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THE GOOD LIFE: CREATIVE SPIRIT

Think outside the paint box. Everyone has a creative side and tapping into it can have positive effects on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

A creative spirit lies within all of us – it’s why music moves and art inspires – an impulse that is fundamental to the experience of being human. One that has grown over time to influence and enrich all aspects of our lives.

  Expression comes in many forms – art, craft, creative writing, dance, design, architecture, drama, film, music making or singing, by ourselves or with others, using traditional or digital methods. In fact, it seems there is no limit to how we might express ourselves.

We also engage in creative pastimes by walking around our cities or heritage sites, visiting concert halls, galleries, museums, theatres or libraries. The act of creation, or our appreciation of it, provides an individual experience that can have positive effects that go far beyond the moment, be it a standing ovation, capturing a landscape or singing along to favourite songs in a choir. Taking part in such activities will actually improve our long-term wellbeing.   

A major recent cross-party report Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing provides extensive evidence that confirms taking part in creative activities has a positive impact on our health. The two-year inquiry found that the arts can help keep us well, aid recovery and support longer lives, better lived. At all stages of life, from premature babies to end of life care, there are tangible, life-improving emotional and physical benefits to be gained.

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THE CREATIVE AGE
People are living longer than ever before. Over the past two centuries, life expectancy has increased by two years every decade, meaning that around half of the people being born in the UK can expect to reach 100.

But what’s really important about this additional time is that we must ensure it is also quality time. Tapping into our creativity can certainly help with this. In fact, freed from the ties of work routines, we have the opportunity to embark on our ‘creative age’. An age where post-retirement means we can ‘be creative, productive, carers, lovers, citizens, consumers and enjoyers of what society has to offer’. And while there are other significant factors to take into consideration, from lifestyle to wealth, those of us who embrace their creative age will invariably enjoy a healthy life expectancy as well as a more fulfilling life.

Increased longevity of life was one of the triumphs of the 20th century. The challenge for today is to ensure that those extra years are healthy and productive ones. Creative pastimes play a leading role in meeting that goal.

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MAKING A START WITH ART
Let’s be totally honest. Just the word alone – ‘Art’ – can be a little intimidating. Bringing to mind pretentious, snobby, elitism and barrier-building arty-types who make it seem exclusive and expensive and only for those ‘in-the-know’. Well, the first thing to do is forget all of that.

The second thing to do is think about what you enjoy doing, used to enjoy but have let slip, or something you want to achieve. Maybe you were a dab hand in art class back in your school days, take a decent holiday snap or always wanted to learn a musical instrument. If that feels too ‘hands-on’, you may want to gain a deeper understanding of film, art or your local surroundings. If that appeals, there are plenty of groups you can join regardless of whether you want to create or appreciate. 

If this all sounds a little overwhelming, why not work your way through our simple pathway diagram on p.21. It is completely normal to be a little apprehensive and if you do feel a little unsure, please reach out to Age UK Islington – we’re only too happy to help you find the activity that is right for you and support you to join the group.

After all, the most important thing is to engage in a creative pursuit that fits you. One that you can enjoy with others who share your interests. Whether painting, pottery or playing music, the important thing is to get up and get involved. Who knows what exciting doors it may open.

In the following section, we’ve compiled a few ‘new year, new you’ suggestions to help you get those creative juices flowing in 2018.

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With the new year upon us, this is the perfect time to turn those good creative intentions into reality. Here are a selection of fantastic fun ideas to get you started.

Cuture Vulture: SEE

Did you know that social participation can have a protective effect on health comparable to giving up smoking? Who would have thought that a regular trip to the theatre or a gallery could be so beneficial to both body and mind. Arts-based groups offer fascinating days out where you can learn more about a particular subject, especially now that many museums, galleries and theatres are reaching out to local people, especially older adults. What’s also great about attending these groups is people often decide that they would like to try to create art themselves, after being inspired by a particular photographer or painter – and sometimes by the experiences relayed by a new friend within the group. Especially when they realise that they  don’t have to be Picasso to pick up a paintbrush.

CREATIVE INSPIRATION

Have you been to the Park Theatre yet? It’s one of the best theatres in London and it’s right on your doorstep. Come along to one of its monthly pay-what-you-can matinées. You even get tea and coffee in a beautiful reserved area for a quid before the show.

The awe-inspiring National Gallery houses arguably, the greatest collection of paintings in the world. They also offer some fantastic opportunities to get up close and personal with their masterpieces as well as one-off sneak peeks at their latest exhibitions. Join the Painting Appreciation Group at the National Gallery. For a sneak peek at an exhibition, try the stunning Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites in February. Give yourself a real treat and book your place now by calling 020 7281 6018.

Closer to home, the beautiful Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art housed in a Georgian villa in Islington’s beautiful Canonbury Square offers quarterly, free guided tours of its latest exhibitions featuring the very best in Italian modern art. It also boasts a fantastic bookshop and café.

If drawing is more your thing, the House of Illustration is the UK’s only public gallery dedicated to illustration and the graphic arts, founded by Sir Quentin Blake and situated in the heart of King’s Cross. They have an intriguing North Korean Illustration exhibition that could give an insight into this closed Communist culture.

For the musically minded, there is the jumping Jazz Night at the Hargrave Hall where you can listen to the brilliant WTW Big Band rehearse for free. At the other end of the musical spectrum, the acoustics of the Organ Recital at Union Chapel will inspire, soothe and lift your creative spirit. If you prefer your music accompanied by art appreciation and poetry readings, pay a visit to our wonderful monthly Art Evenings at Drovers. 

EXPRESS YOURSELF: DO

Where to start with the benefits of getting involved in doing an art form? Creative expression has been proven to diminish anxiety, depression and stress while also increasing self-esteem, confidence and purpose. Music can improve differentiation of sounds, such as voices in busy environments. Dance is particularly effective in the prevention of falls. Art can give voice to those who no longer feel able to speak and restore a sense of control to those who feel powerless. It forms bonds, boosts brain function and improves the recall of personal memories; enhancing the quality of life of people with dementia and their carers. It can even help us come to terms with the big questions surrounding life and death.

CREATIVE INSPIRATION

Your first port of call should be the Drovers Centre. There’s a dazzling display of activities on offer – designed for people of all levels of artistic ability. From garment making to painting classes to sculpting, drop in and brush up your technique or give something new a go.

If you’re passionate about painting, join art teacher Ros Thunder, who was taught by Snowman author Raymond Briggs, for her Watercolour Class. Progressing from observation to pencil to paintbrush, she equips you with the tools to create art you didn’t know you had in you.

For a more tactile experience, get fired up at a Ceramics class under the attentive gaze of expert Elif Cenar. Our friends at Cubitt also arrange monthly Creative Taster sessions which are an excellent way to explore different materials with visual artist Lucy Steggals.

Do you fancy yourself as a budding poet? Then why not join the delightful Daisy Solomons at the monthly Freightliner Farm Poetry Group. You can bring your own poetic creation to ‘workshop’ with the published poet, or a favourite poem that you want to share.

If books are more your thing, enjoy some light literary criticism at Yve’s morning Book Club. It’s a novel excuse to discover new authors and explore their ideas.

Engaging with music stimulates the grey matter and gives added defence against memory loss and cognitive decline. Why not find your voice at Song Sharing and Jamming at Drovers. For a more classical approach, try Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Group where you can play, listen or just enjoy. For a real group effort, try joining the Islington’s All Voices Community Choir. There’s no need to read music or have sung in a choir before and they sing songs from all over the world across a number of genres including jazz, folk and rock. Email Flora Bain at allvoiceschoir@gmail.com for details on how to join.

Whether you’re a happy snapper, eager amateur or budding David Bailey, Peter Kyte’s ever-popular Creative Photography sessions will encourage you to capture the urban environment from a different perspective.

And finally…

Don’t miss this opportunity to perform on stage after a 6-Week Puppet-Making Course with Little Angel Theatre. This project will introduce you to a whole range of new skills, be fantastic fun and may lead to a new lease of life as a performing puppet master. Now, that’s the way to do it!

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If you are interested in attending any of these amazing creative activities, please call 020 7281 6018

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