Conversations with older people from Asian backgrounds

SGSU director and artist Ellie Shipman was invited to facilitate a series of creative workshops exploring life with older people from Asian backgrounds for Savannah Development Foundation. SDF supports work which benefits Black, Minority and Ethnic communities in Bristol and the charity wanted to find out more about how older people from these backgrounds live and what challenges they face to inform future commissioning in both their own work and city-wide.

Supported by consultant and translator Sabita Ravi, Ellie facilitated a series of workshops with two community centres in Bristol, Dhek Bhal and the Asian Day Centre. Based on a process of building relationships and getting to know participants, Ellie and Sabita spent lots of time chatting and laughing with the centre users, inviting them gently in to the sessions to participate as and when they wished to.

Throughout the project we explored what makes people happy through creating ‘Happy Heads’ from one-on-one conversation with each participant about their favourite sights, smells, tastes, sounds, touch and dreams or ambitions. This was a lovely way to get to know people, and built up a level of trust before we opened the conversation wider to include the more difficult challenges in life.

We spoke to people about what makes them angry, or invited them to write it down anonymously before tearing it up and hurling it (somewhat therapeutically, we hoped!) into our Bin of Anger! Again this was a way to talk about some tough subjects, but ending in a fun and open way.

We delved down into people’s routines and way of life through inviting participants to fill in their typical routines on a days of the week calendar. This opened up insightful conversation around care provision, family, religion, transport needs, food, Bollywood television and much more! Through keeping the foundation of the conversation grounded in normal routine we were able to learn a lot about those who were generous enough to share their lives with us.

The results of these sessions will be drawn up by Sabita into a report to inform the Savannah Development Foundation’s continuing work with older people in Bristol.