Origin: Guildhall School of Music and Drama
In the summer of 2009, a young Russian cellist finishing his MA at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama came to perform a Bach suite for her mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease for some seven years. He played exquisite music into her eyes, stopping for an engaging chat. For that hour, her eyes lit up and her joy in music, youth and education were revived.
Veronica describes “That Brilliant Moment” which gave birth to Arts 4 Dementia in the video above broadcast by The Community Channel on 23 March 2014.
Although her mother later forgot the visit, Veronica, a biographer, curator, who set up the Watts Gallery’s funding and educational base for development, began to research the arts movement for dementia, soon discovering that arts are offered to positive effect in care settings, but rarely in the community; and that artistic stimulation helps to maximize cognitive function and should enable people to live better and longer at home. This is the aim of the National Dementia Strategy.
First educational partnership: Live Music Now, Kingston University and Age Concern Kingston
Live Music Now, who perform for dementia to high standards in care settings, agreed to give workshops to music students at Kingston University to perform weekly to a person with dementia and family carer at home, recommended and matched for musical taste by Age Concern Kingston.
First arts venue pilot: The Wallace Collection
Meanwhile the Wallace Collection agreed to give weekly tours to people in the early stages of dementia and their carers, and are now repeating Arts 4 Dementia at the Wallace Collection and using the procedure for training. Our third pilot of 2010, poetry at Putney Library opened up avenues of communication for participants – ‘I feel innovated’ ‘I was walking on air to feel I was not alone in coping with a person who is changing’.
Charity Set-Up and Early Achievements
Our first trustees’ meeting took place the Royal Academy of Art in January 2011. That month w,become a company limited by guarantee and by March a registered charity (No: 1140842), with a London-wide pilot programme covering each art form registered for 2012 on the Mayor’s Culture Diary. Our inaugural Best Practice Conference 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 November 2011, funded by an Awards for All Big Lottery grant, was attended by leaders in arts and health. Keynote speakers were Harry Cayton OBE, chair of the Department of Health and Arts Council England’s A Prospectus for Arts and Health (2007) and by Baroness Greengross OBE, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, who, as a result is recommending to government that direction to to artistic stimulation be given to care managers and to patients on diagnosis of dementia.
While co-ordinating activities nationwide and raising awareness of the benefits of artistic stimulation through our website, we shall be helping to run a programme of wide-ranging arts activities for people in the early stages of dementia at arts venues around London in 2012, covering art, comedy, dance, drama, music, photography, poetry and communication.