Our Big Review of the Year - 2020!

This year has been a tough and unexpected year for all of us and as such we’ve all had to adapt to new ways of working and socialising together. But as we look back on 2020, we can definitely say it’s still been a fun-packed and busy year for Accessible Arts & Media (AAM) and we’re really thankful for that. 

2020 has seen us take our sessions online, set up 1-2-1 sensory music sessions to support people who can’t access our online sessions, come up with new ways to perform together, continue to support people through our iMUSE for wellbeing programme, create a bank of creative learning resources, and still manage to end the year with our Hands & Voices and IMPs Christmas performance. It’s been a year!

IMPs holiday clubs

Prior to lockdown, we were thrilled to be able to work with Lydia and Sophie, the brilliant directors of SLAP (Social Live Art Performances). In February, Lydia and Sophie ran our Sounds of Comedy IMPs (Inclusive Music Projects) Holiday club as part of their annual SLAP festival. In the session, our IMPs got to create their own comedy sketch and learn to use music and sounds to tell their story. We had a great time coming up with our own slapstick routines and dressing up in comical outfits. We’d like to say a huge thank you again to Lydia and Sophie for a brilliant day.

The performance at the end was fantastic; love a bit of old-school slapstick. The staff here are second to none. A nurturing, creative environment. THANK YOU. 
Parent of an IMPs holiday club participant 

Three of our IMPs holiday club members wearing funny wigs and performing

AAM goes online

In March, as the country entered lockdown, we decided to take our sessions online. And a few days after the lockdown began, we launched our online sessions; delivering free weekly Sensory Music and Singing & Signing sessions live on Facebook and on catch-up on our YouTube channel. We also created a whole host of live and pre-recorded Sensory Stories, Creative Sensory, and Messy Play activities for everyone to take part in from home.

Through lockdown, we delivered 43 Facebook live and 48 pre-recorded sessions, and our videos have been viewed over 18,000 times. We’ve also been working hard to produce information and teaching packs to accompany all our new resources. We'll be making these free to download from our website in a new resource section launching early next year. 

That’s how we've got through lockdown, it's provided routine, consistency, something to look forward to. We've been able to keep it going throughout the week, following themes, been give tasks to do over the weeks. And it’s just hilarious.
L – Parent of one of our online participants.


Having something to do and connecting with others. Seeing friends online and there is interaction.
M – Parent of one of our online participants.

Photograph of Hannah delivering an online signing and signing session

Virtual Performances

As part of our online sessions, we made sure we created opportunities for our participants to perform together, even if just virtually. Heading out and about with our video and sound recording equipment to socially distance film as many of our participants from our online sessions as we could. 

After spending weeks in lockdown and only seeing each other online it was lovely seeing everyone face-to-face and getting to have a chat about our sessions and how everyone was coping with the lockdown. You can watch one of the videos we created together here.

A photo of our IMPs members being filmed as part of our video

If you’ve read our Big Review of the year before, you’ll know that one of our favourite things to do every year is to ask our project participants and supporters what three words they’d use to describe AAM.

While we’ve not been able to do as we normally would, we were able to ask our online session participants for their three words. We thought you’d like to see them too:

Wordcloud of the feedback from our online sessions 

The 2.6 Challenge

In April our participants, volunteers, and staff all took part in the 2.6 challenge. The challenge was created by the people behind major fundraising events like the London Marathon in response to the impact on charities’ fundraising during the pandemic. The idea behind the 2.6 challenge was to take part in an activity of your choice based on the numbers 2.6 or 26. Then fundraise or donate to support your chosen charity.

A photograph of one of our participants on her bike during the 2.6 challenge

We had some incredible fundraisers take part in the challenge on behalf of AAM. With people running, wheeling, and cycling themselves through marathons, playing concertos 26 times, spotting 26 vehicles and birds, changing into 26 outfits in 2.6 minutes, hula hooping through 26 songs, and even washing 26 gnomes. Phew! And our incredible band of supporters raised a phenomenal £5,351 for Accessible Arts & Media.

Restarting iMUSE face-to-face sessions

As with all our sessions during the lockdown, we had to cancel all our face-to-face iMUSE sessions at Sanderson House. But our incredible iMUSE team continued to provide support to our participants during lockdown, sending regular iMUSE newsletters with useful links and tips for support wellbeing, as well as offering regular phone, text, or video catchups. And once lockdown restrictions lifted, our iMUSE team were able to offer socially distanced outdoor sessions to ensure participants had opportunities to socialise outside the home as well as providing much-needed support with their wellbeing.  

 A photo of an iMUSE participant in a session at our new venue in York

In September, once it was safe to do so, we restarted our face-to-face sessions at a new larger venue at the Wellbeing Hub in the centre of York. This new venue means that we’re able to provide a socially distanced, open, and friendly space for people to feel safe coming to. We’ve already had some really lovely feedback from people attending our sessions:

It’s the only time we get out of the house. It’s so worth the effort!

I seem to just change after the sessions – can’t you see?!

I just find it really relaxes me. 

Development of our iMUSE at home kits 

During the lockdown, our iMUSE team have also been working on creating our iMUSE at-home kit. This small and portable version of our full iMUSE kit can be delivered to people’s homes so they can take part in sessions without having to leave the house. The kits mean we can keep supporting our participants during any future lockdowns, and provide support to people who aren’t able to leave their homes to attend our face-to-face sessions. Over the last few months, we’ve been trialing the kits with some of our regular iMUSE participants and they’ve been a big hit:

I was soothed by the session and it made the next few hours more relaxing. For most of the rest of the day, it helped stop negative thoughts and feelings.

I felt more relaxed and had more energy to help me decide what else I'd like/needed to do.

I had more energy, my headaches were better, and my back was soothed by the wowee speaker.

Moving to Zoom

A screenshot of participants and staff in one of our Zoom sessions.

In the Autumn of this year, we decided to move our online sessions to Zoom so we could get back to a more project-based delivery of our programmes. Since October we’ve been running weekly IMPs, Hands & Voices, and Sensory Sessions, and thanks to our Facebook sessions, we’ve had lots of new members joining our sessions as well.

It’s been brilliant to come together on Zoom, see each other’s faces, and be creative together again. Over Halloween, our participants even wrote and performed this brilliant Halloween track, ‘Spooky Ghost’ all online.

Staying Connected

A photograph of participants taking part in one of our outdoor 1-to-1 sessions

Throughout this year we’ve also been supporting participants from our sessions who are unable to access online sessions, or who find online sessions difficult to participate in. Regular phone contact with our participants, families, and carers has helped us understand what our participants need at this time. And as a result, we've created tailored videos and activities for those participants who need them, and provided access to 1-to-1 creative phone sessions and socially distanced music-making in people’s gardens.

In a year where most of us have relied on access to online sessions and information, we’ve been working hard to make sure that digitally excluded individuals in our community are included and feel connected. 

Our Big Festive Fair

Screenshot from our Big Festive Singalong on Zoom

Normally at this time of year, our intrepid IMPs and Hands & Voices choirs would be hitting the streets of York to spread some festive cheer and fundraise for AAM as part of our Big Festive Buskathon. Obviously, this year we weren’t able to take part in our normal street busking, so we decided to take our festive celebrations online instead. On Saturday 12th December, we hosted our Big Festive Fair live on Facebook.

With our Festive Craftalong, Christmas Sensory Story, raffle, and competitions everyone had a fantastic afternoon. We wrapped up the afternoon with our Big Singalong where we invited our Facebook friends to join our IMPs and Hands & Voices choirs online to sing and sign some of their favourite Christmas Songs.

If you missed our Big Singalong, don’t worry, you can watch the video of it on our Facebook page here. And if you’d like to make a donation to support our choirs’ fundraising, we know they’d be really grateful.

As 2020 comes to a close, we’d like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our funders, supporters, project participants, Trustees, and volunteers.

Thank you so much for your support - we really couldn’t do what we do without you, especially this year!

We look forward to seeing you all again in 2021, online at first but hopefully face-to-face again very soon.