Top art award for care pioneers

A care organisation from North Wales has won a prestigious award for the innovative way they use the arts to improve the quality of life for residents.

Wrexham-based Pendine Park was honoured at the glittering Arts and Business Cymru Awards at the Millennium Centre, in Cardiff.

They were recognised for their ground-breaking collaborations with the world-renowned orchestra, the Hallé, and Welsh National Opera.

The Arts, Business and Community Award was presented to Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE and their artist-in-residence, Sarah Edwards. The other finalists in their category were John Lewis and Waitrose.

Pendine Park have previously been nominated several times and in 2008 they won the Arts and Business Cymru Sustainability Award for their long-standing commitment to the arts.

They were believed to be the first independent care organisation to employ an artist in residence when Sarah Edwards was appointed 16 years ago.

Pendine Park and the Hallé have collaborated for the last four years to bring residents something new in the form of music workshops.

They are now working with the orchestra to develop an in-house course for staff with a view to developing it into a nationally recognised qualification that could be rolled out across Wales.

Last year Pendine Park Pendine teamed up with Welsh National Opera to help promote the cutting edge three-year programme in Wrexham.

They were among the first of the WNO’s Community Champions to be unveiled in North Wales.

Residents were involved in the pioneering opera project, Nine Stories High, and their stories formed the basis of the first episode.

As part of the project, two members of WNO’s acclaimed Chorus, soprano Meriel Andrew and tenor Simon Buttle, raised the roof at a concert at Pendine Park’s Hillbury home.

Sarah Edwards said: “I was surprised but absolutely delighted that we won – not just for me and Pendine Park but also for the residents.

“It was a wonderfully glamorous occasion at the Millennium Centre, a truly unforgettable evening.

“I must pay tribute to Mario because when I approached him all those years ago, art therapy was virtually unheard of – especially in the care sector.

“He and his wife, Gill, are great lovers of the arts and, luckily for me, they were able to see how art can and does benefit people, enriching their lives.

“I think the arts gives the residents a focus away from their illness, it provides escapism and creativity – and something different.

“As well as our partnerships with the Hallé and WNO, I conduct one-to-one sessions, regular group art therapy sessions and photography classes which definitely raise the spirits of the residents. We also regularly visit art galleries.”

An equally delighted Mario Kreft added: “Being recognised in this way has given us all at Pendine Park a real sense of pride.

“The arts gives people a sense of purpose and the work that Sarah does has certainly helped residents to lead fulfilled lives.

“Very often, people have not realised that they have an artistic talent – so it gives them an enormous sense of achievement and pleasure.

“They look forward to the lessons and the gallery visits and the exhibitions that we put on here.

“We have also been extremely lucky to be able to work with world class musicians from the Hallé and WNO to support our projects to enrich people’s lives through the medium of music.

“I know that from the feedback I get from residents and their families how much an impact the arts has in improving their quality of life.”

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