I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of loneliness and tactile deprivation.
What is loneliness?
The Dutch researcher Jenny de Jong-Gierveld defined loneliness as ‘a situation experienced by the individual as one where there is an unpleasant or inadmissible lack of (quality of) certain relationships. This includes situations in which a number of existing relationships is smaller than considered desirable or admissible or situations where the intimacy one wishes for has not been realised. Thus, loneliness is seen to involve the manner in which a person experiences and evaluates his or her isolation and lack of communication with other people.’
As the figures of loneliness rise and as we can observe or feel loneliness ourselves in our communities, peer groups, families, schools and workplaces.
What are we up to?
We are currently working on a long-term project with Kings College London looking into the impact of lack of touch on a persons sense of self.
In BitterSuite we believe in people power, in creating art that depends on:
1. It matters if the audience are physically present in the room with us. You cannot experience our work at home
2. Touch – we believe that positive tactile experiences and experiences of meaningful human touch can have a positive impact on our sense of self
A short multi-sensory piece which invites the audience to experience stories and memories of prolonged tactile deprivation. Built across five days with a team of devisors: Michelle Wright, Sam Castell Ward, Linz Nakorn and Tiiu Mortly. Without Touch is inspired by the notion that when we shake hands, hug, high five or wrap our arms around someone it brings us closer to that person. Touch helps us connect to people and the world around us. We experience touch everyday, whether sitting on a seat on the tube, feeling our clothes against our skin, or holding our mug of hot tea. But we all have our own thoughts on touch, our own boundaries. And some of us may experience too much touch, some not enough.
What happens when we are not touched, or touched rarely?
Does this lack of touch affect us? If so, how?
What does touch tell us about where we are, who we are and where we belong?
This project is delivered in collaboration with King's College London, the Arts in Mind Festival and Open Senses.
Major questions we still have
1. From the loneliness document from Jo Cox there are three top combined profiles of the most lonely people:
a. Widowed older homeowners living alone with long-term health conditions
b. Unmarried, middle-agers, with long-term health conditions
c. Younger renters with little trust and sense of belonging to their area
As this tells suggests if we consider long-term health conditions being a major barrier to access we know then that the most vulnerable and lonely people in cities are often those people that can’t just come to a show whenever they want.
How can we create work that tours not just to big venues and local theatres but to peoples homes, to community centres?
2. Deep loneliness can often only be helped by long-term contact with people you love and that love you. How can work that involves touch be more readily and consistently available? Or ….
How can we be a part of generating a movement where we think more about being close to one another?
“When all other factors are held constant, the likelihood of reporting feeling lonely more often tends to decrease with age. The 25 to 34 years, 65 to 74 years and 75 years and over age groups were all significantly less likely to be lonely more often than the 16 to 24 years age group.”
How can we reach this younger age group … and is loneliness at this age a ‘problem’ that needs fixing…?
4. Unsurprisingly …
Statistics from the office for national statistics tells us “People who feel they belong to their neighbourhood less strongly report feeling lonely more often”
How can we as artists work with communities to instil lasting change in the way we support strangers and loved ones to feel connected and part of a community?