People with dementia, their families and carers are today being urged to encourage arts venues to become dementia friendly.
The appeal is being made by Alzheimer’s Society and leading figures from the arts world including Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England, and actresses Gemma Jones and Lesley Manville. This call to action follows the launch of a new guide, ‘Becoming a dementia friendly arts venue: A practical guide’ to help arts and cultural venues become more accessible for people who are living with dementia.
Nikki Crowther, Head of Community Engagement at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Everyone has the right to participate in the arts, and for people with dementia, we know that there are many benefits. It can improve quality of life and well-being by stimulating emotions and creativity. I hope that many more arts venues will use our guide and join the movement towards a dementia friendly society.”
The guide, compiled by over 16 arts organisations and Alzheimer’s Society, is designed to be flexible and can be used by theatres, concert halls, museums and galleries of any size. Something as simple as ensuring signage is clear and creating a quiet area can enable someone with dementia to feel comfortable and enjoy the creativity the art world brings.
From the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and the Dominion theatre in London to Arts for Health in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and Beamish Museum in County Durham, some 50 theatres, galleries, museums, cinemas and arts centres have already begun to make some of the easy adaptations suggested.
Actress and Alzheimer’s Society supporter Gemma Jones, whose mother had dementia, said: ‘It’s really encouraging to see those people behind the scenes at our theatres, museums, cinemas and art galleries joining forces with Alzheimer’s Society to make those places accessible and welcoming to those affected by the condition.’
Fellow actress Lesley Manville, whose mother had dementia, has also written in the guide to offer her support.
Sir Peter echoed their sentiments, stating: ‘Dance companies, museums, theatres, music companies are all looking at how they can enrich the lives of people with dementia. Even some of the smallest changes highlighted in this guide will make a huge difference to those living with dementia and their families and carers.’
The West Yorkshire Playhouse helped to create the guide and won the best Dementia Friendly Project Award at Alzheimer’s Society’s 2015 Dementia Friendly Awards. Community Development Manager Nicky Taylor said: “We’ve made use of the arts to enhance the lives of people living with a very challenging condition and we’ve seen people with dementia shine through creative activities.”
Ken Payne, 62, from Wearside, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. Speaking about the guide, he said: “It’s wonderful to see arts venues actively welcoming people like me with open arms. Just because I have dementia doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy experiences like going to the theatre. For me, theatre and music are perfect because they keep me active and they are fantastic fun.”
The launch of the guide coincides with a special fundraising evening in association with Elf the Musical at London’s West End Dominion theatre on the 5th November, where all tickets sales will be donated to Alzheimer’s Society.