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Imaginations of older people living with dementia inspire teenagers in an alternative Christmas performance

Posted on Tuesday 6 December 2016
AYS Shadon House1

IDEAS and script created by older people living with dementia in Gateshead are to be brought to life by B-Tech students.

This December pupils at Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy have been inspired by the stories created by older people working with creative ageing charity Equal Arts.

Taking over the dining and kitchen area the 17 and 18-year-olds will perform Bella Stella written by those staying at Shadon House, a dementia assessment centre run by Gateshead Council.

The idea is the brainchild of Equal Arts trainee associate Olivia Hunt who joined the charity this autumn following a degree at Northumbria University in Performing Arts.

She said: “Every week I meet with people staying at Shadon House for creative sessions using photographs to stimulate ideas and a story. I thought it would be lovely to do something with the work they’ve created and give it a wider audience.

“The sessions have so many benefits, everything they say is acknowledge and of worth. People have the opportunity to explore their imaginations which a lot of us don’t often do and live in the movement instead of focusing on the past.” 

Joanne Mathewson is manager at Shadon House, which this summer was awarded an outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission. She said: “The recent visits from Equal Arts have been inspiring. Stories were created through imagination with us all, staff and service users, getting involved.

“We’ve learned a lot about communicating a vision and helping people articulate that vision eloquently, through using their imaginations. This sharing of skills motivates and encourages people with dementia to live full and meaningful lives and we are very much looking forward to the performances that will encapsulate these visions and stories.”

The performance of Bella Stella at Shadon House forms part of the students’ B-Tech Sub Diploma Level 3 Performing Arts qualification.

In the New Year both the charity, academy and assessment centre plan to work together on a larger scale performance project.

Sarah Brown, subject head for Performing Arts at the academy in Birtley, said: “The stories created by residents have seen students develop this piece of physical theatre. The students have loved it and cannot wait to get started working with residents in the New Year.

“In the short space of time they’ve been working together they’ve found it hugely worthwhile.”

The performance will also be on show to the community at the academy’s annual Christmas performance.

To find out more about Equal Arts and its creative projects for older people visit