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Ground-breaking new artist residency scheme to explore LGBT visibility in older people’s homes

POSTED: 9/09/2020

Pride in Aging

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We’re delighted to be taking part in a ground-breaking new artist residency project that will shed light on LGBT people’s experiences of sheltered housing and independent living schemes while looking at how LGBT visibility can be improved in these settings.

The Back in the Closet project will see five artists paired with five older persons’ housing schemes across Greater Manchester to work with both staff and residents to open a discussion on LGBT identities and to find both small and significant changes to make these environments more inclusive.

Each artist will take up residence in a scheme for a minimum of eight days, with work initially taking place remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. They will work with staff and residents at each scheme to co-create an artistic response to residents’ experiences using photography, creative writing, film, installation or performance.

The artists selected to take part in Back in the Closet are:

The scheme is a partnership between Greater Manchester Combined Authority, House Proud North West and Pride in Ageing at LGBT Foundation.

The Great Places scheme that will be taking part in this project is Openshaw Court in Swinton and the artist we will be working with is Anna Raczynski.

Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist and Chair of HouseProud North West, Tara Kelly, said: “HouseProud is committed to improving the way we support and deliver services to LGBT+ customers and residents. The Back in the Closet Project presents an exciting and innovative opportunity to engage with our older residents and to raise awareness of issues faced by LGBT people living in our retirement housing schemes.”

Greater Manchester’s Lead for Age-Friendly and Equalities, Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “All older LGBT people have a right to dignified and inclusive housing and this project will allow us to look at how schemes can ensure they provide this for their residents.

“A survey in 2014 reported that two-thirds of care home staff said there was not a single resident who was openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans where they worked.

“We know this cannot be true and points to the fact that many older LGBT people feel uncomfortable and unable to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We can learn a lot through this scheme and by using art, residents and staff will have the chance to be creative and I look forward to seeing the end results.”

Lawrie Roberts, Pride in Ageing Manager at LGBT Foundation, said: “Pride in Ageing aims to make Greater Manchester one of the best places to grow older as an LGBT person, and ensuring that people feel safe and comfortable to be open about their sexual orientation or trans status in the housing scheme in which they live is a huge part of achieving this.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with a group of hugely talented artists from across the North West and a network of housing providers across Greater Manchester on these residencies, which though creative practise will open up new conversations around LGBT visibility in retirement schemes.”

Nic Kershaw, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Housing Partnership member One Manchester, said: “We’re extremely proud to be involved in this fantastic scheme and to support our older residents in openly discussing their experience of living in an Independent Living Schemes as an LGBT person.

“Using art and culture to create an inclusive atmosphere is something we’ve done before at One Manchester, and working in partnership with other Greater Manchester housing providers, the LGBT Foundation, HouseProud and the GMCA means we can continue this great work and support many more residents in Greater Manchester.”

Jez Dolan, one of the artists taking part in the scheme, said: “My practice as an artist is focussed around queerness, identity and history, often through telling stories. The Back in the Closet project has a real resonance with my ongoing work, and I’m really excited about the opportunity of sharing my practice with older LGBTQIA+ people living in residential settings.

“As an older artist I’m looking forward to collaborating with communities of people and sharing our stories and shared histories, and looking at how we can make often unheard voices heard and appreciated.”

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