OPAN gardens

Knitting yarns: bringing older Londoners together

20 October 2018

Older People’s Arts Network (OPAN) is an organisation that inspired us as we looked at how arts and culture can boost mental health and wellbeing…

Let’s start by explaining that OPAN isn’t a single entity. It is instead a group of like-minded arts organisations all based in Lewisham. Each works to improve the lives and champion the voices of older people through the arts. Together, OPAN challenges people’s pre-conceived ideas of what ageing can be and what it should be.

Its members include Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Entelechy Arts, Age Exchange, Horniman Museum & Gardens, South London & Maudesley NHS Foundation Trust and Community Connexions. Each specialises in an art form and practice including music, dance, theatre, museum, library, arts and crafts and reminiscence arts.

Network members offer a busy programme of fun activities for older people. There’s everything from music and dance workshops, to performances by older artists, tea dances, workshops in care homes and community arts events. 

Here’s what one happy participant had to say about the workshops…


Knitting us together
From odd balls of yarn
Found in the knitting bag of life
All colours and textures
Alone good for nothing
But in the hands of the knitter
Who could see the possibilities of blending all the textures and colour
Into one glorious whole.

Time was spent researching patterns but nothing seemed perfect
Till one day
The pattern appeared
Made up magically by the knitter
Who arranged the yarn and shaped the object into the perfect pattern

The knitting became very important to the knitter
Who was very gentle with the delicate yarns and bolder with the stronger yarns.
As the object became more shapely,
The knitter was very pleased and finally,
The shape was finished.

Brightly coloured and with so much texture from all the odd balls of yarn.
It had turned into a beautiful creation
To be exhibited and admired by anyone with an eye
For using discarded odds and ends and making something beautiful

Natasha the knitter and her “Befriending Choir”

Find out more about arts, culture and mental health