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Birdwatching partnership takes local older people under its wing

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A group of older people in Leeds will form a flock of budding birdwatchers this winter thanks to a heart-warming new community project.

Through an innovative partnership between Leeds Museums and Galleries, arts organisation Skippko and older people’s support network Armley Helping Hands, the group is being encouraged to spot and identify the birds they can see safely from their windows at home.

Online videos of birds from the taxidermy collection at Leeds Discovery Centre along with specially-created packs posted to their home will also inspire the group to create their own pieces of ornithological artwork that will be displayed at Leeds Industrial Museum in future.

Designed to help the group avoid social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hoped the activity will mean those taking part can keep connected and engaged while also staying safe.

Rebecca Machin, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of natural sciences said:

“Nature and the outdoors have played such an important part in lifting all our spirits this year, reminding us that even in the face of so much uncertainty, there’s still a lot of beauty to be found in the world around us.

“We wanted to try and help a group of older people who might be having to stay at home right now and away from their friends share in that while also keeping them connected with us and each other.

“This partnership is allowing us to do just that, bringing together a small but important network of older people in the Armley community and giving them a chance to engage with our collection at home as they learn about the birds they can see in their garden.”

The birdwatching project is the latest nature-themed group activity organised as part of the legacy of Leeds City Museum’s award-winning Beavers to Weavers exhibition.

The exhibition in 2018 used sustainable materials to explore the wonders of the natural world and won the Museums Change Lives (MCL) award in the category of environmental sustainability.

Previous activities run in partnership with Armley helping Hands and Skippko have included digital photography, dark room activities, etching, drawing and wire sculpture, with each one linked to objects in the Leeds Museums and Galleries collection.

Michael Howard, community engagement worker with Armley Helping Hands said:

“During the pandemic, it’s become more important than ever that we help older people in our community to stay in touch with each other and to know they’re not on their own.

“Activities like this can be a genuine lifeline to someone at risk of social isolation, giving them a chance for some hugely important interaction and a chance to engage with the world outside their home safely.”

Armley Helping Hands work in partnership with Time to Shine on the Don’t Call Me Old project, which aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst older people in Leeds.

Beavers to Weaver is also still available to view online at www.artsandculture.google.com

Source Leeds City Council