A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with Older Men

A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with Older Men

By Ed Watts


A collections of case studies, lessons and top tips on engaging older men in cultural activities.


The presence of older men within activities at the Whitworth, or lack of, has been apparent for some time. Despite being in Manchester, a city known nationally and internationally for its Age Friendly credentials, older men still fall into a minority within such activities at the gallery. Through conversations with fellow programmers from other cultural organisations, big and small, it became clear this was not just a problem in Manchester.

The closure of the Whitworth for a major fifteen million pound redevelopment gave a unique opportunity to explore this in further detail, in anticipation of engaging this audience in all of what the new Whitworth has to offer. I knew that to understand why older men were not getting inolved in such activities I had to first understand what made those activities that did appeal so successful. I also wanted to ensure that older men's voices were at the heart of this research, speaking with those that participate and those that do not.

The findings of this report have all been gathered through conversations, with groups, artists, organisations and most importantly with older men. Whilst the Whitworth has been closed I’ve taken to the road, travelling the breadth of the United Kingdom from Glasgow to Bethnal Green, from Rhyl to Belfast and meeting some real characters along the way. These conversations have highlighted the diversity of this group that is often too readily described as simply “older men”. These groups are made up of men of all shapes and sizes from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds. It’s clear that an over fifties group can often work “intergenerationally” without the need to involve any primary school. These discussions opened up an array of wider debates, from funding and the role of the NHS to opening the can of worms that is gender stereotypes. It was these notions of “being a man” that made the diversity of the selected case studies so important.

Alongside these selected case studies and conversations with their groups, poet Tony Curry has been chatting with older men that do not get involved with cultural activities. He’s been discussing their views and preconceptions on such institutions and activities and producing a poem that reflects their thoughts on the matter. What better provocation to get us started...

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Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2016