Falling on Your Feet - commissioned by Durham County Council

Hearts for the Arts 2021 Shortlist – Falling on Your Feet

Durham County Council's Falling on Your Feet has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards.

Falling on Your Feet is a dance and health programme, co-curated with people aged 65+ who are living independently. Weekly sessions offer the chance to work with professional artists to create beautiful dance work, develop strength and flexibility, and make new friends.

The project has a multi-agency approach: developed and led by Helix Arts and commissioned by Durham County Council Public Health, including key links with their Falls Prevention team and Community Engagement programmes. Falling on Your Feet is delivered via blended online sessions, with some participants engaging online from their homes, and a core group joining us from Eastlea Community Centre, as part of a mental health support group.

The programme aims to reduce the risk of trips and falls through creative movement, and regular workshops often lead to co-choreographed dance pieces that are shared with wider audiences. Every session offers crucial time to share socially which supports positive mental health and well-being.

Falling on Your Feet differs from other dance sessions for older people in that it is specifically targeted at an older age range (65+) and also focusses on co-choreography. From previous research with Northumbria University we know that an 80 year does not necessarily consider their mobility as being the same as people aged 55+ (usual target for older people’s exercise) and therefore are put off engaging in these programmes. Falling on Your Feet is targeted at those who have more limited movement or feel they would benefit from engaging with people their own age. Our sessions aim to reduce the risk of trips and falls and engage people in co-choreographed creative movement, meaning every participant develops a dance piece with the artist, through sharing stories, ideas and memories, rather than following an instructed class. Our artists deliver in a person-centred way, differentiating their approach, and using inclusive access / methods of delivery to ensure all participants feel valued and part of a unique experience.

Falling on your Feet provides much needed physical and social activity for people aged 65 and over. Many projects have ended due to Covid-19 leaving many people in this age category with limited, if any, creative outlets to support their physical and mental wellbeing. By moving our programme online we have been able to continue existing relationships and establish new ones by connecting older people online at a time of high need.


What the judges said:

 A great programme focusing on falls prevention in a group of older people who might otherwise find themselves isolated and vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Falling On Your Feet clearly meets an important, evidenced local need and has adapted smoothly to challenging circumstances, providing services both in person and online.

A programme that again proves the intrinsic links between arts and culture and wellbeing, creating vital access points for communities to access potentially lifechanging resources and information