Social isolation project in Leeds seeks new investment to continue the scheme

A lifeline for socially-isolated people is hoping to continue its vital work.

Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 2:07 pm
TRIPS: Little London Arts members have visited a range of places, like Skelton Grange Environment Centre in Stourton.

Little London Arts is running cultural and social visits where people over 50 can go on trips and meet other people.

The project began in September 2018 thanks to a year’s funding from a Time to Shine lottery grant. It now needs new funding.

So far people have enjoyed trips to Ampleforth Abbey, the recycling centre at Cross Green, RSPB Fairburn Ings and The Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

STROLL: A group combating social isolation did a led walk around Oakwell Hall in Birstall.

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Hannah Carey, a founding member and the day-to-day coordinator of Little London Arts, said: “People appreciate the dual aspects of meeting other people and having somewhere to go.

“Being able to get out of the house and see different things.

“It’s not a fixed group where everyone goes together all the time. People pick and choose the visits that interest them particularly. Some visits are more arts and culture-based, some are more about getting outdoors and accessing nature.”

The visits are organised by Little London Arts through a contract with Leeds Community Foundation to deliver a Time to Shine Small Funds project.

Little London Arts is also helping older people get online through 100 per cent Digital Leeds' 'digital champions' scheme.

Time to Shine is managed by Leeds Older People’s Forum and funded by Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better programme to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst people over 50.

The feedback Little London Arts has had from people who have experienced the scheme has been heartwarming.

One participant, who felt very lonely before becoming involved in the project, said: “I do wish there were more trips and more art. The last trip we went on was fantastic.

“Many people like me need to meet others and get out more often, and if this doesn’t happen we can become isolated which can cause health problems.”

The programme has also sought to find out how and why might be socially-isolated or at risk of it.

It has collected information from people as part of a “Test and Learn” initiative. People range from being out of work and living at home for years, to the recently-retired who have become concerned that they may lose contact.

Now the scheme is looking for new funding to continue its success story. It got a year’s funding from Time to Shine last September and is now seeking new investment to continue.

Hannah said: “At the moment the main focus is to get some continuation funding for the visits programme, because that has been pretty successful.”

The visiting programme is just one aspect of its work. Little London Arts, which was founded in 2001, also runs a weekly arts and craft class in term time at Little London Community Centre on Oatland Lane.

But there is a common theme running through its activities.

Hannah added: “We always said its about creative activity in the broadest sense - anything that inspires people. We’ve just built on that, and we have always done lots of visits.

“Even when we have had regular classes running we have always tried to have visits where we take people out of the classroom or the community centre because I think it is important to appreciate the environment in your local community, but equally have the opportunity to get out of that as well. So those two things run side by side.”

Anyone who wishes to help with funding the cultural and social visits programme should email hannah@littlelondonarts.org.uk for more information.

FACT FILE:

Little London Arts (LLA) was formed in 2001 by residents from that inner city area of Leeds.

The founders came various from artistic backgrounds and had a keen interest and involvement in local matters.

Since then the organisation has been involved in developing and promoting the arts in many of its forms. This includes visual arts, writing, film, photography, music and drama.

This has ranged from running regular arts classes to organising theatre visits and days out.

It has also been helping older people get to grips with web skills as part of its partnership work with 100 per cent Digital Leeds’ ‘digital champions’ scheme.

Little London Arts has also developed many special projects that have explored aspects of the local area, its history and the built and natural environment.

One such special project was ‘A Little Bit Of History’, which saw residents and former residents share their stories of living in the area and their pictures.

An exhibition was staged at Leeds Central Library and it culminated in a book called ‘A Little Bit of History’ being published in 2014. The editor’s introduction says: “It contains personal stories of men, women and children who have inhabited the streets of Little London from the terraces to tower blocks, from the 1930s up to the present day.”

To buy the book email and for more information about LLA email hannah@littlelondonarts.org.uk.