An older woman sits in her living room, alone. She speaks to us about her day-to-day experience, an experience that a growing number of older people in our communities face. Her living room is a busy shopping centre and what is normally hidden from view is open to public attention.
For eight months I visited older people who live by themselves, stuck in their homes for long periods of time. Travelling across Newcastle, Gateshead and East Durham I photographed and recorded conversations with them, spending hours talking and listening. I also created alongside them, making drawings, paintings, clay works, digital films and embroidery, re-kindling skills they believed they’d lost.
‘Home Alone’ brings these untold stories and images out of the houses and into busy public spaces. The stories are important and they need to be told. We all need to listen. Our Social Care system is in crisis and things have to change.
The living room installation includes photographs made in people’s homes and diary excerpts and features a specially commissioned monologue, written by Catrina McHugh MBE (Open Clasp). It is inspired by my ‘Home Alone’ diaries and uses many of the older people’s own words. Associate Laura Lindow from Open Clasp is directing the piece and the performing actress is Barbara Heslop.
The work has been presented at The Grainger Market, Newcastle; Castle Dene Shopping Centre, Peterlee; Seaham, Consett and Clayport Libraries in Durham and Durham Town Hall. It can currently be viewed through the window of the Allenheads Contemporary Art’s Gallery in Northumberland. The tour of my installation and live art events were curtailed, due to the pandemic, but will resume during 2021.
‘Home Alone’ has been funded through an Arts Council England award, Equal Arts, East Durham Creates and Durham County Council and is supported by Newcastle City Council, Search Newcastle, Elders Council Newcastle, East Durham Trust, Open Clasp Theatre Company and Grange Day Centre, Throckley.
‘Home Alone’ project and tour was funded through an Arts Council England award, Equal Arts, East Durham Creates, Community Foundation Durham and Durham County Council. It supported by Newcastle City Council, Search Newcastle, Elders Council Newcastle, East Durham Trust, Gateshead Council, Liverpool City Council, Age Friendly Cities Network, The Whitworth, The Catalyst National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle University, Professor Tom Sharfe, Open Clasp Theatre Company and Grange Day Centre, Throckley.
‘Home Alone’ is the lived reality for a growing number of frail, vulnerable older people. Our social care system is in a state of emergency with a reduction in those receiving local authority support and qualifying for statutory care services; only people with complex debilitating needs benefit. Many older people are now not getting the help they need and are trapped at home.