Institute for Social Renewal

Independent Creative Living

The event, “Think about it ... living creatively, for life!” was designed as a pre-feasibility stage of an exploration of the potential for a housing community for older artists and people in related cultural occupations in the North East of England. The event consisted of a symposium and workshop held at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. This pioneering project, unique within the UK, would support independence, life-long creative learning and producing in a safe and supportive environment with people of like minds. It would stimulate new collaborations, and enable residents to carry on contributing to their local community and to the learning and culture of the wider area, and would be likely to prolong healthy and independent lives.

The symposium was over-subscribed and well-attended, with 79 people present. It was received as an inspirational event. It drew on a wide range of ideas and knowledge, and heard from experts in the field from across the UK and beyond. Most importantly, the idea behind the initiative was enthusiastically welcomed. The symposium aimed to bring together people who had expressed an interest in the scheme, either to support its development or with a view to becoming residents, and to identify the context, the gaps in current provision in the region, what such a scheme might consist of, and who might be willing to be involved in a Steering Group to take it forward.

The rest of the afternoon was spent developing ideas about what Independent Creative Living’s housing scheme and community would ideally look like and contain. Most of the 8 groups drew their ideas using diagrams, some using the ideas for St Gall, a 9th Century monastery, which was provided by the facilitators. All 8 were agreed on the basic premise of needing independent living with communal aspects, and it not being a gated community but a space opened up to the community at large, and outward-facing. There were also common views on the need for an exciting design, for sustainability (environmental and economic), for good accessibility to the site, good links with local transport, lots of light and running water, and ease of communication with each other and the outside world. The scheme needs to be affordable to people with different levels of income and assets, and to engage residents in providing services within the site.

“You don’t stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing”

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin


Map of area from Rose Gilroy's project
Map from workshop