Blog: Theatre and dementia
Published: 15 Oct 2018
Dementia currently affects around 850,000 people across the UK, many lacking access to stimulating social and cultural experiences and at risk of becoming isolated.
My Fellowship in 2014 aimed to address this need for interaction and self-expression among people with dementia. I visited the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to explore the role theatre and the arts can play in their lives, enriching relationships and connections within families and communities. I visited many inspiring projects and found innovative practice in care homes, arts organisations, communities and academic and health research.
Below: Nicky Taylor
My Fellowship has made a huge contribution to my research and development over the past four years. I have found increased confidence in my own creative risk-taking, and in supporting people with dementia to take creative risks by sharing decision-making power with them. It influenced my approach in creating dementia-friendly theatre performances at Leeds Playhouse, and I have since written a guide for other theatres to stage such performances.
At Leeds Playhouse, I devised Every Third Minute – a festival of theatre, dementia and hope, co-created with nine Festival Curators (top picture), the majority of whom are living with dementia.
Below: Curator Pete Grogan performing at Every Third Minute
This ambitious, seven-week festival at the Playhouse involved people with dementia co-designing the festival, programming theatre shows, contributing as performers and co-writing plays about their experiences alongside professional writers. It was a great success, with 7,500 people attending events over seven weeks. I noticed the people with dementia who contributed to the festival gaining new perspectives on their own capabilities and demonstrating pride in supporting and informing others.
I’m proud and excited by the impact of my work since my Fellowship, and its contribution to a more nuanced understanding of dementia, challenging the prevailing story of dementia as purely one of loss and showing the need to recognise and value people with dementia as creative individuals.
A version of this article was first published in our 2018 newsletter. Read it here