Dusk. The sun sets over a valley. Two farmers, sleeves rolled up, gather wheat and stack it across a field. Further down, three others work with a horse and haycart in front of a shaded farmhouse. Adrian Allinson’s painting depicts a late summer harvesting scene. Autumn beckons.
Outreach at The National Archives is always looking for new and inspiring ways to use our visual collections to improve wellbeing and maintain good mental health. To mark National Day of Arts in Care Homes, we’ve selected three images from our collection that can inspire activities to do just this.
Taking place Sunday 24 September, it’s a day to champion, promote and encourage arts engagement in care settings. 2023’s theme is reflections, fitting for a time when the days get shorter, temperatures cool, and autumn arrives.
Look at the image below. What activities are taking place?
When you look at this image what word or words spring to mind? You can almost sense the warmth of the late summer sun on the backs of the workers, the coarseness of the hay in their hands, tired limbs. Do they have time to take in the splendour of the multi-coloured landscape?
This image was produced during the Second World War to motivate people to work and produce food on the land. It was used as part of the Dig for Victory campaign. The government encouraged people to plant gardens to supplement their rations and boost morale. In Britain, waste ground, sports fields and golf courses were requisitioned for farming and vegetable growing.
- Such imagery can inspire us to think about autumn foods. The harvesting of wheat is a key ingredient of bread making – see a video and bread recipe at Taste of Home
- Or we could dream up a simple baking recipe to fill ourselves up on autumnal nights.
- How about baking an autumn treat like a cinnamon apple pie or poaching plums with sugar and citrus juice?
2. A Night Out
We have chosen the image below as it reminds us of planning a night out to the theatre, cinema or gallery.
Does this poster remind you of a special night out? Perhaps you remember travelling by car or train to see a play, a film or other entertainment. Maybe the image makes you think of music from a recital or a musical? Can you sing or hum some of it?
The image reminds us of how busy cities are, how they stimulate our senses. Imagine the noise, the fumes from the cars, people chatting in the street, the chill in the air. Is it exciting, reminding you of fun nights out? Or too loud and busy?
This poster from the Edwardian era illustrates the famous arch of Euston station built in 1837 and demolished in 1962. The arch was not only a fitting gateway to the Midlands, but to the whole new world which the railway opened for people.
- Inspired by the Euston Arch image discuss with a friend one of the memorable evenings out you have experienced? What made it special? Perhaps you would like to write a poem or short story about it – jot down a few words.
- Tips for writing: Leap straight in – don’t try to say too much. You can use some tools or techniques to make your poem memorable; repeat key words. Appeal to one or more of the senses – for example sound, smell, touch. Can you think of the sounds and smells this busy night-time image helps evoke?
3. Apple Picking
Did you know that there is a national apple day in the UK on 21 October. This image reminds us of all things apples.
Perhaps this image reminds you of growing something in your garden, whether fruit or vegetables and having the satisfaction of eating them. Or the frustration of finding them eaten or damaged by insects or wildlife! Perhaps you can recall the specific taste of toffee apples at a fair or times cooking apples at home?
Apple growing in Britain was introduced by the Romans, but the British taste for cider dominated apple production by the Middle Ages. Monks in monasteries also began planting orchards from the 12th century onwards. With the cultivation of new varieties in the Victorian period orchards increased vastly in numbers in Britain.
This poster was produced during the Second World War to encourage people to save and store food during wartime. The theme of austerity was commonplace in many posters produced by the Ministry of Information, of which this is one.
- Can you name different varieties of apples grown here in the UK? Here are a few to start you off, Royal Gala, Cox, Russets… Can you think of a few more?
- Perhaps you can recall a celebration when apples were used? Apple Wassailing – shouting and banging on pots – takes place on 12th Night in January in South West England, or the fun of apple bobbing at Hallowe’en?
- Try drawing a simple tree with branches. Now use your fingers to paint the tree using different colour paints or crayon. You will be surprised how relaxing it is.
There are all sorts of autumnal activities that you can participate in:
- A popular activity is berry picking for puddings or breakfast.
- Have you tried pressing leaves and flowers. They make nice keepsakes or gifts to share with loved ones or to place in a memory box. Put the leaves inside some heavy books and press each leaf between the pages. After about a week they should be dried and perfectly patterned. They can then be used as art and craft material – glued into collages for example or simply admired for their beauty.
We hope to have inspired you to some autumnal wellbeing!