West Yorkshire Playhouse, the UK’s foremost dementia friendly theatre having introduced the world’s first dementia friendly performance, has been awarded £99,950 from Arts Council England National Lottery funding to produce a Festival of Theatre and Dementia.
Exploring the experience of living with dementia through creative activity, the Festival will create new opportunities for older people living with dementia, collaborating with them as curators and performers.
People living with dementia will play integral roles in the shaping of the Festival, including its events and performances and how it reaches different communities in and around Leeds, and West Yorkshire and beyond.
West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining, said:
“We’re incredibly proud to develop our Festival of Theatre and Dementia, which will support people living with dementia to contribute creatively at every level of planning, curating and hosting, ensuring that it is relevant and respectful to people living with the condition.
This award builds on our reputation as the UK’s foremost dementia friendly theatre having introduced the world’s first dementia friendly performance in 2014, and producing our dementia friendly performance Best Practice guide in 2016, sharing our expertise on staging dementia friendly performances and regular creative support activities.
The creative arts are a fantastic way of supporting people to express themselves and connect with others, and we are delighted to open up our theatre to people affected by this condition.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse Community Development Manager, Nicky Taylor, said:
“Through our ongoing creative programme with people living with dementia I have repeatedly been struck by the depth of their contributions which consistently influence and enrich the Playhouse’s creative programme.
We anticipate that the Festival will bring opportunities for discussion and debate about dementia, to challenge stereotypes, and to provide a creative and fun opportunity for people with dementia to explore making and enjoying theatre.
While people with dementia face huge challenges, feeling connected and valued by their community can have an enormous impact on feelings of confidence and self-worth.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse will be working in partnership with non-arts partners and collaborating with visiting arts companies to deliver the Festival. This will include joining forces with education organisations on research and practice as well as dementia care programmes, consultancies and steering groups.
The Festival will address many perspectives on dementia; from care providers to families, children and young people, academics and most importantly people living with dementia.
Bob Fulcher, who participates in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s programme of activities said:
“When I was diagnosed with dementia I thought my life was over, but taking part in all the creative activities at the Playhouse has been brilliant. My life is actually better now than before I had dementia, because I’m taking opportunities and meeting people. My life is good.”
The Festival programme itself will offer a range of opportunities to engage, discuss and learn about what dementia means to us in today’s society, as well as a range of theatre productions. It will include workshops to engage care staff, families affected by dementia and artists making work about dementia; participatory sessions to engage people living with dementia creatively; panel events and discussions focussing on specific aspects of dementia; exhibitions documenting the creation of the festival; and dementia friendly training opportunities for care staff and families to support the creativity of people with dementia.
The Festival will also include a new commission of a full length play, as well as three short plays created by people with dementia, which will be performed at the Playhouse before touring to care homes.
West Yorkshire Playhouse pioneered dementia friendly performances, staging the world’s first dementia friendly performance in 2014. The Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Dementia Care Awards. Most recently, the Playhouse presented the Strictly Ballroom The Musical dementia friendly performance in January to over 450 attendees, as well as sharing its model with other UK theatres to encourage the development of a national movement of dementia friendly performances.
The grant will enable the Playhouse to continue to develop its work with people living with dementia, as well as develop new partnerships with both arts and non-arts organisations and relationships within the community.