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Musical Mosaics project defies COVID

November 6, 2020

Dementia-friendly city Leeds is consistently forward-thinking when it comes to community projects and their latest is an inspired collaboration bringing together music and the arts.

People living with dementia were the focus of ‘Musical Mosaics’, during which they

  • Visited Leeds Discovery Centre
  • Listened to live musical performances from local musicians
  • Handled historical instruments in a ‘show and tell’ session, and
  • Created mosaics of musical instruments in a series of workshops.

The finished mosaics were on display at Leeds City Museum in October, incorporated into Sounds Good musical soundscape and surrounded by musical instrument silhouettes.

To make it happen, Leeds Adults and Health services joined forces with Leeds Museums & Galleries and Leeds based artist Paul Digby with funding from Leeds Inspired. Local freelance musicians Nina Phelps (classical singer) and Jeorgie Brett (keyboards) plus Live Music Now were also involved to bring together the multi-faceted initiative, which started in January.

Day centres

People attending four of the city’s complex needs day care centres were invited to participate in the project which was to run through the year, creating eight mosaics. Two of the four centres were able to enjoy their museum visits, live performances and start the artworks before lockdown was announced. Around 20 people with dementia were involved at various stages.

Bridget Campbell, Senior Support Worker at Leeds City Council who conceived the project, said: “We know that music has a positive effect on people living with dementia and wanted to see how music could inspire art. Everyone enjoyed the amazing archive tour of this large collection of musical instruments – it is an Aladdin’s cave of curiosities.”

Instrument handling

Paul Digby, who specialises in contemporary arts with a community engagement remit, continued: “We had a wonderful visit to the Discovery Centre, where we were able to walk around to see objects in the collection with a particular focus on musical instruments.

“This led to a broad reminiscence session, where everyone was able to handle the instruments and talk about music followed by the live music performances.

“In the workshop I then drew up designs for the horn, bell, harp and guitar which were part of the Discovery session. We did several workshops back at the day centres creating the mosaics and people were involved at all stages from sorting tiles into coloured piles to sticking them into place.”

Lasting local display

Visits for the participants to the finished exhibition, together with a launch event, haven’t taken place due to COVID restrictions. However, the vibrant mosaics are due to be either installed in the gardens or displayed inside the two day centres for all visitors to enjoy.