Inspiring dance programme backed by Big Lottery Fund

An inspiring dance programme at our Goldie Leigh site in Abbeywood was given the thumbs up this week by Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund.

Magpie Dance, a Bromley based charity that works with people with a learning disability through the medium of dance, has been backed by the Big Lottery Fund to deliver the programme in partnership with our Adult Learning Disability Services. The partnership is just one part of a programme of Magpie Dance activities financed by the Big Lottery Fund who supplied £115,000 in 2012/13. Thirty weekly sessions are being delivered at Goldie Leigh during 2012.

Peter visited Goldie Leigh on 16 October to see first hand how the Magpie Dance facilitators run the sessions with adults with a learning disability. He said: "I've enjoyed seeing how the participants are given the space to make their own choices and influence what happens within a structured session. It's really important that lottery funding brings together organisations like these to work in partnerships that have positive outcomes for services far beyond the original project."

The sessions began with a warm up exercise. Facilitators Alison Ferrao and Annie Roberts started by getting everyone to take hold of a large sheet or ribbon. This provided structure, eg where to stand, and a platform from which movement could be coordinated and originated. Peter again: "The ribbon brought everyone together. It was very impressive that when it was taken away, they didn't fall apart, but continued to work together as a group."

Alison explained that this helps participants to develop confidence in not just their own movements, but in how they move in relation to others: "It's about working with staff and patients to help them develop non-verbal ways of communicating with others. This could include eye contact, gesture and touch. Our aim is to help people be more aware of their bodies and how they interact with others - and this is the same for staff and patients."

Avril Hitman, Artistic Director of Magpie Dance, said: "We are delighted that Peter came to see the programme in action. It's fantastic to have lottery support which is making a real difference to a group that we would otherwise not be able to reach. The programme has really helped to build the Oxleas participants' confidence and communication skills, to make choices and decisions for themselves."

Sarah Burchell, Associate Director of Nursing, said our partnership with Magpie Dance was very important: "Magpie Dance is working at Goldie Leigh with people with challenging behaviour. We know this behaviour can arise from problems with communication, so it's really important that we gather evidence of the benefits of this programme in terms of improved communication skills, confidence etc. Vicky Turk, Head of Learning Disability Psychology Services, is leading an exercise to measure the effectiveness of the programme. This will help us to plan future services."

The Magpie Dance sessions are run with participants from Atlas House inpatient unit, Tall Trees day service and The Older Persons day Service.

Published on 17th October 2012