AS the world's eyes are upon the Winter Olympics, the cultural Olympiad across South Korea has been making history in its own way with a little help from Hereford.

Its programme for the Games, including a look at how the arts can impact on the country’s ageing population, has received input from Penny Allen.

She is from Hereford Courtyard's Creative Ageing project and was thrilled to be invited to speak by the British Council on the work the organisation does around training.

The Courtyard was the first dementia-friendly theatre in the UK and Penny heads up the Creative Ageing project at the venue.

"It was wonderful to be on the other side of the world, putting our work into an international context," Penny said.

“When we arrived we found their focus and funding goes on ‘younger older’ people, those recently retired but very active.

"So if they were looking at dance, it would be about teaching groups of people the steps, or how to dance a sequence.”

Penny was part of a British Council team of 10 from the UK, invited to share their ideas for artists to work with older people, including those in residential settings.

“We’ve been running programmes like this from The Courtyard for six years including poetry, music, dance and film and know that in this context, creative expression can be incredibly powerful,” explained Penny.

“It gives people choice about how they get involved, the chance to collaborate in a failure-free arena that not only brings joy, but brings them together with family and friends in new ways.

"So in the dance arena even if that expression is simply demonstrated via the tap of a finger or foot we celebrate that. The steps don’t matter.”

Penny said that while the Courtyard’s ideas seemed alien to their colleagues in South Korea, the workshops she and the British Council team delivered were embraced.

Thirty people participated in the training workshops which were hugely over-subscribed.

“They found it hard to improvise at first, but you could see it opened their eyes to wonderful possibilities,” Penny said.

“I was really proud to represent Hereford, and to see the impact a small rural community like ours can have.

“I attended a conference while I was there, involving over 200 groups of ‘younger older’ people who’ve worked with artists and were coming together to celebrate that experience. It was incredible to see the results.”