Breckland Announces Pioneering Arts Programme for Older Residents

Next week (22 September) sees the launch of a ground-breaking programme across the district that aims to engage isolated older people in the arts.

Breckland Council's Silver Social project, funded by £185,700 from the National Lottery through the Arts Council's Strategic Touring Programme, as well as Norfolk County Council Public Health and Breckland Council, will create new models of daytime touring of live shows and workshops.

It will run for the next two and a half years and the initiative aims to reach Breckland's older and most isolated residents through world-class arts, whilst at the same time improving their overall wellbeing. 

The programme begins with five artist residencies, including dance, poetry, textiles and cynotype print, in September and October, starting in Necton and Ashill before moving to Mattishall, Harling and Shipdham.

These five villages were identified as having the highest number of older adults living alone, not taking into account Breckland's five market towns, which will see live shows and workshops in Libraries and Museums from April 2018.

Cllr Paul Claussen, Executive Member for Place, said: "As the name implies, The Silver Social is for the over 60s to get together with old and new friends to be creative. We will be offering something a little different to normal village life, with a range of daytime activities that bring art and culture into the heart of rural Norfolk."

Whilst each artist has a venue to work from for their residency, they will also be exploring the villages through the local amenities and groups, looking to interact with residents. Everyone is encouraged to keep an eye out for posters and leaflets advertising events in each of the villages. Alternatively, details can be found at

The timetable for the first round of artists' events is as follows:

Sarah Harley, who specialises in print and textiles, will hold workshops that centre on using a vintage Singer sewing machine while sharing stories and memories that will be worked into the story of a comic, featuring drawings of those taking part in her residency. She will also hold mono printing workshops to create a series of prints using a portable press, and will be at Necton Rural Community Centre on:

    • 22/09/17 and 06/10/17 for a sewing workshop, 10am-12pm
    • 29/09/17 and 07/10/17 for a Mono Printing Workshop, 10am-12pm (booking essential)
    • 28/10/17 for an art exhibition with coffee and cake, 10am- 12pm

Vicki Johnson, who has a background in surface pattern design and printmaking, will be taking her art cart around the village looking to meet people during the day on 09/10/17. She will invite people to contribute personal stories, objects and photographs to be turned into experimental cyanotypes in a series of drop in workshops at Ashill Community Centre on:

    • 27/09/17, 1pm-4pm
    • 04/10/17, 11/10/17 and 18/10/17, 11am-4pm
    • 21/10/17, 12pm-4pm

Lisa Little, a textile illustrator and textile artist, will start her residency with a tea party to gain stories and memories of village life. Participants will be photographed and these will be printed on tea towels and then embroidered with the stories collected. She will be at Mattishall Memorial Hall on:

• 17/10/17, 20/10/17 and 26/10/17, 9am-4.30pm
• 19/10/17 and 27/10/17, 10.30am-4.30pm

Martin Figura, a poet, author and photographer who has exhibited and performed internationally, will create a 'patchwork' of short poems on the history of Shipdham and personal accounts, with Shipdham Knitters creating their own patchwork blanket. He will be:

• At Shipdham WI Hall on 23/10/17, 24/10/17, 26/10/17 and 27/10/17, 1pm-5pm
• Hosting a Poetry Takeaway at Shipdham Church Craft Fair on 28/10/17, 10am - 4pm

Glass House Dance takes contemporary dance into communities and their residency will involve developing their dementia-friendly piece 'A Little Bit of Light', which combines music, dance and participation, into Old School Hall in Harling on:

  • 23/10/17, 9.30am-4.30pm
  • 24/10/17, 12pm-5pm. From 2pm to 4pm, there will be chair-based exercises and social time followed by tea and cake
  • 25/10/17, 2pm-6pm. From 2pm to 4pm, there will be chair-based exercises and social time followed by tea and cake.
  • 26/10/17, 9.30am-4.30pm. From 10.30am to 11.30am on this day, there will be a dance workshop for 5-11 year olds, as part of an intergenerational aspect of their residency
  • 27/10/17, 9.30am-4.300pm. From 2pm to 4pm, there will be an interactive dance performance by Glass House Dance followed by tea and cake

To book onto the mono printing workshop or for more details about the tour and volunteering opportunities if you'd like to support the Silver Social in your area, go to