Hundreds of people enjoyed an exhibition featuring bags and suitcases turned into pieces of art by talented older people at The Alnwick Garden.
The brainchild of older people’s housing and care charity Abbeyfield, the exhibition, A Breath of Fresh Air Pop-Up Gardens, featured self-contained displays of outdoor scenes in recycled bags and suitcases using arts and crafts materials.
The Duchess admired gardens made by older people living in care homes across the UK - from Devon to Northern Ireland and from Cumbria to Scotland - born out of an Abbeyfield initiative to encourage people living in residential care to enjoy the benefits the outdoors and nature brings.
Featuring in the display was an autumnal Northumberland hill exhibit made by residents at Abbeyfield House in Alnwick. Former sculptor Maureen, 93, was one of its creators. She went to see their suitcase on display and met with The Duchess of Northumberland who is a patron of Abbeyfield.
Maureen said: “It was quite lovely to see the garden there. We had a whale of a time making it. I used to be an art teacher but sculpture was my thing. I like using my hands. I had a good chat with the Duchess. She was lovely and asked lots of questions. She was very interested in what we had done.”
Freda Snaith is activities coordinator at Abbeyfield House in Alnwick. She said: “The project aimed to encourage people – particularly those living with dementia and in residential care - to be inspired by the outdoors and nature.
“We had a great time making the garden. It got everyone together and chatting and reminiscing about their gardens and the views they’d enjoyed during their lives. We used all sorts of different techniques which everyone enjoyed – even using a coffee grinder to make dried leaves small enough to use! There’s no doubt the project really brought people together.”
The exhibition was a collaboration between Abbeyfield with The Alnwick Garden and its Elderberries charity with pop-up gardens made by local community groups, craft clubs, Weavers Court housing association in Alnwick and volunteers including Seahouses Craft Club included in the display.
Abbeyfield patron and founder of The Alnwick Garden and The Elderberries Charity, The Duchess of Northumberland said: “The exhibition has been an extraordinary showcase of the creativity and skills that older people have. I am delighted that so many people have been inspired by our great outdoors and that the project has captured the imagination of people the length and breadth the country, bringing them together to forge new friendships while creating these amazing pieces of art.”
Alongside the Breath of Fresh Air Pop-Up Garden exhibition was a showcase of The Elderberries charity which provides a range of free activities for people over 55 within The Garden, with the aim of increasing a sense of identity and belonging and giving them the opportunities for purposeful learning and improving physical and mental health. For more information about The Elderberries contact Tracy Jones on 01665 511 356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org