Creating outreach activities for people with dementia

Bristol Culture shares how it has responded to Covid and new ways of working
Older People
Ailsa Richardson
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Paper cranes created by Bristol Culture
Paper cranes created by Bristol Culture

Bristol Culture had just started a new season of Creative Cafes – our pop-up dementia friendly cafes for people living with dementia and their carers and family members – when the Covid pandemic began in the UK.

At Creative Cafe, participants are supported to visit galleries, meeting curators and artists, and engage in creative activities that encourage communication and new experiences. We also run Artbox, an activity box that draws on the sessions in the Creative Cafes and can be taken out to those in care homes and hospital wards who are unable to visit

When lockdown happened, we collectively asked “how can we respond?”. We had mainly been working with care homes and hospitals, who now found themselves at the centre of the crisis, so initially we wanted to send “gifts” to support and promote conversation in these settings.

We ran online workshops for artists and staff to make hangings for windows using origami and words. After checking with our Creative Cafe participants that they would be able to receive these, we packaged them up and sent them to care homes and individuals signed up to the project.

The response was positive, so our next question was: “What might the next stage of delivery be when the crisis is past its peak?”

I worked with artists to devise projects that could be delivered by post. We also consulted with carers, activity coordinators and hospital staff via Zoom about how to do this in accessible ways.

The result is Being Human Moves, a series of seven postcards suggesting movement and dance activities in response to sculptures from the Being Human sculpture exhibition (until April 2021) and the World Cultures collection. These were created in collaboration with a local dance practitioner and our arts development officer.

We will print 1,000 postcards and send out to our contacts, on request and use for outreach workshops. We also hope to draw on our experiences of creating ArtBox and work with Bristol’s City Poet Caleb Parkin to create some Being Human poetry packs, which will have a hand-made gift quality and include word and poetry activities and games.

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We hope to involve front of house staff and volunteers in making up the packs.

My advice to any museum that wants to keep delivering activity projects in the community is to continually get feedback about whether planned models are appropriate and to allow ideas to inform the design and delivery. It’s also important to have a creative and collaborative approach where museum staff, artists and volunteers work together to create physical and digital resources that can be sent out to people.

We have lost so much of what is valuable to participants and staff in the Creative Cafe model, but we are keeping in contact and supporting people living with dementia and carers as best we can – and using our creativity to find solutions to this end.

Ailsa Richardson is the engagement officer for older people at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

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