West Yorkshire Playhouse has been awarded £99,950 by 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 shaping the Festival, including its events and performances and how it reaches different communities around Leeds, West Yorkshire and beyond.
“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”, said James Brining, West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director. “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.”
Community Development Manager, Nicky Taylor, said: “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.
“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”, said Bob Fulcher, who participates in the Playhouse’s programme of activities. “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 focusing on specific aspects of dementia; and dementia friendly training opportunities for care staff and families to support the creativity of people with dementia.
It will also include a new full length play, and three short plays created by people with dementia, which will be performed at the Playhouse before touring to care homes.
The Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Dementia Care. Most recently, the Playhouse presented the ‘Strictly Ballroom – The Musical’ dementia friendly performance to over 450 attendees, as well as sharing it’s model with other UK theatres to encourage the development of a national movement of dementia friendly performances.
The grant will enable the Playhouse 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.