Distanced Arts: Investigating the design, delivery, and impacts of Entelechy Arts' Staying Connected Programme

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Biological & Behavioural Sciences


On-going concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic (severe illness, changing distancing restrictions, second-wave of pandemic) present an increased risk for social isolation (reduced contact friends and/or family; loss of relationships, exclusion from society), which can have a disproportionately negative impact on health and well-being particularly among older adults. Given the uncertainty around the course of the pandemic, remote solutions that help older adults to stay connected are needed. In collaboration with Entelechy Arts, this project will consider one such solution, a distanced arts intervention - Staying Connected - from the perspective of service providers and users. Across two work packages (WP) we will use semi-structured interviews to understand service providers' (staff, artists, volunteers) experiences of distanced arts design and delivery (n=15; WP1), and conduct a longitudinal quantitative survey (2 time-points over 6 months) assessing whether there are changes in participants' isolation, health, and well-being as a results of taking part in Staying Connected's programmes (remote radio show (n=30), creative activity boxes (n=30), choir (n=16), and other activity clusters (knitting, poetry; n=10); WP2). Deliverables and outputs include a practice report outlining guidelines and recommendations for service providers who seek to design and deliver distanced arts, a virtual workshop to share the learning about practice with relevant stakeholders (arts organisations, councils, community members, government), an impact report detailing the effects of Staying Connected programme's on older adults' isolation, health and well-being, a virtual dissemination event to share the impact findings with relevant stakeholders, and two manuscripts for publication in high-impact academic journals.
Description The findings of the practice report (WP1) highlighted four considerations in the design and delivery of remote creative programmes for the arts sector in general around 1) Accessibility, 2) Active engagement, 3) Flexibility and Feedback, and 4) Addressing Wear and Tear. We have made a recommendation for what can be done to address these issues within arts practices

Consideration 1:
Using videocall software alone to deliver remote creative programmes may be a barrier to attendance for many people in the community.

Recommendation 1:
Different formats should be considered and tested to find the best solution for each organisation. Although some older adults will have access to videocall software, this access should not be assumed. Organisations may want to consider what can be done to maximise the number of programme participants and to accommodate the specific access needs of their programme participants. Hybrid models of delivery - with a mix of phone calls and videocalls - may be a useful way to maximise accessibility, and thereby attendance.

Consideration 2:
Before people can actively engage with creative activities, they need to feel comfortable in the remote setting and acknowledged within the group.

Recommendation 2:
Specific strategies to promote active engagement are needed in remote contexts. Individual check-ins (before and at the beginning of activities) and warm-up exercises can be used to make people feel more comfortable in remote environments. Vibrant activities can be used to generate conversation and ideas. To make creative activities more accessible people should be encouraged to experiment with ideas and materials, and all contributions to the co-creating process should be acknowledged.

Consideration 3:
Participant perspectives can be leveraged to improve the design and delivery of remote programmes.

Recommendation 3:
Seeking feedback is a useful way to engage users. Different feedback formats (e.g., anonymous, one to one, or group) can be used to help participants to communicate in way(s) that are most comfortable for them. Specific feedback from participants can be used to adapt the programme to meet the needs and preferences of the specific users.

Consideration 4:
Remote delivery can be more isolating than in-person delivery; Members required to stay at home may become more vulnerable leading to increased emotional reliance on practitioners.

Recommendation 4:
Dedicated staff to support the health and wellbeing of practitioners could be introduced to ensure that practitioners do not become overwhelmed and are suitably equipped to deal with the demands of providing emotional support.
Exploitation Route The considerations and recommendations from our practice report can be used by practitioners and community organisations in the design and delivery of their own remote programmes. This is applicable not only to the arts and creative programmes but also other types of community/social programmes that focus on social/group-based activities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description UKRI Research England - Participatory Research Funding
Amount £1,080 (GBP)
Organisation Queen Mary University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2022 
End 07/2022
Title Anonymised Interview Transcripts 
Description Anonymised Transcripts Interviews with Artists, Staff and Volunteers involved in Entelechy Arts' Staying Connected Programme. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact No impacts as of yet. 
URL https://osf.io/j2psx/
Description Coverage in professional magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The project was featured in Arts Professional and touted as a blueprint for remote arts with older adults.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/project-blueprint-remote-arts-older-people
Description Practice Workshop (Online) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact With Entelechy Arts, we held a practice workshop to launch and disseminate the findings from our practice report, Discoveries in Distanced Arts: The work, wonder, and wear of Entelechy Arts' Staying Connected Programme. Approximately 40 people attended - a mix of artists/practitioners, arts organisations, academics, PhD students, and individuals involved in health and social care. The event was a series of talks that presented considerations and recommendations for arts organisations from our UKRI-AHRC funded project. The workshop can be viewed online by following the URL below.
We used mentimeter to poll attendees before the practice workshop (n=30 responded) to ask why they attended and after the practice workshop (n=14 responded) to assess impact. Alongside open ended questions, there were some questions that were rated from 1= Strongly Disagree and 5=Strongly Agree.
Respondents attended primarily because they were interested in learning more about designing and delivering remote arts programmes. Before the event, respondents disagreed that they had experience in designing and delivery remote creative programmes (average ratings 2.7/5 and 2.8/5 respectively), revising their existing programmes for remote delivery (average rating 2.4/5), or in addressing staff well-being in remote programmes (average rating 2/5). After the event, in addition to strongly agreeing that the event was interesting (average rating 4.6/5), enjoyable, and engaging (average ratings 4.4/5 for both), respondents strongly agreed that "The event led me to reflect on my own work in new ways" (average rating 4.6/5). Respondents agreed that they learned new things about remote programme design, delivery, and how to address staff well-being (average ratings 3.8/5 for all). And when asked "How will the lessons from today's event inform your work either now or in the future?", respondents primarily said they would try to integrate what they had learned into their own practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://entelechyarts.org/projects/discoveries-in-distanced-arts/
Description Press Release (QMUL) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact QMUL developed a press release for the first phase of the project. This was also publicised by Entelechy Arts. This may have contributed to the interview request by Arts Professional.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2021/se/entelechy-arts-and-queen-mary-university-of-london-launch-...
Description Video Contribution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I contributed to a documentary about the Pandemic & Beyond projects funded by the UKRI-AHRC. I discussed the project and some thoughts about the arts in general. To my knowledge the film has not yet been completed/released but recording took place in 2021 and it should be released in 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://pandemicandbeyond.exeter.ac.uk