses the ageing population, which brings with it a growing population and evolving healthcare needs, specifically looking at the increase in dementia, loneliness and mental health difficulties amongst all generations. We use music as the vehicle to support individual memory and identification, whilst encouraging leadership, self-confidence and community. At IMM we are passionate about providing ways for generations to engage with one another – to communicate, be creative, share insights and test out new ideas.

We want to encourage creative intergenerational communities, support and nurture intergenerational relationships, and provide quality artistic access for those with dementia, families and carers.

We will only achieve this through an interdisciplinary team approach, one that gives people more say about the care and the support they receive. We want to pioneer an improved and new collaborative community where people, families, health care professionals and researchers are working together to improve an ageing population and the demand this brings with it through music!

What’s been your greatest challenge in the last year?

Due to COVID-19 we were unable to continue our intergenerational projects and feared that this time away from our clients could have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. We were determined to adapt and to find new ways to support and nurture those wonderful intergenerational relationships and introduce exciting and creative ways to stay connected and creative.

Our response to the pandemic drew on the digital and non-digital, virtual and tangible. We used home-based, creative ways to support health and tackle isolation, loneliness, mental health and wellbeing for all generations, whilst creating cohesive, artistic communities.

This time of distance and separation has made our work even more vital. Over the course of the pandemic, it has been extremely distressing to have witnessed a dramatic deterioration in the dementia symptoms and mental health of some of our clients, both young and old. We have also seen trends in increased mental health concerns and feelings of loneliness from those over 70 living in care homes, those shielding or isolated without family, and in young people between the ages of ten and 18, the number of referrals has doubled.

We seized this time of interruption to rebuild and tell a different story. Early on, we realised it was vital to engage and empower communities as equal partners in creating and maintaining their health and wellbeing.

Social isolation and loneliness are nothing new to our organisation but, now more than ever, we believe the arts possess transformative power, bringing people together in ways we could not have foreseen.

In December, we launched a campaign, Together with Music, in partnership with Care England to embed and sustain intergenerational connections across the UK.

Together with Music aims to connect every care home, sheltered accommodation and hospital with their local school or youth group through music. We see vast opportunity to embed cross-sectorial relationships, as well as creating job, training and volunteer opportunities for young people. This programme will empower and amplify voices of community members, giving them the skills and tools to be self-sufficient and integrated in their community.


Demelza Hospice Care for Children

Demelza Hospice Care for Children provides specialist care and emotional support for children with serious and terminal conditions and their loved ones, so they can enjoy their time together as a family for as long as they have.

What made you want to enter the awards?

When thinking about the opportunity to nominate, recognise and value work colleagues, I realised quickly

that creative arts are embedded into the everyday care and support Demelza gives to families who have a child with a terminal condition. This can be from health care assistants crafting on Zoom pre-school sessions, to family liaison practitioners supporting siblings with their drawings, and art therapists providing individual and group sessions.

Creative arts at Demelza embrace the fun, the sad, the silly and the precious, unforgettable moments. They are a part of the families’ journeys, even through to post-death.

At one parent’s request, a member of staff sang and gently played the guitar next to a dead infant in a Moses basket, as their culture believed that the baby’s soul should depart with music. For other families, pottery and sculpting can be used, as hand and foot casts are made for families to treasure and love.

Creative arts at Demelza give space for laughter and tears. It’s about enjoying and being in that moment and creating lasting memories.

Creative sessions have meant that families have heard their child sing for the first time, or have seen them become relaxed after a traumatic seizure or give direct eye contact and engage.

The improvised music in sessions follows breathing patterns and tiny body movements. The creative sessions are empowering and focus on what children can do, rather than what they can’t do.

The main reason for entering the awards was to acknowledge and recognise the exceptional work that the Care and Family Support teams are delivering at Demelza Hospice Care for Children in the South East. It is important that the achievement of providing the best service to families is valued and recognised.

Entering these awards meant that information was gathered, feedback collated and priority was given to acknowledge the achievements of this evolving, digital creative arts service. It was fantastic to get all of this material, including parent and child feedback, and champion the creative arts in the specialist area. We entered to let people know we use the creative arts to deliver a service to extraordinary children, young people and their families – we wanted to celebrate the extraordinary staff doing this.

How did you react when you found out you were a finalist?

‘Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!’ (shouted very loudly); ‘that’s amazing’; ‘brilliant’; ‘I can’t believe it’ were some of the reactions when we found out that we were finalists. It was also just a great lift whilst working in challenging circumstances and certainly felt like a real morale boost.

Demelza is a happy and supportive workplace and we shared the news via our organisation Intranet. Other teams and departments were absolutely thrilled. It really felt like we were raising the profile of the work and increasing the awareness of the service to others. It’s fantastic to share achievements, to feel that hard and innovative work has been recognised and valued. It also felt encouraging to continue to strive to provide the best service we can to families and even more new ideas started, such as the ‘Creative Hour’ for families to come together, led by Demelza’s art therapist.

Most importantly, it brought the Nursing Care team, who provide the clinical care, and the Family Support teams, who provide the psychological care, together. Whether teams are working directly from the hospices or from home, we felt less isolated. It was so exciting to build this new collaborative relationship and acknowledge that everyone has a part to play in providing a creative arts service to families, from singing nurses in PPE to a virtual, pre-op, art therapy session in a London hospital.

What does it mean to you to be a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards?

In a time when things are challenging for so many, becoming a finalist in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards is such great and positive news. It is fantastic to share good news and to know that the passion and work of the Demelza teams are recognised.

Being a finalist also encourages others – for those team members who may be struggling, it is a huge lift. Other colleagues were also delighted, commenting, ‘This is great news – fantastic work everyone. Amazing what you can achieve with some inspiration and technology. Brilliant!’ and ‘We love hearing about your team’s inspiring creative activities. I hope it helps to know that you are actually helping other colleagues who are working really hard too. It reminds us why we are doing it and how important it is to reach as many families as we can.’

It means that the compassion and commitment shown by staff is valued – this means so much to us. Working with families whose child or children have life-threatening and/or terminal conditions can be emotionally challenging, professionally and personally.

The attitude the Demelza teams have is phenomenal: they continually strive to provide the very best of care to all family members using Demelza. We also continue to engage with more and more families, from virtual cream teas to bereavement cafés, all involving the creative arts. We have shared this fantastic news with all of our stakeholders, and other hospices are now asking us about the service we are delivering too.

How have you had to adapt your services for COVID-19?

Almost immediately, all physical sessions became virtual and a weekly programme of support for families started. As this developed, we soon realised that we could reach more families with a digital support programme and, for families that couldn’t access digital platforms, we got funding for iPads.

We made music sensory bags for those children and young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and sent them out to families. As well as clinical, art therapy sessions available for individuals and families, creative opportunities included cooking and origami.

Creative arts became all-inclusive. None of the practitioners had previously trained to provide virtual sessions but, with all safeguarding in place and tutorials followed, virtual sessions began and only occasionally did the mute button get left on!

In a year of so many firsts and rapid changes, a singular adaption or challenge is hard to identify. However, the team did think about this and contributed their collective thoughts. The theme of connection has resonated from seeing children engage with each other online, which afforded a Eureka moment, giving us confidence to keep raising the bar and expanding the parameters of experience we are able to offer Demelza families. It was a year when potential became possible. The connections further extended by listening to and hearing messages families were sending to us, by being more playful and creative in sessions and realising the impact of the work we are doing, sometimes seeing this through the eyes of a child, for example, when chatting with Father Christmas in a virtual Christmas party.

We are ready to move forward into this new year positively, full of ideas for further expansion, securing the offer to families and excitedly exploring the possibility of a Demelza choir amongst many other creative ideas.

This year we will be revealing our winners at a Virtual Ceremony on Friday 12th February. We’d love for you to join us. Sign up to attend the event here.

You can also keep up to date with all the latest on this year’s finalists on social media #3rdSectorCareAwards @3rdSectorCare