Necklace of Stars. Photo Credit: arthur + martha

Hearts for the Arts 2021 Shortlist – Necklace of Stars

Derbyshire County Council and Arts Derbyshire's Necklace of Stars has been shortlisted for Best Arts Project in the 2021 Hearts for the Arts Awards.

Derbyshire County Council and Arts Derbyshire set up Necklace of Stars pre-Covid-19 to to tackle isolation and loneliness in housebound older adults in Derbyshire.

Originally the project plan comprised of one-to-one sessions in participants’ own homes with either embroidery artist, Lois Blackburn or creative writer, Philip Davenport from arthur + martha. Covid-19 forced a change in approach: Necklace of Stars quickly became a remote embroidery and creative writing project where participants receive weekly one-to-one phone calls from the artists, emails (where required), and parcels of all the materials they need for the project sent through the post. The artists guide participants through the process of creating beautiful embroidered stars or creative writing over a period of 3-6 weeks.

Pre-Covid, there was a lack of person-to-person creative engagement opportunities in peoples own homes. Therefore, people who were housebound were missing out on connecting with people creatively. This project was set up to address this problem and the issues only increased during Covid with so many people desperate for creative connections that didn’t require broadband or computers or smart phones. Necklace of Stars aims to increase confidence and wellbeing, reduce loneliness, forge connections and re-ignite creativity.

Necklace of Stars is working closely with the county’s Voluntary Services and in particular Social Prescribing colleagues to ensure the project is reaching those who need it most. The project is also working with the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham to carry out the project evaluation. Arthur + Martha are an arts organisation who have a wealth of experience working creatively and sensitively with older people, people living with dementia, and homeless people. The artists are well positioned, therefore, to recognise if participants might need additional mental health support or befriending and then have signposted or connected them as needed. For others, the project has helped people deal with grief and loneliness and provided a focus during these challenging times to enhance their wellbeing.

Necklace of Stars is a three-year project that, having refused to let Coronavirus halt its progress, will run until summer 2021. At that point all of the embroidered stars will be brought together to create a quilt which will be exhibited alongside the creative writing and a lullaby soundtrack around Derbyshire’s cultural venues in 2022.

What the judges said:

“This is an inspirational project that has supported an extremely vulnerable group of individuals, made more vulnerable by COVID-19. It has clearly given participants purpose and focus, helping to reduce loneliness and mental ill health. The way the project adapted to provide one-to-one support to individuals remotely during lockdown is impressive and we were struck by the strong partnerships across range of partners that allowed the project to expand its impact by signposting participants to other services.”

“A project clearly created with love and togetherness at its core, using arts and culture to support communities and prove that we can always share and learn from each other.”