Bluecoat looks back at a challenging year for their longstanding inclusive arts project, Blue Room.
Blue Room supports learning disabled and neurodivergent artists to create and share their own work, and provides a setting for them to meet and socialise. Each year Bluecoat delivers 1,200 hours of Blue Room sessions for more than 40 members.
In response to the challenges of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, which made meeting in person impossible, Bluecoat moved Blue Room entirely online, becoming Blue Room at Home.
During 2020 Bluecoat has delivered the project via a programme of Zoom sessions, giving the group members access to essential social contact.
Activity packs were also sent out in the post to members to ensure the group had art materials at home. In addition to art activities and resources, each member also received at least one phone call a week from Bluecoat’s team, to check on their welfare.
Many Blue Room members did not have access to devices or the internet, so to combat this Bluecoat secured a grant from Art Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, which was used to purchase iPads and data for members. Bluecoat staff also developed an Easy Read User Guide and provided support over the phone to help build confidence for members in using technology.
The project has been a vital lifeline for members in a chaotic year. Its continuation is especially important as, unlike the majority of the population, Blue Room members may not be able to mix freely when Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed.
Support worker of Blue Room Member, Peter Simpson said “He is loving the Zoom sessions and the guidance and set up of the iPad was very clear. I think it’s wonderful what you’ve done, it’s opened up a door for him, seeing everyone on the screen”
Becky Waite, Blue Room facilitator, says “We are so grateful for the time and care that family members and support workers have given this year to ensuring that our members can still join in with Blue Room. Many have reported the positive effects of spending time on creative activities.
We are looking forward to the new year with hope that we can return to studio sessions as soon as it is safe to do so. Although this has been the toughest year the project has ever faced, we are keen to draw on the steep learning curve of 2020. We are feeling positive that our Blue Room community has great resilience to emerge even stronger.”
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