Magic Me

Paul Cochrane for Magic Me & Punchdrunk Enrichment
Stephen Dobbie for Magic Me & Punchdrunk Enrichment

Arts charity Magic Me is running a two year programme of artists residencies in care homes for older people, in partnership with Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit care home provider and four arts partners, all leaders in their field: Punchdrunk Enrichment, Lois Weaver, Duckie and Upswing.

Punchdrunk Enrichment and Lois Weaver were in residence at Greenhive and Rose Court, two Anchor care homes in Southwark, South London from January to March 2016. Residencies with Duckie and Upswing are in development with two further homes, to start in September 2016. This submission focuses on Punchdrunk Enrichment’s residency. Details of others can be found in the interim report, details below.

The project is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Wakefield and Tetley Trust with a contribution from Anchor, the care home hosts.

Starting in April 2015 the project


  • To show that artists can create excellent work with older people in a care home environment, bringing multiple benefits to residents and to the wider care home community.
  • To develop new tools and techniques to support artists in such activity and to open the door on new possibilities for care homes, as places where inspiring and important art is created.

OBJECTIVES:   Bringing together the expertise of the care homes, the arts partners and Magic Me we aimed to:

  • Provide residents with access to top level arts experience, even if they are physically or mentally frail and unable to visit galleries or performance venues.
  • Challenge the ageist attitudes that, being old, residents would not wish to enjoy up-to-date work, and would focus on reminiscing not imaginative themes.
  • Challenge and support the arts partners to bring their practice into a completely new setting, working with the care home dynamics as they would with any new context or host, but not ‘dumbing down’ their practice in any way.
  • Challenge and develop Magic Me’s own practice, learning new techniques and methods from our arts partners, and their practice in the care homes, and developing our model of intergenerational practice with adults of different ages.
  • Challenge the wider care home community and its neighbours, and the arts audiences who already follow each arts partner, showing that care homes can be exciting, forward thinking places, where amazing things happen.

Description of the arts activity

Punchdrunk Enrichment
Punchdrunk Enrichment transformed a room in Greenhive Care Home, with the company’s trademark design-led attention to detail. Over 8 weeks residents came together as the village committee of ‘Greenhive Green’ participated in activities and enjoyed magical theatrical moments as the story of two villages unfolded. The project was part game and part soap-opera.

Punchdrunk’s work is immersive in design – space is totally transformed visually, with atmospheric soundtracks, smells, textures and lighting. The ambition was to create a beautiful space for residents that would enhance their environment and provide a point of interest in the home, but also transport residents to a different environment that was part of our storyworld.
The world of Greenhive Green was an English village square, pretty and calm. Each wall featured a part of village life – the castle wall, post box, police telephone box, pub, village noticeboard, hedgerows, a park bench, and a florist’s called ButterCUPS (which was never open). Paving circled a grassy centre, on which a large long white table with inviting seats was placed. Residents were invited to join the Greenhive Green Committee.

The activity by residents working with the artistic team and Greenhive staff, each week grew from the unfolding story of life in Greenhive Green. For example. the discovery of another local town called Blarford in Week 1, led to the arrival of a letter in Week 2 challenging the Committee to participate in a Villages in Bloom competition. Other weeks, residents engaged in cake decoration, poetry writing, painting and photography.

Details of the project participants

The Punchdrunk Enrichment team of five, hosted the weekly workshop every Tuesday morning for up to 8 residents, and then repeated it, in the afternoon with another group. They also experimented with engaging one to one residents in their bedrooms, people who would not be able to join the sessions due to poor health, but given the time and energy required to find a new way of working to do this properly, it was decided to focus on the activity within Greenhive Green itself. A total of 21 residents participated, with an average of 8 residents at each session. A weekly GHG newsletter reached many more.
A finale event attracted 89 residents, staff, family and friends. 38 external Anchor staff and suppliers visited Greenhive Green at least once.

All residents within the home were invited and supported to participate by staff. 80% of residents have dementia and this was reflected in the group. Most also have onging health conditions or disabilities including sensory impairments.
Residents, staff and family members reported that residents increased in engagement in activities, concentration, confidence and levels of interaction with others.

Project management

Magic Me managed the project including  leading on the creation or agreements of roles and responsibilities for the 3 partners, the training and support of artists to work within care homes and with people with dementia, the evaluation and writing up. Anchor staff at local and regional level were involved in the project’s design, delivery and evaluation.
Activities were free to all participants and to the care home.

Letters of invitation were sent to participants and where relevant to family members. Photo release forms were signed by residents or those with authority to do so.

Continuing Activity
It was important that activities continued for residents after the residency. The two Activity Coordinators and the Manager were key in ensuring this happened and have continued to draw on the project to deliver further activities. A Committee of residents continue to meet on Tuesdays, around a large table, using the Greenhive Green chairs. The staff have used exercises from the project to stimulate new activities eg writing poetry. The Committee notice board is still in use. Punchdrunk Enrichment artists have  continued to visit the homes within Magic Me’s Cocktails in Care Homes project.

Evaluation methods and findings

An interim evaluation report was published in June 2016, and a full report on all four residencies will be published in March 2017.

A twitter account @Greenhive Green attracted 1,193 followers, bringing weekly news from the Committee to a public audience, and inviting interaction. Visit to view the full story and photos of the project and read all the newsletters.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England