Jenny Johnson of Aesop shares how the charity moved its dance programme online.

Aesop is a charity that builds bridges between arts and health organisations. We develop arts solutions for health problems. We created and manage Dance to Health, a pioneering nationwide dance programme for older people, which is designed to prevent falls.

Back in March 2020 when the Covid-19 response turned to lockdown in the UK, face-to-face Dance to Health classes were quickly suspended. But we knew how important keeping in touch with our participants and coming up with ways to help them keep active would be. 

Online classes began, because many of our participants wanted to continue with their dance sessions. They knew how important they were for health, and they also needed to maintain social interaction. 

We found, as did many organisations working with older adults, that there were many barriers in the way of online participation. We began researching and testing ways to break down these barriers – made harder by the fact no one could visit the participants face to face.

In August we had a really informative meeting with the Good Things Foundation (based in Sheffield like me, but the meeting was of course online) and we heard about the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response. It sounded perfect! We decided immediately to apply for the Discovery programme and were one of around 100 charities to be chosen for the autumn cohort. Our group was mainly made up of charities working in similar areas - older people, arts and health, or both. We were lucky enough to be paired with Land Digital from the North East of England. Watch this video to see what happened next.

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About Aesop:

Aesop’s vision is of a future when arts solutions for society’s problems are valued and available for all who need them.

Aesop is a bridge-builder, connecting Arts & Health organisations.

Our aims are to:

  • develop arts solutions based on social needs
  • show health, care and other sectors how the arts can work for them
  • accelerate the pace of adoption of arts solutions
  • develop research and practice networks for arts solutions

Our current focus is society’s health and social care problems.


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