Culture & Health Award Winners!

This year, we were delighted to receive the Culture and Health Award for our Silver Circus Project. Our ‘Silvers’ were thrilled with the award!

 “We love coming to Skylight every week, it’s great to see our project gain recognition!”

The Rochdale Borough Sports and Culture Awards took place at Middleton Arena.  In addition, our Spotlight group were invited to open the evening.
“We’re so proud of our young people, they performed really well and it was a great opportunity for them to gain more experience!” – Charma Force, Circus Trainer.

Dementia – Reduce risk and improve health at Skylight Circus Rochdale

We started Silver Circus to expand our classes to over 55’s.  People come to socialise, make friends and learn circus skills.  Over the last two years, it’s been great to see big improvements in our participants’ health and wellbeing.  From coordination to balance, the levels of improvements are notable.  “When I’m using diablo, I think of nothing else.  My coordination has improved and I’m laughing a lot!” Our participants enjoy the social aspect and even bring lunch for an indoor picnic afterwards!
 
Here’s Greta Green story – Silver Circus Member

I started going to Silver Circus about 2 years ago. I’ve always wanted to learn to juggle as my mum used to wow us with her juggling when we were children. She could juggle 2 eggs, one handed, a skill she taught herself during her RAF days in the 2nd world war. So having seen a poster advertising the sessions, off I set.

What have I gained from attending these sessions? I have learned such a lot. Admittedly my juggling isn’t the best, but I have learned other skills. I have rediscovered my love of diablo, which I loved as a child and hadn’t even thought about for 60 or so years. I tried flowers sticks and can ‘ticktock’ quite well, at times. I still have to master starting my plate spinning with the stick, not twirling it with my hand, but I’ll get there, I’ve given myself till I’m 100 to master it all!

I have made new and good friendships with staff and other members of the ‘Silver’ group, but also with some of the younger ‘Skylighters’. I have had the pleasure of being involved in 3 productions. The Christmas 2017 production based on Scrooge, Generations (this is when I met and worked with the younger ‘Skylighters’), and Mr Kite, the production based on circus in Rochdale and involving most of the Skylight groups, thus meeting new people. I cannot stress how important it is for people in my age group (I’m 70 yrs old) to meet new people, and oh what a joy to be involved in this way. As adults we go to watch and support our own children, then our grandchildren, but what an overwhelming pleasure it is for them to come and see and support us. I never imagined that I would ever have the opportunity to be involved in this, or any, production, or in fact that I would want to. The Generation production was special as we performed at Skylight’s base, at Touchstones, Rochdale, and the at the Lowry, Salford. I jokingly told my grandchildren that Granny was on tour, they were well impressed. We also performed the juggling part of Generations at Rochdale’s Feel Good Festival 2018 and at the Royal Exchange in Manchester as part of their Elders Event 2018.

Being involved with Skylight gives a brilliant start to the week, our group is on Monday morning. I believe that it gives a good, positive start to the week. We are made so welcome by Brush, Gill, Martine, Charma, Olivia and Jim. They are always eager for us to try whatever we wish and are very positive and encouraging, and are always there to offer tips and advice. Last year I had some knee problems, ongoing really, but that’s an age thing. I went for physiotherapy and when I told my physio about the circus sessions at Skylight he was very supportive of me continuing going as he thought the exercise, the learning of new skills, the fun and friendship was so important, especially for those living alone.

I have also had the opportunity to join the staff in their outreach work. I went to sessions at Woodclough Day Centre, Middleton and Willows Dementia Hub, Rochdale. I believe that this inclusive work is so important for all. I have had the pleasure of seeing people, sometimes with limited understanding and mobility, have fun and try new skills. It is fantastic to see how ‘circus type’ activities can be adapted so that everyone can try, and importantly, succeed. Thinking of this reminds me of the look of absolute pleasure on one man’s face when he could balance a peacock feather on his rather arthritic hand. And the look of impish pleasure on another man’s face when his balancing was successful because he has pushed the end of the feather between his fingers, such fun.

I hope to be going to ‘Clown Club’, as Julie and Maureen lovingly call it, for many years yet. I cannot imagine my week without my Monday morning boost of exercise, fun and friendship. Life would not seem the same without it. Many of the group are hoping to be able to be involved in another production, whatever is decided, we will be there with enthusiasm in full force.

silver circus performing with Skylight Circus Arts in Mr Kite 2018 Rochdale
silver circus performing with Skylight Circus Arts in Mr Kite 2018 Rochdale
Silver Circus warming up to perform in Mr Kite at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus learning to juggle at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus member learning plate spinning at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus performing Generations at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale
Silver Circus performing Mr Kite at Skylight Circus Arts Rochdale

A Year in the Life of Silver Circus!

Well, 2018 been a massive year for our Silver Circus project! Our Monday morning drop in class now stands at 20 members and goes from strength to strength, whilst our staff have worked with residents and day care attendees at three different dementia care settings. The outreach sessions have been specifically designed to benefit those living with any stage of dementia, and work on exploring circus equipment and skills alongside our staff, carers and occasionally a family member who is visiting when the session happens. On many occasions members of our regular Monday class have attended as volunteers and are invaluable in their help and ability to interact with participants. It even gives those who are keen to and opportunity to show off their skills!

 

Our staff and care setting staff have noticed that this type of activity not only enhances the day of the individual taking part, through fun and active activities, but can help participants in expressing themselves more clearly and allowing for new ideas to enter their mind. Occasionally our activities bring back a fond memory of childhood and our staff enjoy listening to stories and songs from the participants – a kind of exchange with the performative nature of the session. Our staff love to show off and be very silly during sessions, which is often met with laughter and enjoyment.

 

Feedback from our outreach sessions suggests that participants:

“…are supported and encouraged to participate at their learned levels, therefore initiating positive feelings and self gratification.”

“…have participated with hand and eye coordination activities to maintain fine motor skills and help maintain everyday life skills. Excellent group participation – a great fun and learning session!”

“…have easily expressed themselves, learned new skills, confidence booster from doing well in a fun activity. Excellent group social activity.”

“…have shown easier participation in sessions. Fun and happy activities helping wellbeing and emotional support.”

“…have experienced increased social interaction, widening their friendship circle and increased confidence in group setting.”

Weekly Drop-in

Our Monday morning class is full of enthusiastic and adventurous over 55s – some of whom really enjoy showing off their skills, and others who just enjoy coming along on a Monday and improving theirs! Every member though, speaks of how they enjoy the social aspect of the group – meeting new people, having a giggle and staying on a bit longer for a brew and a piece of cake.

“Learning juggling and the diabolo has taxed my manual dexterity and brain!!”

“I’ve been challenged physically and feel my balance has improved hugely since coming to Silver Circus”

“Achieved more than was possible a few years ago”

“Have impressed myself and friends with the skills I have learned. Would like to be the oldest performing aerialist!!”

Generations

In Spring 2018 Skylight embarked upon a performance project with Grania Pickard of Oddly Moving. Many of the Silver Circus participants took part in this and were given the opportunity not only to work with a professional circus theatre director, but to collaborate with Skylight’s youth circus to create a beautiful and personal performance based around telling stories about journeys. The show “Generations” was met with great positivity and reviews – and the group were asked to perform it again at The Lowry community studio.

“I told my granddaughter we’re going on tour! What a way to celebrate your 70th birthday!”

Alongside the rehearsal process Skylight received a visit from the Royal Exchange Elder’s Company who were showcasing their show Moments That Changed Our World. The company came to Skylight’s studio space to share their work and in a really lovely exchange, many of the Elder’s Company members returned to see Generations. This sparked the Royal Exchange to invite Silver Circus members to be a part of their Elders Exchange Day in October. The group were delighted to be able to share a short performance that included a couple of sections form the Generations show as well as some new material – including an attempted ‘world record’ of hula hooping whilst plate spinning – including members of the audience! Following the performance, Skylight staff led a ‘Have a Go’ workshop for event attendees – ably assisted by Silver Circus members and Silver Circus project co-ordinator Gil and two Silver Circus participants were interviewed by Sonder Radio for a show broadcast live from the event.

Mr Kite

Another performance opportunity arose for Silver Circus in the later part of 2018 in the form of Mr Kite. The show was inspired by a research project carried out by Silver Circus and Youth Circus members on the history of circus in Rochdale. Again at the helm was director Grania Pickard and the company spent rehearsals devising acts inspired by the research. The performance was met with great enthusiasm by sell out audiences!

silver circus on trapeze and cocoon
circus jim juggling hats
silver circus juggling in mr kite

The group’s first engagement of 2019 was to attend the Greater Manchester Older People’s Networking Event to share a short performance and talk to delegates about what goes on in the sessions on a Monday morning. Since the event a few new members have joined and continue to attend. The evn also offered our participants an opportunity to network and find out about issues arising in Greater Manchester for older people. And one lucky Silver Circus member won a bottle of rum on the raffle – wins all round!

If you’d like to join Silver Circus, or would like any more information about Skylight’s work with older people please call or email project co-ordinator Gil on 01706 650676 / gil.b@skylightcircusarts.org