Conversations with carers

Featured article - 06 December 2021
By Dr Rashmi Becker, MBE, Founder of Step Change Studios

Dancing

I have been having professional and personal conversations with carers throughout my adult life. I understand the realities of care work – both on the frontline, having worked in social care, and at home, growing up in a family with a severely disabled brother. I also regularly come into contact with carers as the founder of an inclusive dance company – Step Change Studios.

I know first-hand the exhausting pressures carers face on a daily basis. While carers advocate for people they support, their own health and wellbeing is often neglected. During the pandemic, the isolation, stress, and poor treatment that carers experience was magnified. I was struck by how many colleagues in the arts were also either working in social care or as unpaid carers, and struggling to cope. This led me to apply for, and secure an Arts Council England grant for a project I have called Conversations with Carers, which connects care, compassion and creativity by giving voice and artistic expression to carers.

Conversations with Carers explores the lived experience of carers through a series of podcasts and articles. I then produced a series dance films drawing on themes from carers’ experience, performed by disabled and non-disabled dancers.

I have found this project tremendously rewarding, thought-provoking and moving. Having the time, space and most importantly the permission to talk honestly is critical for carers. In the podcasts and articles, carers talk about frequently supressing their emotions and needs as they prioritise the needs of people they support. Many carers reflect on the low value that society places on caring. They talk about feeling invisible, and the physical, emotional, and financial strains that can become overwhelming.

Taking the words and themes from my conversations and expressing them artistically through dance has been a hugely positive experience. I created Step Change Studios as an inclusive dance company and I firmly believe in the power of the arts to engage and connect people in unique ways. Artists in the dance films include carers, and each film begins with the words of carers. The arts provide a creative release for many people, and dance can offer an alternative form of expression.

I hope that Conversations with Carers, in all its forms, will help society to acknowledge the realities of care work, and that it will help make the case for urgent change in the way we treat, support and recognise carers.

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