“This is Me”

Creation of art and poetry photobooks

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Art has no limits

For the last eight months I have been involved in organising an art and poetry project for the Day Opportunities Group run by Alzheimer Scotland at the Lothian Early Onset Service (LEOSS) in Edinburgh.

I approached LEOSS after building links with the Scottish Poetry Library to run a trial series of art and poetry themed workshops. Ordinarily at Art in Healthcare we run art workshops as the mainstay of our Outreach Programme with sessions primarily seeking to encourage social interaction, build self-esteem and facilitate self-expression. As a charity we advocate the healing potential of art, focusing our efforts on art provision for those accessing health and social care services. This ranges from artwork rental to large hospitals to art workshops in sheltered housing. Art has no limits; sometimes just a case of finding the best way to work with it in particular contexts.

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Art & Poetry Working Together

Regarding the art and poetry project entitled, This is Me, we set out to explore how art and poetry could work together for the benefit of people with early onset dementia through creating photobooks uniquely representing every participant.

The result was a fascinating series of sessions culminating with a buzzing ‘celebratory event’ at the end. The combination of art and poetry seemed to provide a good balance between group chat and discussion about poetry followed by quiet and focused drawing – different activities to suit different people. The result, however, was a united photobook for each person, bringing together a range of poems each participant had liked or showed a connection with beside artworks they had created, and a poem they wrote themselves; book of images and words, prefaced with a mini biography of their basic likes, hobbies and interests to set the scene.

The idea when planning the project was that individuals could have a book about themselves to share with friends, family and carers, something to be proud of that would speak for itself. Sure enough in the event at the end, one participant commented,

Ordinarily I would go home and watch TV but now I can go home and look at this and remember my life and what I’ve done. I can also share this with my sons with no need to talk or explain. This brings back what’s fading away.”

In each book, the content was all carefully created by and gathered from the participants and we are confident that the ‘This is Me’ identity aspect of the project shone through in the books and that the participants’ pride in receiving their books at the end was widespread.

Partnerships: An Artist and a Poetpic 3

While the project did require some careful and complex planning with a few hiccups along the way, the result was exceptionally positive. The provision of an artist and poet running joint workshops for a small group of people with early onset dementia proved to be extremely stimulating and worthwhile for the participants. Supported by a volunteer from Art in Healthcare as another friendly face and extra pair of hands, we felt that everyone got the chance to express themselves, have their voice heard and engage in our creative discussions.

Art as a means of communication

Now we look to the future and see what further work can be done. We celebrate the successes of the project and learn from the challenges we faced. Meanwhile, we continue to advocate the significant role of the arts and creativity for those living with dementia.

Art can be a means of communication, a process of reflection and, last but not least, downright fun. As an Occupational Therapist, I wholeheartedly extol the value of creativity as a health-promoting occupation, and one that is accessible through infinite methods.

Finally, it remains for me to draw attention to all those involved in the This is Me project with hearty thanks for each and everyone’s invaluable contribution:

  • Funders of the project: the Nancy Massey Charitable Trust
  • Amy McDonald, Lilias Fraser & Emma Faragher, Scottish Poetry Library
  • Artist Emily Learmont
  • Storyteller & Poetry Facilitator Allison Galbraith
  • Art in Healthcare Volunteer Sarah Morton
  • Alan Midwinter, Service Manager of LEOSS
  • Lindsay Gibson, Paula Frame and the other support staff at LEOSS
  • And of a course a big thank you to the participants – Kate, Ronnie, Marilyn, Archie, Davie, Billy & Alex, for daring to get involved!

Reflection

Tell us about your experiences of providing or accessing services that integrate the creative arts with dementia.

What has worked well and what else could we be doing to make use of the arts?

Do you have any specific thoughts on project ideas for people to live well with dementia?

I would be delighted to hear from you and my contact details are below.

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Amelia Calvert,

Outreach Manager

@artinhealthcare

As Outreach Manager of Art in Healthcare, I oversee our Outreach Programme, which currently includes a large number of art workshops in a range of health and care related settings. As an Occupational Therapist by training, I am constantly wearing my ‘OT hat’ thinking about how best to run the programme and how to integrate our art workshops into mainstream healthcare where I feel they belong and I am passionate about the link between creativity and health. outreachmanager@artinhealthcare.org.uk

 

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