The title of the festival highlights that in the UK a person develops dementia every three minutes. The prevalence of the condition demonstrates why it is so important to increase understanding and awareness of what it is like to live with dementia…writes Prof. Geetha Upadhyaya
Many people enjoy attending arts events, such as exhibitions and performing arts events including theatre performances because these events not only provide entertainment but also help to educate and raise awareness of major issues. Prof. Geetha Upadhyaya talks to Nicky Taylor a Ph.D student at Leeds Beckett University and a staff member at the Leeds Playhouse about a recent theatre event on dementia – The “Every Third Minute” festival staged at Leeds Playhouse in Spring 2018.
The one overall aim of the festival was to tell balanced and informed stories about dementia by involving people living with the condition.
In talking about why they decided to put on the festival Nicky said, ‘I was frustrated by the media and popular culture’s potrayal of dementia as being purely about devastation and loss. I spend a lot of time with people living with dementia and am constantly impressed by their determination, resilience, humour and creativity. I knew there were many stories like these that we simply aren’t hearing.’
‘Every Third Minute’ was curated by a group of people living with dementia and their supporters, with a focus on finding and sharing hope. Together they agreed the programme of events and, alongside other artists and partners, created plays and performances to share their experiences.
The title of the festival highlights that in the UK a person develops dementia every three minutes. The prevalence of the condition demonstrates why it is so important to increase understanding and awareness of what it is like to live with dementia.
A key partner in the creation of a new play was the Hamari Yaadain (Our Memories) a memory café for South Asian people affected by dementia based at community organisation Touchstone. Twelve members of the café were invited to share their stories and co-create a short play with professional writer, Ming Ho. The stories ranged from experiences of arriving and settling in the UK, encountering challenging working conditions and language barriers, the importance of family and community, experiences of ageing, accessing services and adapting to life when a diagnosis of dementia is received.
Nicky said “Contributors to the play were very keen to educate others about dementia, as they felt there was little awareness within their community. This made their experiences of dementia even more challenging as they also had to deal with the stigma of the condition and struggled to get the help they needed. They were also able to challenge unhelpful assumptions about care-giving in Asian families and to call for the need for more support.”
She went on to say “Achat, a character in the play, says: “People step back when they hear about dementia; they leave you alone. They think ‘Asian families look after their own; they don’t need our help’. In the beginning, my wife didn’t speak a word; but now slowly, when we started coming out to the memory café, it has made a difference.””
Hamari Yaadain / Our Memories was performed in March 2018 at Leeds Playhouse and also on a tour of care homes and community venues. In talking about the impact of the play Nicky said “It received very positive feedback and warm audience responses demonstrating the power of the creative arts in sharing difficult topics, gaining empathy and understanding and ultimately giving hope.”
A film about the festival can be viewed here: Hamari Yaadain / Our Memories by Hamari Yaadain Memory Cafe and Ming Ho, performed by Susan Cookson, Manish Ghandi, Balvinder Sopal and Jem Dobbs. Photography by David Lindsay.
Prof. Geetha Upadhyaya, OBE, M.B.B.S., M.D., Ph.D., D.Lett, will writes about arts and culture besides health related articles for Asian Lite