The Start of Something: Art + Loneliness

Art + Loneliness was held on Wednesday 13th June 2016 at at Corby Voluntary Community Service Centre. It was delivered through a partnership between Fermynwoods Contemporary Art and Made in Corby and built on an event held earlier that month at Fermynwoods’ premises in Thrapston, Northamptonshire, as part of its Free Exchange programme, a series of public discussions commissioned for the benefit of the public and experts from outside the arts as well as arts professionals.

The event featured guest contributors David Cutler (Director of The Baring Foundation) and Sharon Paulger (Director of Arts For Health Milton Keynes) who exchanged ideas and discussed issues about art and loneliness in the context of age and its effect on health.The event found that there is an increased need for artistic provision in rural areas where elderly people more likely to be cut off and unable to attend cultural events; men are slightly more likely to suffer from social isolation as they get older and less likely to engage with the arts; and even those who suffer from cognitive impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s are proven to benefit long-term from engaging creative activity even if their recollection is limited.

The choice of location and speakers brought together a range of artistic professionals and members of the public sector and caring services with a common interest and led to a dialogue with many different voices. The examples given by the experienced guest speakers provided guidance and critical information for those interested producing or commissioning arts activity for the elderly. The talk and the work it inspired Fermynwoods to develop will increase awareness of the need for high quality visual arts for the elderly and socially-isolated. Many of the attendees had not attended a talk or event delivered by Fermynwoods before and left inspired by the discussion and visual content shared by our guest speakers David and Sharon. There is a limited amount of artistic events in East Northamptonshire, as the first talk in Fermynwoods’ new, roving series of Free Exchange discussions it was the ideal opportunity to live test this updated model which Fermynwoods is using to deliver its ongoing programme of talks around the Rockingham Forest area.14 people attended the event. A live stream enabled a wider group of people to participate in the conversation. Since then the recording of the event has been viewed 100 times online. Watch the conversation

Sam Read previously Associate Educator at Fermynwoods said the event “…was very successful with unanimously positive feedback from attendants. We had visitors travel to Corby from as far afield as Huntingdon, Wellingborough, Northampton and even London. Artists weighed in with comments and questions using Twitter which were responded to in real time using the livestreaming and editing skills of a hired professional cameraman. The chosen site of a community centre within a residential area of the town felt far more suitable for the topic than a cultural venue would have done and attracted a range of audience members from both the arts and visitors from other fields (including healthcare, the public sector and volunteering). Using inspiration from the ideas discussed by our guest speakers, David Cutler (Baring Foundation) and Sharon Paulger (Arts For Health MK), Fermynwoods is now now working in partnership with the Cube and other organisations in Corby to apply for funding from ACE’s Celebrating Age scheme in order to develop positive and welcoming places for older people in the area using high quality art.”


As a legacy to from Art + Loneliness, Fermynwoods has worked in partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service (a third sector community group) and an art collective from Bristol to deliver an immersive art project, Living Legacy, for isolated older people. Following a public launch the project artists made their first research trip to Corby, during which they led a Free Exchange talk on “Art + Memory”, met local sheltered housing residents and delivered a presentation to some of Made In Corby’s partners. They developed an interactive component for an artwork and field tested a prototype. An public unveiling of the final object took place in March 2018.

Meanwhile, Made in Corby has developing an artistic programme to address isolation experienced by older residents in Corby, and is supporting local residents to commission artistic activity in the homes of older and isolated people.


Art + Loneliness was proposed to CVAN EM’s The Start of Something project, which, through conversation, sought to bring people in the East Midlands together to explore a common goal, share experience and work collaboratively, ultimately to make things happen. CVAN EM supported proposals from groups based in the region, that it considered would benefit the widest community and make the greatest difference within the region.

Find out more about The Start of Something and the conversations that we supported.