It’s been a busy year for our Education department’s Dementia and Creativity Group! Meeting weekly on Thursday mornings, the sessions give those with dementia and their partners, carers or companions, an opportunity to explore different ways of expressing themselves through the arts with the aim of improving their wellbeing, as well as motor skills, memory and problem solving.
Members of the group recently immersed themselves in the world of clay with a trip to the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) Tactile Project Space at All Saints Church in Hanley, making their own tiles in celebration of Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramics heritage. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to find out that the ‘clay’ being used had come from a construction site, the templates they got to choose to make an imprint in their tile were Minton tile patterns, and that they would be surrounded by wildflower seeds. They are looking forward to seeing their beautifully made tiles, which will contribute to an ‘urban meadow’ in the city, in spring 2024. The day was rounded off by a tour around All Saints Church, where they enjoyed seeing some of the most exciting ceramics being made today.
But this wasn’t the group’s first dip into the universe of pottery – the visit came just a few weeks after their trip to World of Wedgwood in Barlaston where they also participated in a tile making workshop but using leftover jasperware, making them into different shapes and pressing flowers in them. They very much enjoyed drinking tea and eating finger sandwiches from crockery which they’d been admiring in the shop beforehand!
Other crafts the group have turned their hands to this year include button artworks, bird feeders and rain instruments.
And the group aren’t shy to tread the boards too! In 2023 they drummed their way through a samba session, watched the New Vic and Bolton Octagon’s co-production of Ladies’ Day, and took part in a drama workshop with Told by an Idiot (the New Vic’s co-producers on The Killing of Sister George).
They rounded off the year with the ‘Peter Cheeseman-style’ play Name Our Show in the New Vic auditorium – about a theatre ice-cream seller who steps in to save the day of a theatre production and is discovered by a talent scout – in just 12 hour-long rehearsals!
When they’re not dabbling in ceramics, or producing a show in the New Vic auditorium, they can sometimes be found simply completing a jigsaw and having a good chat, which they enjoy just as much.
We spoke to some of the members of the group to find out what these sessions mean to them:
“When I first came, there would be activities where I’d think ‘I don’t know whether I want to do this’, I didn’t think I was good enough. Then somebody came and took me under their wing, and I just couldn’t wait for the next session. We once did a walk through the butterfly garden at the New Vic and wrote poems when we came back, which I hadn’t done before – it was absolutely lovely.”
“My wife Ann was diagnosed in 2016. It’s helping her to talk, negotiate, listen and getting her out of the four walls. We’re living a lovely life. We had somebody come into one of the sessions who taught us to draw to music and that’s now changed Ann’s life, she’ll spend hours drawing and colouring. We’ve never looked back, we’re very thankful. She loves coming here. Everything they can throw at us, we’ll have a go.”
Bob (Ann’s husband)
“There are several ways in which this group has helped me, including my general feeling about getting about and having other people who want to see me. It’s an enjoyable thing to do anyway, but also a good thing to do because it keeps you up and alive, and interested, and there’s a chance that you come across people and things you haven’t seen before. With a place like this, we can attack anything, nothing is too hard when you have the right people with you.”
“Chris missed the final play [Name Our Show] because of being in hospital, but he was part of creating it, everybody participated. And since then, we’ve made tiles, written poetry; we’ve had a fantastic time. It’s at the core of Chris to be creative and here he can be creative.”
Elizabeth (Chris’ friend)
The Dementia and Creativity Group is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and continues to meet on Thursday mornings – with lots of planning currently in place for 2024’s activities!