(DON’T) MENTION DEMENTIA: engagement work in the UK through art
This source preferred by Clare Cutler
Authors: Cutler, C., Innes, A. and Eland, D.
Start date: 1 May 2014
Public perceptions of dementia are often based on negative impressions and stigmatizing views about what dementia is and what living with dementia might be like. This innovative arts project uses a unique public engagement process to collect honest and raw accounts of these impressions and views. The aims of the project are to contribute to a fundamental change in public perceptions about dementia as well as give an alternative way to give voice to those with dementia.
This public engagement project collected both the views of the general public and those living with dementia using a ‘diary room’ technique. People with dementia and members of the general public were asked to provide a handwritten story of their experiences/views on a postcard. In a digital age and in the content of dementia there is nothing more powerful than the handwritten account. Over a period of 12 weeks Bournemouth University Dementia Institute staff and volunteer students worked with people with dementia and the general public to collect these stories. Stakeholder support was key to the success of this project, either at the national level through the Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK as well as stakeholders at a local level. This enabled the project to have access to a wide range of groups of people with dementia.
Hundreds of handwritten stories from people with dementia and members of the public were collected during the engagement phase. As well as collecting written stories about peoples’ views about dementia we took digital images of the people who wrote their stories to demonstrate that visually it is not always possible to actually know who has dementia.
The stories and images were exhibited for the first time in the UK June 2013 and the reaction and comments of members of the public who viewed the work were also collected. Hundreds of people wrote about their response to the exhibition, also on a postcard.
The work and resulting exhibition has attracted huge attention because of the power of the work and the uniqueness of the approach. It is exhibited here for this conference to view. Please also take a postcard and write your response to the exhibition. The approach, which is a collaboration between Bournemouth University and artist Derek Eland, provides the basis for a wider roll out to other parts of the UK and beyond. This approach offers a way to challenge and change perceptions of dementia.