The Arts Gymnasium is a collaborative research project, funded by Esmée Fairbairn and delivered by the Belgrade Theatre in partnership with Age UK Coventry. Coventry University is focused on how participation in theatre and arts activities can contribute to the health and wellbeing of people aged 50+ in Coventry. Here’s Esmé from the OTL to tell us what’s been happening…
Through the support of the Office of Teaching & Learning and in collaboration with the DMLL, students seeking professional experience and engagement with the community have been interviewed and briefed about the Arts Gym project. This opportunity for our students to become actively involved within the Arts Gym is important, as the team have been able to share ideas on how to creatively document the project through photography and video.
Coventry University students have been welcomed into each Arts Gym group, which run through the week. There have been very welcoming responses from the participants and a sense of eagerness from the community to share their own experiences with the students. On some occasions, the workshops employ exercises for exploring the deeper meaning of a character. Through various activities, each session help participants become active, share stories and provide a safe social space to interact with one another.
Our students on board the project have documented their journey and working relationships with the Belgrade Theatre and service users through a series of blog posts, each explaining how they want to support the Arts Gymnasium and their experiences so far. The majority of the students captured their understanding of the group atmosphere; one student in particular noted,
For the first time, I feel part of [a] collaborative project where we all share our thoughts and ideas and build them up together; I feel part of a devoted collective.”
[Rose Georgieva, MA CCM]
This connection with the community, supported by the University and the Belgrade Theatre is creating a positive response from the users of the Arts Gymnasium itself. During each session, everyone is provided with a safe space of group reflection, during which it was noted that the Gym provides, “[A] little bit of something from everything” by one of the regular attendees. Other group members expressed that it was nice to be within good and calm company whilst others felt confident in admitting to their shyness within the group, and that it is a safe space to share feelings and experiences.
The importance of students as partners – in order to help support and create a cohesive and healthy community – supports the 2021 City of Culture Bid by enhancing relationships between local residents, students, staff and researchers at the university. The Arts Gym provides students with the opportunity to experience a diverse and professional workplace experience whilst still being able to steer a team with their innovative ideas.
The future of the Arts Gymnasium will be filled with multiple exhibitions of the students’ media work, including a short documentary video of the project, starting from mid-June at both the Albany Theatre, Belgrade Theatre and Disruptive Media Learning Lab – and we would welcome you to join us!
For further information please visit the Arts Gym Twitter @BelgradeArtsGym and link to the project website held on the Disruptive Media Learning Lab’s website Click Here. Alternatively feel free to contact the project research lead, Katherine Wimpenny.
Rose Georgieva, MA Communication Culture Media
Tara Rutledge, BA Media Production