Art Students tackle loneliness


Photography students from Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD) have been inspired by a generation spanning 76 years to create a marketing campaign which helps reduce loneliness and social isolation in Middlesbrough.

We set the students a live brief as part of their second year BTEC Extended Diploma in Photography course and we’re so excited by the results!

The brief we set the students was to tackle the stigma attached to ‘older people’ and to send a message that older people still have skills, still have a life and are doing amazing things in our community!

The students undertook research to find out how life is different between the two generations – such as technology, work, college – and through shared experiences were able to explore values which older people bring to the community.

To help create the campaign, four members from ABM – Janet Pyle, 92, Araf Chohan, 65, Stuart Brown, 64 and Helena Gordon, 63 visited the specialist art and design college to talk at length about their lives, where the students enjoyed finding out more about the four clients from four diverse walks of life.

The students facilitated the visit with refreshments and enjoyed the conversations with the group, followed by a photo shoot in the studios in which the use of technology was highlighted and the positive impact it has on their lives.

On the day we assisted the students as a client would, to help them gain different perspectives and develop ideas, and they took it really well and valued the input. It was fantastic to see a relationship between the young and the old develop over a cup of tea and a chat. Part of our programme is reducing loneliness and isolation using technology, keeping in touch with family and friends, and the students really picked up on that.

Janet, 92 from Marton took part in the campaign and thoroughly enjoyed herself. As someone who swims five times a week and plays Scrabble on her iPad with her long distance family, she was an inspiration for the students.

Born in Trimdon in County Durham, Janet’s husband was coal miner for 22 years and having lived all over the country, she came home to retire and be with family. Janet said: “The photos are great and it was lovely to work with students, they were so interested in our lives. I wish I had the same chance as the students and go to college!

“Seeing the posters is overwhelming and it captured a moment in time which is very natural, with everyone enjoying themselves, especially Araf. I love my iPad and play scrabble with my two sons and daughter in America, and also use it for talking every day.”

18-year-old photography student Nina Gibson, 18 from Yarm, said: “I loved talking to the group from Ageing Better Middlesbrough and learning about their experiences from years ago and what they do now. I was brought up by my Nanna and my Mum, so have spent lots of time with older people and I think it is rubbing off on me a bit as I enjoy Coronation Street and drinking cups of tea!

“Janet gave me a good giggle and it is like she is still 21 in her head, which is great attitude to have. It was a lovely project to work on and shows that people don’t change just because they are getting older. It has also inspired me to volunteer at ABM so it has had a real impact.”

Fellow student Elliot Moor, 18, from Heighington in Co Durham, said: “I did wonder what kind of stories the clients would have to tell – as ABM wanted to show that older people don’t just stop being interesting when they turn 50 – and the brief has proved this to be true.

“Araf was great to talk with, because of his books and his travels. He told us the story when he was a flight attendant on a plane that took a nosedive as it went over an active volcano, which was amazing and therefore we featured the photo in the campaign. You really don’t know the life that that a person has had until you explore further and it has been a learning experience for everyone.”

Courteney Johnston, 19 from Park End in Middlesbrough, said: “I was a little bit surprised when talking to the group, as you sometimes forget that they have had a life. I think they did learn something from us too, as one of them said their perception of teenagers had changed. Helena told me a lot about her life, including how she knits for premature babies, so I am really happy with the work and proud.”

After the visit and photo shoot, We went back into the college to meet with each group and give feedback on the campaign, to help support our branding and messages.

We wanted the students to think creatively about this project and be inspired, and they really have delivered. What has come out was totally unexpected and we especially love the short statements about what people ‘used to do’ and ‘what they do now’.

The images speak for themselves – how much fun we had on the day, how much fun the students had and how much they learned from the older people coming in was amazing.

Tim Leah-Adams, Photography Lecturer at CCAD, said “The students really enjoyed the opportunity to work with ABM on this brief as it gave them a real sense of working with a client in a business environment. The preparations that need to happen so that a shoot can go well, and the collaborative nature of working with others are a much overlooked but essential aspect of creative industries. This live brief gave the students this insight, helped them with their communication skills and has given them confidence to use the knowledge gained in their project work.”

The imagery will be used as part of campaign by ABM to be launched this Spring.

If you’d like to join Ageing Better Middlesbrough’s free membership to find out about activities and groups in your area call 01642 257034, email or visit our website:

For more information on opportunities at CCAD contact (01642) 288888 or visit

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