Our three intrepid research artists have been immersed in all things Dementia and Imagination over these last few months.

Whilst it’s too early to share their work as they explore this rich terrain, I’m thrilled with their passion and unrestrained vision of what their involvement in this research project might bring. 

In Derbyshire, Penny Klepuszewska has been spending time on Riverside Ward within Derbyshire Community Services NHS Trust. She has been made incredibly welcome by everyone she’s encountered within the trust and particularly our research associate on the ground, Dr Kat Taylor. Living in the heart of Bakewell herself, Penny is deeply embedded in the local community and is developing work that is not only informed by her experiences on the ‘ward’ but out there in the community.

Being part of the developing relationships between intervention artists and participants is nurturing her initial observations, helping her to navigate this rich vein of human interaction. Getting to grips with the ways dementia diagnoses are made and how wellbeing tools are used within this context, is feeding her practice, as is getting to grips with the stringent protocols that are in place to safeguard participants. How she treads the ethical minefield of being an artist working in an environment that cares for our most vulnerable citizens, will be a challenge and ultimately, richly rewarding.

In the North East, Jeni McConnell is focusing on the connections between people and place, questioning how, through using all our available senses, we form our own understanding of who we are and how we become bound to 'our place', or places.

By looking back and sharing our experiences in the here and now, she hopes to explore earlier events of childhood and adulthood, particularly in understanding how memory triggers are used as a stimulus for recall. Objects, smells, images and other social tools form a significant part of her practice. Jeni was hooked the minute she spotted the call out for Research Artists, and is delighted to be engaged in this significant project.

Working in North Wales, Carol Hanson has been thrilled to be made so welcome by the team on the ground, commenting, “...the team has been very welcoming and it's been wonderful to witness the positive effect of art-making in the sessions, triggering old memories and creating new ones. The group has a great sense of humour and it's been an honour to share those fun moments as well as the more poignant ones, both in the gallery and the studio work-room. The tea and cake always goes down a treat and the amazing array of art that has been created will no doubt look brilliant at the first exhibition. I know some of the group are keen to continue after the project ends so it's great to see such positive engagement already. Some people write a lot of older people off when there's so much more life to be lived, memories to be made and stories to be told. I can't wait to see what the next session brings.”

We have three very different artists working in different geographical settings and different health, care and community contexts, utilizing their own unique ways of working. But all are driven by a shared passion - to better understand dementia and through their practice, share the lived experience of memory loss, with all its nuances - far and wide. I for one, can’t wait to see how their work evolves and tells this unfolding story.

Clive Parkinson, Arts for Health


by Clive Parkinson

Added on: 13 October 2014

Recent blogs