Armchair Gallery – Nottingham, part of the Imagine Programme (Consortium Project)

Armchair Gallery
Armchair Gallery
Armchair Gallery

The programme Imagine is one of only four nationally to be awarded money from Arts Council England and The Baring Foundation’s Arts and Older People in Care fund. The 3-year project will use the arts to enrich the lives of older residents, better involve them in the wider community and support them to connect with people of all ages. The Armchair Gallery strand of work (AG) enables digital access for older people whose circumstances do not allow for physical visits to world class cultural collections. AG will inspire the viewing, appreciation and production of artworks through a series of virtual visits to arts and cultural venues whilst raising curiosity about digital technology.

Description of the arts activity


  • increase access to digital arts inclusion for older people through the AG programme promoting virtual visits to world class cultural and arts venues/heritage sites
  • the delivery of a series of workshops with residents in care homes (artforms include dance and movement, visual arts, poetry, print making, sculpture, digital arts)
  • a series of bespoke films have been produced in partnership with cultural/arts venues (Chatsworth House and Dulwich Picture Gallery to date)
  • use of current iPad applications and different artforms have been delivered in practical workshop sessions, increasing choice and active participation
  • approaches are being specifically developed for people living with dementia, with technology offering multisensory experiences, intuitive touchscreen participation and discussion tools (i.e.Timeslips)
  • a series of practical toolkits have been developed alongside participants involved in the project for the production of a bespoke Application
  • a series of practical digital arts and dementia training sessions have been delivered for health professionals/artists/volunteers/family in order to support on-going sustainability and on-going use of the App and tools produced as an outcome

Details of the project participants

Participants involved are based within care settings in Nottingham/Nottinghamshire, groups also include a palliative care setting and Day Centre supporting people living with dementia and isolated older people living in the community. Workshop sessions are facilitated by professional artists with experience of running community-based arts activities.

During 2015 the AG programme was piloted within two care settings in Nottingham. 120 older people attended practical sessions of the AG programme over 16 weeks. 77 health professionals, artists and volunteers have also accessed 5 iPad/AG training sessions with very positive feedback.

An estimated further 80 older people are due to be involved between August – November 2016.

Project management

The lead for this project is City Arts Nottingham. The consortium running the project includes care homes, with The Abbeyfields Society as the main organisation, Nottingham’s arts organisations, Nottingham City Council and academic researchers from the University of Nottingham.

Evaluation methods and findings

An exploratory qualitative design was chosen to examine the views of the artists administering the Imagine Arts programme in the participating care homes. The aim was to understand the process; investigate factors affecting the successful facilitation of the arts programme; to identify barriers and describe how they could be overcome.  The study was both formative, to help shape the Imagine programme, and summative, to inform best practice and future arts interventions.

A paper is currently being submitted to academic publications. A copy of this is available on request.


The artists’ reflective diary sheets were evaluated using thematic analysis. The analysis led to the identification of four main themes; ‘environmental factors’, ‘perceiving and responding to needs’, ‘facilitating relationships’ and ‘building confidence’.
Knowledge gained provides insight into the practical aspects of facilitating an arts programme in a residential care context. The identification and exploration of the influencing factors will inform future evidence based practice when implementing and integrating creative arts interventions into the care of people with dementia.

This study is still underway – more evaluation outcomes will be avaialbe by July 2017 when the programme is due to be completed.  

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England