The chair of Arts Council England is backing a practical guide to help arts and cultural venues become more accessible for people who are living with dementia and their loved ones.
Sir Peter Bazalgette endorsed the new publication by Alzheimer’s Society, in a bid to encourage arts venues to put dementia centre-stage.
Speaking about the new guide, Sir Peter, who wrote its foreword, said: “Arts deliver intrinsically, educationally, economically and also socially.
“There’s an increasing realisation that ‘social prescribing’ can really make a difference, and as part of that, dance companies, museums, theatres, music companies are all looking at how they can enrich the lives of people with dementia.
“Encouraging cultural spaces to share good practice with one another and giving them the confidence to put changes in place is really important.
“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.”
Alzheimer’s Society joined forces with leading figures from the arts world in a bid to create dementia friendly cultural settings.
From the West Yorkshire Playhouse to Arts for Health Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, some 19 organisations have joined forces with Alzheimer’s Society to produce the expert guide titled ‘Becoming a dementia friendly arts venue: A practical guide’.
The Dominion theatre is one of many venues that have started their journey towards becoming dementia friendly. Dozens are already blazing a trail towards being dementia friendly and now Alzheimer’s Society hope more follow suit.
Speaking about the new guide, Nikki Crowther, Head of Community Engagement at Alzheimer’s Society said: “I am extremely proud to announce the creation of this guide to help arts venues become dementia friendly and I congratulate all those venues already leading the way in becoming dementia friendly.
“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 being a stimulating and enjoyable experience.
“We hope this guide encourages other arts venues to start their dementia friendly journey and that people affected by dementia will urge their local arts venues to make the most of a guide.”
The guide forms an important part of a wider initiative – the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia which paved the way for a Champion Group on the Arts which produced the document.
It has been positively received by people affected by dementia
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 theatre. For me, theatre and music are perfect because they keep me active and they are fantastic fun.”
Actress Gemma Jones, whose mother had dementia, said: “There is a long way to go towards a dementia-friendly society but this is another important step in the right direction. Now I just hope that people in the arts right across the country will embrace the new arts guide.”
Fellow actress Lesley Manville, whose mother had dementia, has also written in the guide to express her support.
The guide offers practical advice on how to engage with people with dementia and their carers, how to make the venue more dementia friendly and accessible, and how to adjust programming to be inclusive.
It is designed to be flexible and can be used by theatres, concert halls, museums and galleries of any size to assess how they can best attract and support people living with dementia and their carers.
West Yorkshire Playhouse community development manager Nicky Taylor, whose organisation won the best Dementia Friendly Project Award at the 2015 Dementia Friendly Awards, 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.”
The guide can be downloaded from alzheimers.org.uk/arts and hard copies are available on request by calling 0300 303 5933 or emailing email@example.com and quoting product code 944.
(from a press release)