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A public exhibition will feature tales and imagery of life with dementia

Exhibition highlights tales and imagery of life with dementia

A public exhibition will feature poems, cartoons and images created by well-known artists working with people with dementia.

The insightful works, part of a University of Exeter research project, will be on show during Dementia Action Week (May 21-27). It captures moments of difficulty, and also love, joy and laughter, showing the multifaceted experience of life with dementia.

The project involved photographer Ian Beesley, cartoonist Tony Husband and poet Ian McMillan working with people with dementia and their partners who are part of Age UK Exeter’s Budding Friends project. The exhibition will also feature artworks from similar workshops with the ‘Ragamuffins’ remembering group in Oldham.

Together, the artists and Budding Friends group created “The Allotment of Time”, a book that captures heart-warming, humorous and poignant moments of what it is like to live with a dementia diagnosis. Now, some of the work will be on show at the Forum at the University of Exeter from May 21 to 23, before moving to the Guildhall Shopping Centre in Exeter on May 24. Both venues have agreed to host the event for free.

Professor Linda Clare, at the University of Exeter, who leads the research programme, said: “One of our key goals at Exeter is to support people to live well with dementia. Often, the public perception of dementia is a downward spiral from diagnosis, but we know that people can continue to live fulfilling lives with the right support. I’d encourage people to come and see the result of this collaboration with people with dementia using drawings, photographs and writing. It provides a real insight into the experiences of those living with dementia.”

The artworks are part of  ‘A Life More Ordinary’, a project led by Professor Linda Clare at the University of Exeter, in collaboration with Innovations in Dementia and funded by the  Economic and Social Research Council and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). It is part of the wider IDEAL study – which stands for Improving the Experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life.

Professor Clare teamed up with Age UK Exeter and their Budding Friends group to initiate a series of workshops with the artists.  

Martyn Rogers, Age UK Exeter’s chief executive, said “This fantastic partnership with the University of Exeter has enabled people with dementia who attend our Budding Friends group to have the chance to work with three brilliant artists and create wonderful artwork that has humour and insight. I’d encourage everyone to go and see the exhibition – it may challenge some of your perceptions of what life with dementia is all about.”

Photographer Ian Beesley said: “This has been one of the most satisfying and enjoyable projects I have worked on. Unfortunately the usual representation of people with dementia concentrates mainly on the negative  aspects of the condition and very rarely offers a balanced or positive portrayal. Working with 'Budding Friends' we soon realised that  they as a group concentrate on turning the negative to the positive with  fun, laughter, friendship  and support. Our interaction with them has given us, as artists, a greater understanding of dementia and by collaborating with this articulate and enthusiastic group hopefully we have been able to  translate and represent their feelings and thoughts in a sensitive and positive way.

Workshops are also taking place in Kent and Oldham. The photos, poetry and drawings from each group will be used for booklets and to add to this touring exhibition, and to form a royalty-free archive of artwork.

For more information, visit or follow @IDEALStudyTweet on Twitter.

Date: 17 May 2018

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