Creative Dementia Arts Conference 2016


This years conference was at St Hugh’s College, Oxford 14th and 15th April 2016.

My original proposal for this MA  ( as I remember it!) was  based on autobiographical and collective memory and I had some idea, I think, of linking my community -based work with my practice. I’ll explore how these links have developed and unravelled in another post but I’m including this resume of the conference to reference specific uses of digital technology and also a project I became aware of that I will follow up in the future, post-MA.

From a Networking Point of view the conference is always useful meeting with colleagues, Clare Carswell who is Lights Up Co-ordinator.

Lights up is a Monthly arts group for people with Dementia and their carers in West Oxfordshire. I have worked with the group on several occasions and work from the group was exhibited at an exhibition in January, curated and installed by Clare.

Hannah Cervenka ( who Co-ordinates Taking Part which helps to fund Community practice in the area) and Paula Bailey ( who I worked with on the Banbury Old Town Party community event for several years).  Both are Arts Development Officers for Cherwell District Council,  Karey Morley, who facilitates the ‘Times Gone By’ Reminiscence group at  Banbury Museum were also there and I had a great discussion about Community Practice with Pam Foley, sculptor amongst others.

Frames of Mind

The key elements of the Conference for me were the Workshop by Salmagundi Films , a not for profit arts organisation founded in 2004 by Zoe Flynn and Bo Chapman and based in Stratford, East London

Their workshop highlighted their use of iPads for people with dementia in care homes, framesofmind_300.png

“Frames Of Mind® (FOM) is our concept of using Stop Frame Animation as a therapeutic communication tool. With Animation anything can happen. It is a creative process which encourages the use of visual metaphors, to think outside the box, and this liberation from the ‘literal’ can enable participants to explore and communicate potentially difficult or sensitive issues.”

There is an article published in Dementia Care which gives further insight into their work.


I have tried to introduce Google Maps as a Reminiscence tool but have limited success. Working as a sole practitioner is  restrictive unless I work 1:1 or 1:2 which isn’t possible in the places where I work or with the groups that I facilitate, at the moment.

In the case of Frames of Mind there was funding to include Care staff in the project for training and supply of iPads to the homes for (in theory) a sustainable project. This goes back to the need discussed in a past post about working as an individual rather than a company…for funding and commissioning purposes.

For the future this may be the only way for me to go as a Community Artist……

We worked through the process of making a personal portrait and also saw how Stop Frame animation could used to make short autobiographical films for  people with dementia using personal objects or photos.

I don’t have an iPad but will invest in one, play around with the drawing apps and some stop-frame  and introduce the technology to some individuals and staff in the groups I work with. Too good an opportunity to miss. Again it will have to wait a little while.

The hand- held quality of the iPad really helps make the experience intimate and personal. Much more so than a lap-top which  can  seem too threatening to much older people.

UAL and Dementia Research

In one of the (many) leaflets I picked up There was a call for Papers for the Royal Society for Public Health Conference in 2017 on the Arts and Dementia. For the therapeutic nature of the arts to be recognised and researched is  a huge leap. The Research is both Qualitative and Quantitative which means it  can be used to attract funding and help reduce other costs! Dr. Hannah Zeilig from London College of Fashion, UAL is one of the Organising Committee for the Conference.

Again something to Research when the MA is  completed  to  consolidate my personal and community practice.

Laura Lancaster: Working from personal photographs (and Matt Collishaw)

Last night I went to the preview of Laura Lancaster  and Jan Vanriet at the New Art Gallery Walsall.

Both these artists work from photographs, Lancaster’s from discarded and forgotten images and Super 8 film, in flea markets and on eBay so with no personal attachment, and Vanriet’s the opposite, from family photographs and those of people in Nazi concentration camps ( where his parents met).

Both artists work has a strong association with memory, which is where I came in on the MA….seems like a long way back…

Whilst I am not working with this imagery at the moment, I have at the start of the course..cling film scans0011 Resized




IMG_0214150with these drawings on cling film  ( above)

and ‘found’ slides which I used in some projection experimentsAustralian Slides0033 Resized 150
plus these prints on acetate for projection

My work has moved more from personal to collective memory but I’m still interested in artists who do use this imagery for eg Jonny Briggs  whose work is very different from this!

All these artist above use photographs as a source with association with memory and time but in different ways.

For me, Lancaster’s paintings had a real painterly materiality and her delicate drawings on the found paper  such a contrasting fragility ( all in differing drawing styles, as if by different people…)Vanriet’s work was much more controlled and uses repeated images.Both shows were tender and poignant despite the size of the exhibits.

There is of course a huge contrast with Jonny Briggs, whose work is mainly photographic images.There is a PDF of Questions for Jonny Briggs 13.01.16   that I hope to be able to ask him about is work, at some point.

There was also a work by Matt Collishaw  ‘All things fall’  see these images and video. It was astounding. Made apparently using a 3d printer and took a year…..As or much of his work, very beautiful until on closer inspection…… not so in content.

Community -based work

I’m planning some workshops and a gallery visit for people with dementia in association with the local Demetia cafes, in association with the  Education Dept at NAGW based on the Laura Lancaster and Jan Vanriet exhibitions and will also start a series with other groups in my community-based work. Many people in the groups enjoy working from family photographs and referencing these artists may help me take them in quite a different direction by being able to discuss the context and prices of these works.


Visit to The New Art Gallery ‘Small Worlds’

20th May 2015:

I visited The New art Gallery, Walsall today to meet Zoe and discuss the dementia outreach project with her..

I looked around the work and talked over workshop ideas with her and Janet.

I’ve not included the work her apart from this project documentation which is Airspace Gallery Spode Rose Garden.

The first slide Reflect/ Look/ Plan/ Act seems familiar!

It was really interesting to see that  they chose to display their documentation and bring it into the Gallery as a piece of work itself and how they chose to do it….

Pity I didn’t think of this when I was working out what to do for the Interim Show!!!

Timing I think, was partly to blame….

I’ve got it all wrong!!!

Hope I can sort this problem out for the final show and learn from this piece!! Oh, I like this one too!



Small Worlds exhibition, workshops for people with dementia and Sian Macfarlane.

Small Worlds:  exhibition curated by Deborah Robinson at The New Art Gallery Walsall looks at the micro and macro of local and global environment and so is interesting from the pov of Walsall as a community with very mixed ethnicities.

It is a really varied show with some engaging work and some exquisite drawing and photography but this post is not about the show.

Last year, a 12 month placement at NAG I set up a short outreach programme for people with dementia thought the Dementia Cafes in and around Walsall. Myself and artist Ruth Turnbull visited two groups in and I organised a visit to the Garman Ryan permanent collection for a group from Walsall Centre.

Now I’ve been asked to develop a short project specifically to respond to the Small Worlds Exhibition, again working with the Dementia Cafes in Walsall.

It is particularly exciting to be introducing people to contemporary work in a setting they are not used to.

The layout and geography of the building will be challenging from a sensory point of view… lots of reflections on the floor that can be mistaken for pools of water for example.

But it should be enjoyable for the families, I hope and encourage access to the gallery for proper who may not have the confidence to visit otherwise.

Whilst I was visiting I looked at this We are illuminated by Sian Macfarlane. Her blog for the project is here

I loved this small exhibition, curated by Zoe Lippett, and the film was something of a surprise because the artist uses the same techniques of layering and dissolve in her film, as I have been doing in my video.

It works well for her as the film is very much about reminiscence, synchronicity, reveal and illumination.

I’m still not sure I want to use the same technique as I want something rawer and more confusing….

Good to see though and again it has built my confidence to see something projected so large, in a gallery space, which is technically( and conceptually) similar to my work……..

I’ve just looked for some images of this artists work and in doing so found this link… her coincidences emerge and what is interesting  is that i have links to this place also….!

Creative Arts for Dementia Network Conference

I went to this conference on 16th April and was lucky enough to have my place paid for as they kindly offered 10 artists free places.

It was organised by the indomitable Maria Parsons who is a great Mover and Shaker for this cause and is based in Oxford.

I bumped into the Keynote speaker on the way in, also trying to find the entrance to St Hugh’s College.

Then, once there I saw Hannah Cervenka, one of the local Arts Development Officers and Sharon Woodward who taught a course I went on at Film Oxford, sometime ago.

Several people I knew by sight and got chatting to a PhD psychology student from Northampton University and others I know through  Cherwell District Council’s Taking Part.

There was an interesting introduction to The Brain and Ageing which irritated me as it seemed to be lots of graphs from quite old research papers (2006..) and terminology which was fine if you had a medical background ( I was OK and kept up!) but for the arts professionals and Social Care professionals this was not really aimed at the audience who was present!

Then we had some workshops which were very useful

The first was as below:

Partnership working with Douglas Hunter, Co-Director, Equal Arts, Newcastle

We are advocates of creative ageing, providing opportunities for self-expression to help improve wellbeing.

We strongly believe in the positive health impacts of the arts and support care staff and artists delivering musical, visual and movement-based creative activities with active older people and in dementia care settings.

In recent years we have explored the effects of creative activity on people experiencing early signs of dementia, and people over 60 who were isolated and therefore at risk of developing mental health problems.

This was very useful and inspiring, seeing how community projects can grow organically from very small ideas…. However, what they all had in common was the input from Equal Arts and their ability to co-ordinate and introduce the right people to the right people… source funding etc.

Still,very interesting and hopeful!

After lunch there was the workshop below which I had heard about sometime ago, originally when I was  working at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

Unfortunately, I missed the training sessions they were running in the Midlands.

I was really looking forwards to hearing about the app they are using as it demonstrates the ways digital tech can be used even with  older people and those with dementia , interactively and constructively.

The speaker was very straightforward, clear and engaging to listen to.

I must have a look and see if there is anything else I can use it for….. it made me thing possibly designing an app…!!!!! but again… I’d have to decide what for and WHY first!

Here’s some detail though of the project

Using Apps in Museums

Developing House of Memories: Cultural and Social Partnerships, Claire Benjamin, Deputy Director of Education and Communities, National Liverpool Museums

House of Memories is an award-winning training programme, which targets the carers of people living with dementia. It provides participants with information about dementia and equips them with the practical skills and knowledge to facilitate a positive quality of life experience for people living with dementia. Find out more about the House of Memories programme.

House of Memories offers dementia awareness training for professionals, as well as buddy days for families, friends and volunteer carers. There are also a number of memory resources, activities and events. To get up to date news, sign up for our e-newsletter.

My House of Memories allows you to explore objects from the past and share memories together. It can be used by anyone, but has been designed for, and with, people living with dementia and their carers.

House of memories App

Browse through objects from across the decades, brought to life with multimedia, to reminisce about a range of every day objects, from school life to sport. Save objects to your own memory tree, memory box or memory timeline. Create personal profiles for different people, so that they can save their favourite objects and look at them again. Read the carer’s toolkit, with top tips for reminiscence, and ideas for memory activities you can do together.

Features include:

Hundreds of inspirational objects from the 1920s-1980s to stimulate memory and conversation
Fascinating facts and background information about the objects
Music, sound effects and videos to provide a rich, multi-sensory experience and bring objects to life
An easy to use design with simple touchscreen controls that empower users
Activities to do together – collect your favourite objects for display in a memory tree, memory box or timeline
A ‘read aloud’ option for people who prefer to listen than read
Helpful ‘Hints’ to prompt people and remind them what the objects are
A toolkit for carers, with tips and hints on additional memory activities you can do together

Remembering and forgetting

I’ve probably already written a post with this title but, you know what?, I can’t remember….

So, here’s another one. Last week I spent a lot of time thinking about my ‘other work’ –

The work I do with the elderly and people with dementia and in the community eg. Lights Up at Chipping Norton I went to a training day for artists who are part of the Taking Part Scheme run by Cherwell  District Council, Arts Development Team.

All the artists there work with older or vulnerable groups in the community and it is rare that we get to talk to others about our experiences. The trainers encouraged us all to collage our own little box for our business cards.


( What Business cards???.. Note to Self…‘make business cards‘).

While we made them we chatted…sorry networked..

We also had a go at making up imaginary projects, working in groups. Wow! did we come up with some good stuff…now for the funding… always the hard part..amand imaginary too.

Anyway it gave me chance to discuss issues of working with the elderly with other artist working in this fields and discuss the role of reminiscence/ art and its effect on a group. I

‘ll talk more about this later on but just to note that it doesn’t always lead to a ‘nice cosy feeling’ for participants and my Take Home feeling was again that I feel very, very uncomfortable with the role of the artist as therapist if we have not been trained professionally in art therapy.

For this the artist has to have specialist training and on-going therapy themselves. I am always concerned with these boundaries, I think through working as a therapist in a different field, myself.

When working with vulnerable groups and seeing the benefit that that artwork has, it is all too easy to want to ‘save ‘ people and believe that we and art can do that.

I, of course, do believe that art is wonderfully therapeutic, BUT when we go in to a group and work with them we are there to do our job, effectively and although constantly aware of and sensitive to the issues of our participants, and whilst building relationships with them, we are there as artists.

And the work we do is for them, not to make us feel good about ourselves and fulfil our needs…… Other people are skilled Social Workers, counsellors etc. We are skilled community artists. I

think we have to be wary of accessing sensitive areas of peoples lives, thinking we can solve all their problems and not necessarily being fully aware and mindful of the possible consequences for ourselves, or for them.

Anyway, the training was very, very useful  and, importantly, reminded me of this possibly contentious area Rant over.

The following day I went to a meeting of Creative Dementia Arts Network (CDAN) in Oxford organised and chaired by Maria Parsons

This was an altogether different experience, as although there were some artists, musicians etc there the group includes professionals working with people with dementia in a range of areas from NHS Hospitals, Care organisations, Outreach  Education and so on.

This meeting felt cohesive and productive and it was very helpful talking to others with a specific interest and expertise in Arts for People with Dementia. We were all given some background, physiological and social, about dementia and discussed the forthcoming conference in April .

For me the networking within this group left me with a positive feeling that I was with people with common aims and complementary skills and for the first time I felt that my own personal practice and research may be able to come together at some point through this group.

I was also reminded of my thoughts about arts patronage and the autonomy of the artist during this session which links a little with my previous rant written for ARTvsREHAB.

We discussed possible areas where funding for Dementia Arts maybe available and so the questions about what work, what purpose and a key thought about evaluation and how this can be done effectively to attract funding when  achievements are so difficult to measure.

All fascinating stuff. More about working with People with Dementia in another post! and Remediation……


This blog describes some of the work I am developing as a starting place for my MA Fine Art Digital research September 2014.
This post shows examples of my work processes which investigate the perception and re-presentation of experience through process. By re-using the remains of previous processes as a continuation of ‘trace’, the works explore the fluidity of experience and the impossibility of preserving, quantifying or measuring it. Physical action provides agency which spreads contagious activity and conversation.
Recent work responded to location and considers the paper archive and emotional affect.

The relationship between physical sensation and embodied memories intrigue me, especially when confused or ‘faulty’. Forgetting rather than remembering.

Unscheduled II (2010) was a performance emanating from a mutual recollection
and recreation of an experience of bereavement, and thread which was repeated using the material residue of previous action. Collaboratively documented using photography, video and drawing, it was otherwise unwitnessed.
Graphite pencil drawings (2013) were made using the printed documentation images as reference, scanned as .pdf then converted to .jpeg for uploading to the blog.
A similar series of drawings (2013) were made by tracing in graphite pencil from the printed documentation images.
The tracings were then layered in a linear sequence.

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At the site of a now derelict paper-mill, large rolls of paper were floated in the mill race and then retrieved.
The debris was laid out using it to draw on the grassy mounds of bricks left at the site and photographed for documentation.
Drawings were made by tracing over the images on the computer screen and then overlaid.

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In response to the same location I invited an audience to cover me with personal bank statements from the previous decade.
This was interpreted, by those who had not witnessed the covering, as a sculptural piece.
I continued conversations with those around me, my voice disembodied and my presence not immediately recognised until my emergence sometime later.