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How arts and cultural projects are proving life doesn’t end when Dementia begins

Dementia can be isolating and lonely. Between 15 and 21 May 2016, the Alzheimer’s Society is raising awareness to show people that life doesn't end when dementia begins.

We know from our research that taking part in arts and culture can have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. It is one of the reasons why public investment in arts and culture is so important.

Here are some of the projects the Arts Council funds across England which give people living with dementia opportunities to take part in great artistic and cultural experiences, or which are helping us understand the impact of dementia on people’s lives.

An older lady in a red shawl chats to a young man

Plymouth Music Zone session in residential care. Photo © Kevin Clifford


Last year, Punchdrunk Enrichment transformed a room in Greenhive care home in Peckham into a village green, complete with a florist’s, a phone box and smells of freshly cut grass.

Peter Higgin, Enrichment Director for Punchdrunk, said: “Our ambition for Greenhive Greenwas to give the residents including those living with dementia an empowering and magical experience."

Residents came together to form the village committee of Greenhive Green, gathering weekly in the fictional world. Driven by the story of Greenhive Green’s ongoing rivalry with neighbouring village Blarford, residents and care home staff participated in multi-sensory activities which have varied from writing poetry to planting flowers.

Greenhive Green was the first project in a two-year programme across four London care homes. Companies taking part in the programme in 2016 are performance artist and activist Lois Weaver, alt-cabaret collective Duckie and aerialist and circus company, Upswing. Research from the programme will be published in June 2016 and February 2017.


The Courtyard in Hereford was the first official Dementia Friendly arts venue in England. On Thursday 19 May, the venue is hosting its annual Remember Me event full of culture, creativity and practical advice and support from the Alzheimer’s Society.

Rob Gee’s latest show, Forget Me, is an ‘Alzheimer’s Whodunnit’ inspired by his experiences as a psychiatric nurse. It asks people to think about how we treat and perceive people living with Dementia. Since seeing it, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust has recruited Rob to use the play as part of its training for its healthcare professionals.

At the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford see an exhibition of Forget-me-nots made by local community groups and schools. Attached to the flowers are messages written by people living with dementia.


Liverpool’s Collective Encounters’ Live & Learn programme offers training for those caring for people with dementia about how the arts can be embedded into their day-to-day caring routine, using theatre as a tool to educate about the experience of living with dementia.

Hoot Creative Arts Being Creative project provides quality creative activities for people who are concerned about their memory, or who are in the process of obtaining or already have a diagnosis of early stage dementia.  There are two groups, in North Kirklees and Huddersfield, and the sessions include music and song, movement and dance, and visual art.  You can watch a film of Swept Into the Palais, an original piece of music and dance created by the Huddersfield group with musician Rob Crisp here.

iPad engAGE helps those living with dementia to use tablet computers to improve their engagement and digital confidence and takes place all over the north. Its current Intergenerational Project has received £11,200 in Grants for the Arts funding and is taking place in South Shields.

South East

Suffolk Artlink worked with DanceEast to commission a new dementia friendly interactive dance performance designed for older people. ‘A Little Bit of Light’ combined music, dance and participation for its audiences. The piece was performed in seven different care settings across Suffolk.

Zest Communities is a  six  month  pilot  project by Bright Shadow  providing  fortnightly, high quality participatory arts  workshops  to  people  with  dementia or memory problems  and  their  carers  living  in  Thanet. Taking place in arts venues across Margate, it gives participants the opportunity to explore different art forms, such as visual art, music, dance and theatre. As part of the project, Bright Shadow is working with each of the participating venues to provide training and consultation in how to be dementia friendly in a sustainable way.

A smiling lady plays a tambourine

Plymouth Music Zone session in residential care. Photo © Kevin Clifford

South West

Plymouth Music Zone delivers music sessions to older people with dementia in residential care homes across the city of Plymouth as well as in two specialist Dementia Care Units. Specialist Music Leaders tailor weekly creative music-making and singing sessions to give the highest quality of life to older people, those with dementia and their families.

Co-produced by Plymouth Dance and Miss Ivy Events Tea Dances with a Twist! is a monthly intergenerational social event held at Plymouth Guildhall, particularly geared towards those with Dementia. Highly trained dance experts teach a variety of dance styles, from Waltz, Jive and Cha Cha Cha to the Charlestone, Lindy Hop and Hip Hop, accompanied by live music.   

The Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) Orchestra is an orchestra for people with first-onset dementia and their carers. Participants learn to play a string musical instrument alongside professional symphony orchestra musicians, in rehearsals and performances.

Find out more 

Find out more about Dementia Awareness Week

Follow the Alzheimer’s Society and the Arts Council on Twitter.

Sign up for our e-newsletter to find out about funding, what we’re up to and how you can get involved in making the case for art and culture.

Read more about our research on how arts and culture helps combat loneliness.


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