Travelling Light was commissioned by Redbridge library Service as part of their multi- disciplined initiative to engage Redbridge communities in conversations around, death dying and planning for end of life.
Funded by The Wellcome Trust and Carnegie Trust Engaging Libraries Programme, Redbridge library commissioned us to engage their communities in a participatory project using stop-frame animation and digital art to explore the subject of death in a creative non- threatening way.
Over a period of 7 months, we worked with participants from The Woodbine Centre for adults with learning disabilities, elder participants, Gants Hill Family History Group, Redbridge Libraries Youth Advisory Board and a group signed up from the public and Redbridge Library Staff (Ofrenda Group). All groups took part in stimulating, reflective and respectful conversations about death, supported through engagement in a series of tailored activities using stop-frame animation and film making as a vehicle to express their end of life wishes.
People with a learning disability have been historically left out of decision making about their own end of life wishes and are often omitted from funeral invites lists!
We collaborated closely with staff at Woodbine to ensure activities were appropriate meaningful and fun. It was important that we approached the subject matter gently but without cloaking facts and patronising their emotional intelligence.
We devised activities which encouraged them to explore their own identity – what makes them unique, to help inform their own end of life wishes – what choices would they like for
their ‘Final Party’? This information was used to inspire composite personalised puppets. Participants found the animation training hugely empowering. The films reflect and respect the diversity of participants. Their personality and eloquent end of life wishes portrayed with pride, eloquence and humour.
“I learnt how to use the iPad to make my life-puppet move. Now I know what I want when I go”
Zarina, participant Woodbine Centre
Staff at Woodbine commented that the process helped the staff and participants to understand each other better.
“The animation project has encouraged a more positive outlook surrounding end of life decisions and how people want to celebrate their lives”
Sam, Art Teacher Woodbine
Travelling life gives a voice to an often-marginalised group and challenges reticence engage people with learning disabilities in important conversations about life and death wishes.
Evaluation revealed all participant groups found the process of engaging creatively in the animation process helped them consider end of life choices and in some cases, participants were expressing their wishes for the first time.
The film ‘Travelling Light’ is part of a Final Party best practice toolkit to help other professionals deliver end of life projects.
The Toolkit has been circulated to libraries across the borough and nationally through the Engaging Libraries and Wellcome Fund initiative.