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3 May 2019

Our Dementia Choir – our Dementia Creative Movement

Harriet Lowe & David Cutler
If you've been inspired by Our Dementia Choir on BBC 1 this week, we've put some resources together to signpost you to dementia-friendly music and arts activities, whether you're looking to participate or develop them!

On 2 May, the BBC will air the first of two episodes of Our Dementia Choir. It promises to be a landmark event showing the transformative power of singing and music in the lives of people living with dementia. Vicky McClure, one of the most famous actresses in Britain, was moved to be involved by the experience of caring for her Nana Iris who had dementia. We decided to use this important moment to curate some of the fantastic work taking place across the UK which amounts to a creative movement of people living with dementia and the artists who work with them.

We’ve roughly divided our highlights by audience, but many will be of interest to all. More on this website and of course elsewhere!

For people living with dementia and their families/carers/friends

  • Luminate, the creative ageing agency for Scotland, is not only running its month-long national participatory arts festival but on 11 May will launch a new Scottish network for dementia-friendly choirs, funded by the Life Changes Trust and the Baring Foundation. The network launches with a massed voice intergenerational sing-along at Aberdeen Music Hall.
  • From 1-31 May, the Age of Creativity Festival of England is promoting many regular and one-off participatory music & singing activities for people living with dementia as well as relaxed performances in cinemas and theatres. A quick look at their handy regional brochures reveals a dementia-friendly choir in Telford, a folk dance and live music event in Southampton, a relaxed performance of West Side Story at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and much more …
  • The 2019 upcoming BBC Get Creative Festival is also about to start, kicking off on the 11 May and running until 19 May. This year has been supported by the Foundation to focus on intergenerational creativity and there will be many, many free dementia-friendly activities all over the country. Check out the BBC’s Get Creative Festival website.
  • These festivals couldn’t happen without the increasing numbers of arts organisations and community groups who have developed their own dementia-friendly programming and activities. One stand-out large-scale example is Spitalfields Music Festival’s Endless Imagination project which is co-producing music in care homes in the London borough of Tower Hamlets over three years. It’s worth asking your local arts and heritage venues what they do.
  • If getting out is hard, City Arts (which Vicky McClure supports in her home town of Nottingham) has produced a remarkable free app called the Armchair Gallery for people living with dementia to creatively appreciate a series of galleries and heritage sites. The Armchair Gallery can be enjoyed by anyone at home or in a care setting.
City Arts Armchair Gallery app

For arts venues and arts organisations

An ever-increasing number of arts venues and organisations (theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries) are providing dementia-friendly creative activities – and sharing their experiences with others:

  • Bingo to Bartok commissioned by the Foundation from Orchestras Live and the City of London Sinfonia features some inspirational projects led by orchestras for people living with dementia.
  • Leeds Playhouse Guide to Dementia Friendly Performances is an excellent guide for arts venues. The Playhouse also ran an award-winning, pioneering festival for dementia and theatre last year funded by Arts Council England and the Foundation. The specialist arts organisation Arts 4 Dementia can also support arts and heritage organisations to become more dementia friendly.
  • There is now an Age Friendly Museums Network (funded by the Foundation) which supports the many galleries and museums committed to involving their older visitors creatively. Well-known examples include Dulwich Picture Gallery in London and The Whitworth in Manchester, but there are hundreds of similar organisations around the country doing the same.
  • The Arts Council Northern Ireland is about to release new resources and films about arts and dementia, as well as hold a national consultation workshop on this topic on 22 May aimed at artists of all disciplines.
  • The recent Treasury of Arts Activities for Older People by Liz Postlethwaite and published by the Foundation is designed specifically for artists and contains a whole range of dementia-friendly activities and some thoughtful advice on how to work with people living with a dementia.
  • Professor Seb Crutch who appears in Our Dementia Choir, led a major arts and dementia initiative at the Wellcome Trust called Created Out of Mind, which has produced a free online course on Dementia and the Arts. Anyone can take part – people living with a dementia, carers, artists and healthcare practitioners.
Every Third Minute festival at Leeds Playhouse

For care homes

At least three-quarters of the 400,000 people living in care homes will have dementia, so arts practice has to be dementia-friendly.

  • Music charity Live Music Now have developed the A Choir in Every Care Home initiative, which includes toolkits for musicians and care home providers to help bring more music into homes.
  • One of the most large-scale examples of arts in a care home setting is the artists-in-residence programme in Wales called cARTrefu run by Age Cymru. They have also produced a pack of arts activities which others can use.
  • There are hundreds of arts organisations engaging people with dementia as part of their broader programme who can support care homes with arts activities. The Treasury (above) was created with contributions from such organisations across the country and is a good source of contacts.
Live Music Now music in care homes session, Gloucester

Join the movement!