Creative Encounters Year Two: Part Four

Written by: Tim Cape, musician on Creative Encounters

An important part of our work in creative encounters sessions comes when the main session has finished and we spread out around the home. This is a special time as it means we can visit some residents who haven’t come to the session for whatever reason – perhaps they weren’t in the mood, or have been under the weather, or they weren’t chosen as part of our core group for the sessions. This is interesting as often the residents who some don’t think would benefit from the sessions end up being the people who can have the most transformative experience through working with us. Maybe their mobility or speech is very limited, or they have tendency of getting anxious or even aggressive, or perhaps there is an idea that they “don’t like music”.

This week it was Clare and I who worked together after the main session and went to the landing of the second floor. Everyone was sleeping so we played very soft, gently rhythmical music. K woke up and stretched out her hand to Clare, immediately with a direct, gentle gaze, as if she was expecting her.

Soon after C walks past – in her particular way with eyes glazed over, leaning back and sliding her feet as she walks. This is how we have encountered her every week, without fail. Always in her own world, never acknowledging people around her, walking up and down the corridor. But at this point something extraordinary happens. As I’m playing softly on the log drum and singing, a deep, growling voice comes from behind my shoulder – a long and satisfied “yeeessss”. It’s C! And as she walks past this time she gives the most subtle skip to the beat, without breaking stride. She walks on by but returns later and each time she gives this cheeky little strut, with more and more of a smile breaking out on her face. We are amazed and look on with awe.

Later, after our de-brief, as we are all packed up and ready to go, who walks into the room but C! And begins her steady shuffle around the room, full smile now and wide open eyes. We start singing and playing, at one point I’m playing djembe and she begins to walk straight towards me with such intent in her face, staring directly at me – I honestly didn’t know what she was going to do. But she walks on past, and later sits down on a chair with a smile.

It’s taken 6 weeks for C to visibly acknowledge us, to engage, and to show that our presence is having an effect. Maybe sometimes these things just take time.