Creative arts project through to finals of dementia competition

A team from the University of Essex are through to the finals of Challenge Dementia, a national search for products and services to transform how people live with dementia.

The team has proposed a creative communities project, using the arts to help people living with dementia in Essex express themselves.

The programme will bring together people with dementia, their families, colleges and universities, local health and social care organisations, and charities.

Dr Mary Kennedy, Lecturer at the University’s School of Health and Social Care and one of the project leads, said: “We’re very aware that dementia is on the increase and there’s so much more we can do to raise awareness.

“Our aim is to help people living with dementia stay in their communities, remain independent and empowered, and feel their voices are heard.”

The Essex team is one of nine finalists who will each receive a grant of £5,000 to develop and test their ideas for six months, with the help of experts from both public and private sector organisations. A winner will be chosen in December 2018 to receive a £100,000 prize to invest in their project.

The team will start with drop-in events for local people to share their ideas. The feedback will be used to develop a programme of creative workshops, which could include creative writing, poetry, drama, digital stories and interactive fiction.

People living with dementia will be able to share their stories and talk about their lives, increasing awareness of their experiences.  There are also plans to develop new plays to perform locally and run poetry evenings.

Dr Kennedy added: “Getting involved in community events can help keep people with dementia active and independent. We’ll initially be working with people at the early stages but in the future we’d like to look at how we can work with those with more advanced dementia.”

Challenge Dementia, pioneered by Essex County Council, is a national prize looking for innovative ideas that could enable people living with dementia to remain connected to the people and places around them.