Being flexible and inspiring participants creatively: focus on the artist’s experience…

Dementia and Imagination

Using art in dementia friendly communities

​Welcome to our first newsletter of 2015!

Dementia and Imagination is a large study with many aspects to it. One of the study’s work packages involves conducting visual arts interventions for people with dementia and ran by a team of professional artists.

As part of this we are asking the artists to think about their practice and how they adopt and respond to the people they are working with, changing their plan to help facilitate engagement.

This month, artist Claire Ford shares some of her thoughts on the first two groups held in Newcastle which have involved people with dementia who are at varying stages of the condition. You can find out some of her reflections on the first half of the interventions of page two.

It’s an exciting year for the study, with data collection in full flow and hopefully, towards the end of the year, we’ll be able to start sharing some of our initial findings. We hope you enjoy this newsletter and we look forward to sharing the next year of our studies activities, with you.

The D & I team

Dementia and Art: stories from Dementia and Imagination

The new gallery on the Dementia and Imagination website, with artwork from group 1 in Denbighshire.

Sharing our research activity ever more widely is an important part of Dementia and  Imagination. By sharing our research activity we hope to ensure that our findings make a difference – by letting policy makers, health commissioners as well assharing within the local communities in which we all live – by knowing what we are doing, how and why.

Our website now includes two galleries featuring work from the first two groups in Denbighshire. We will be adding to this on-line exhibit over the next few months, and hope to feature work from all three intervention sites.

We’ve also now started using Storify;a tool which collects together conversations from across the internet for an event or theme. We’ve made two stories so far and you find them at:

We hope that bringing together dialogues that relate to Dementia and Imagination may provide an insight not only into our research but with other research and stories of interest to you.

Focus on: artistic process

Our three groups of artists are all working in different intervention settings: in Newcastle, Equal Arts and artists Claire Ford and Kate Sweeney have been to two care homes so far. Here Claire shares some of her thoughts and observations from the two groups so far and talks about how the artists adapted their practice in each location, in response to the capacity of the participants:

“At Oakdale Lodge we approached the workshops with sensory exploration. The residents had greater needs and responded well when the five senses were stimulated. Colour, shape and bringing the outside – in worked particularly well. Artworks that inspired the sessions were Henri Matisse and Joseph Cornell.

The sessions really evoked expression and new ways of communication, which was truly special to see and be part of.”

A visit to the Baltic for the Oakdale Lodge group.

“At Cranlea it became quite obvious that the group of residents were very able, both verbally and physically. Drawing on these abilities we decided to design some ambitious sessions, trying some exciting and risk taking techniques. The workshops consisted of painting with our feet whilst dancing, paint bombs, drawing around our bodies, posing and re-creating our bodies through expression and making puppets of the residents and bringing them to life with their personal story!”

“As Artists, Cranlea was an ideal setting. We were able to develop concepts from various art work starting points such as Klein Yves and Louise Bourgeois and really push the limits of what was possible. It was a magical and moving set of workshops, exploring older peoples’ physicality and expression.” 

“The sessions were very active, full of energy and excitement – the residents were always up for trying something new and got stuck in! Cranlea recently concluded in a trip to the Baltic Mill and a celebration event, which inspired a great sense of pride and achievement, bringing together families and care staff.”

“As an Artist, I feel privileged and honoured to have had the opportunity to work with both Oakdale Lodge and Cranlea Care Home. The collaboration with Artist, Kate Sweeney has deepened my practice and I am thriving on the co-creation of ideas and evaluation.”

“We are excited to start on our new adventure at Princess House Care Home next week!”

With thanks to Claire for sharing some of her reflections on the study so far. 

Group members engaged in making during two of the art sessions at Cranlea Care Home.

Intervention site updates

We’ve already heard that the Newcastle site has now completed two waves of the interventions and will now progress onto a third care home, further afield in Sunderland. Here’s a short update from our other two sites:


Group two is finally underway having been hampered by the recent spell of snow! The group met for an introductory session with artists Jo Dacombe and Gill Brent, with interest sparked by a box of objects, all with roots and links to South America. The session linked to a current exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary called ’Rights of Nature: art and ecology in the Americas’.

In the first art session the group looked at a sculpture of a woman, noticing what it was made of and how it was constructed. They then decorated masks using a variety of materials to hand.

A series of landscape photographs sparked a lot of interest and inspired the making of the some ephemeral landscapes using a mix of natural materials.

The group are now settling in to the routine of art viewing, making, curating the sessions work and finishing with a cup of tea and conversation. 

Landscapes produced by members of the Derbyshire group in their second session.


Group three is now well underway in Ruthin: the David Poston exhibition provided a source of initial inspiration, with a lot of thought on the use of varied materials in his artwork as well as the functionality but also beauty of jewellery.

Since then the group have explored screen printing over several weeks making individuals and larger group pieces to be hung as banners.

Group three in Denbighshire exploring using clay.

Research Round-up:

‘Telling Stories’ and other events

Dementia is a very topical subject at the moment: At the end of February we saw a hive of activity: the launch of the ‘Join Dementia Research’ campaign, Red Nose Day devoting a day on Twitter to ‘dementia diaries’ with stories by people living with dementia and their families and the government updating its Dementia Strategy.

Thinking about how we share our dementia stories and dementia research, researcher Teri Howson spent the afternoon of the Wednesday 25th February discussing how the media tells stories and thinking about how (as researchers) we can communicate about our research more effectively. One of the key outcomes of the day was that we can’t control the media or the story, but we can contribute to the conversation. We’ll try to keep it in mind as we look this summer to share the story (so far) of our study…

D&I accepted to the British Gerontology Society Conference

The team submitted a panel of four papers to this years conference with the theme: ‘Ageing in challenging times: challenges and future prospects’. The conference takes place from the 1st-3rd July 2015.

New places to discover Dementia and Imagination in 2015

We’ve seen great success with our twitter account, making connections with people from other projects and research studies across the UK and also abroad. We’ve also seen interest from care professionals and advisors, advocates for improved dementia care as well as family members and people living with dementia.

We hope to expand this now with the introduction of our Facebook page. We hope this will provide an informal snapshot of the research for you, colleagues and friends to connect with. 

Celebrating Research

The Dementia and Imagination research is jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council under the Connected Communities programme.

Both councils celebrate key anniversaries this year: the AHRC is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary whilst the ESRC celebrates 50 years of research.

We are delighted to be completing our interventions and moving towards the analysis of our data during this important year for both research councils. Dementia and Imagination extends thanks to both the AHRC and ESRC as we look toward disseminating the studies results in 2015 and 2016.

​Looking forward to Spring and our next newsletter…

It might have been a cold start to the year but we’re already looking ahead to Spring. Our next newsletter will be out in April with some changes to our intervention sites:

The Denbighshire group move further down the county from Ruthin to Llangollen, in Newcastle the third group moves onto a new location in Sunderland. Discussions on the setting for group three in Derbyshire are underway and as ever we’ll keep you updated with progress. 

Work produced by a participant from group two in Denbighshire


Important information

We are happy for you to share this newsletter with other people, but we do not wish for any part of it to be changed or used for commercial purposes. Images are subject to copyright and permission should be sought for their use. Occasionally, we may share images from other sources for which we have sought permission to use.

The information contained in this newsletter is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by the Dementia and Imagination project team. We endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct. However, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the newsletter or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained in the newsletter. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this newsletter.

We may sometimes include links to websites and other information which are not under the control of the Dementia and Imagination project team. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.