Autumn research updates from the Dementia and Imagination study

Dementia and Imagination

Connecting Communities Through Art

Autumn research updates from the Dementia and Imagination study

After a busy summer the research team have been completing the last art groups of the research and starting on the final points of data collection with our art group attendees and their relatives and carers. The final follow up visits will be completed by the end of the year and then it will be time to look at all the data and see what it can tell us!

As well as trying to find out about the benefits of art activities for people living with dementia, our study the research also has several other important fields of enquiry, one of which includes something called ‘social network analysis’. Researchers in Swansea have been carrying out this exploration and you can find out more about it from Helen Daniels. There’s also some updates on several events we’ve been taking part in.

The D & I team

Dementia and Imagination part of 2020+ event in Manchester

Manchester Metropolitan’s School of Arts held an event 2020+: Art, Society and Public Health on October 7th. In a series of informative and moving presentations, delegates witnessed the transformative properties of art-based practices for those living with health conditions, and importantly, those who work with them.

The event was attended by over 100 international delegates. Arts for Health Director Clive Parkinson shared the powerful ‘Recoverist Manifesto’, a result of an empowering collaboration working with societal issues around addictions, both common and hidden in everyday life. Researchers from Lithuania illustrated the potential for arts to foster inclusivity among a group of youths with disabilities, as they together engaged in professional dance performances. A team of medics from Japan shared their experiences of beautifying hospitals to create more restful, inspiring and ultimately healing spaces. for patients. Dementia and Imagination also featured with a performance from Research Artist Jeni McConnell.

Research artist Jeni McConnell performing 'When I think of you I think of Sunday's'.


Jeni commented:

"I loved sharing thoughts about how even the small can make a big difference and how important sharing and collaboration is. I agree with KirsiLajunen who noted, ‘everyone has the right to engage in art and participate in cultural activities".

The group used the afternoon and their collective experiences in arts and health to develop ideas which might be useful to the design and implementation of public health policies in the Greater Manchester area. As public health funding is devolved from central government and the taskforce recognises the central role the arts and culture play in the well-being of the population, the day provided a rich and productive forum to influence local health strategies.

​New methods for Dementia and Imagination

As part of Dementia and Imagination, the study team in Swansea University are experimenting with an innovative analytical method new to this field of research.

Social network analysis looks at individuals and the relationships which connect them. It is being used to discover whether Dementia and Imagination has caused an effect within the wider community, known as ‘social contagion’. To do this, they are looking at where the interventions are taking place and also in the communities where the artists work. Online questionnaires are being circulated via email through people’s networks reported in the survey to find out whether attitudes towards people with dementia have changed since the launch of Dementia and Imagination.

Helen Daniels, a researcher from the Swansea University study team commented:

“It’s a privilege to be working with this new method, and it will be very exciting to see the results at the end. People have been very generous in giving us their time to fill in these questionnaires; without their responses, we would not be able to complete the analysis. We still need more data, though, so if you’ve received a questionnaire in your email, we would be very grateful if you could fill it in! Everything is kept completely anonymous, and the information we get will be of great use for the future of Dementia Friendly Communities”.

This method will also elicit other interesting findings such as whether some people’s opinions have a disproportionate influence on others, and also whether this social contagion is influenced by others’ opinions of the art intervention. Understanding how social contagion occurs in these two types of community will be relevant to practitioners and researchers alike.

Conversations, Presentations and Places

Arts under examination at Alzheimer's Europe Conference

Professor Bob Woods was invited as a keynote speaker to the Alzheimer’s Europe conference in Slovenia, where he spoke about the effects of art programmes for people with dementia.

Bob, who is Professor of Clinical Psychology of Older People at Bangor University, spoke as part of a plenary session on “dementia-friendly society” and highlighted several ways in which we can help people to live well with dementia, including art. Bob referred to the excellent practice across the world in using creative arts for people with dementia, but he highlighted that research has trailed behind the practice in this field. He commented that studies like D&I are important in seeking to understand best practice to improve knowledge in this area, especially regarding the effects of these programmes on the wider community, potentially challenging stigma and improving attitudes.


D&I in Australia

Andrew Newman presented on Dementia and Imagination at an exciting international conference in Sydney. Australia have developed a number of innovative initiatives in the field of arts and health. The Celebrate Creative Ageing conference took place at the end of August. Andrew, who is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at Newcastle University, was part of a panel discussing the role of the arts in ageing well.


Alzheimer’s Awareness month

September saw the awareness raising World Alzheimer’s Month with a dedicated day on the 21st. We shared some images on Twitter and Facebook from our 2nd art group in North Wales to celebrate creative activities for people living well with dementia.

We also took part in a Dementia Awareness event held in Caernarfon on the 29th September. The event was organised by the North Wales Regional Equality Network (NWREN) who support individuals and communities across North Wales to promote social inclusion.

NWREN are looking to create a network for both people living with dementia and supporting services, to connect with one another and raise awareness of provision and activities in the area. 

Information on display at the Dementia Awareness event and Photo’s posted on social media for World Alzheimer’s Day.

Intervention Site Updates

The art groups have now been completed across the 3 research sites. In total 11 art groups have taken place with over a 100 people with dementia taking part.

A 4th and final group is taking place in Derbyshire, starting soon, but it is a group with a difference! 5 people with dementia have been recruited to commence 'The Grand Tour,' so-called after a recent exhibition at Chatsworth House, in which artefacts from around the world are displayed to commemorate trips. 

The very beautiful Chatsworth House, where a recent exhibition has inspired the plans for the fourth art group. Photo with permission by Katherine Taylor.


With a similar aim of recording and marking meaning using art, participants will be accompanied on day trips to regional places of interest, and invited to document their adventures to produce highly personal creative journals. The journals will include sketches and photography and will reflect both the experience during Grand Tour and memories of their lives more generally.

Second outing for 'The 'D' Word'

The D Word, written and directed by Janys Chambers, is returning to the stage for a one off performance in North Wales. The free performance will take place in Venue Cymru on the 14th October at 1.30pm, with a Q&A session following at 2.15pm. The play received high praise following a series of showings across North Wales in July.

The play has been commissioned by our North Wales arts partner Denbighshire County Council Art Service with BetsiCadwaladr Health Board. Several of the characters have been inspired by participant’s from the research groups who have attended follow on art sessions in the area. 

Success at the Green Man!

The Dementia and Imagination team spoke with more than 800 people about art, dementia and the research at the Green Man festival in the Brecon Beacons. The stand was part of a science and innovation area that has been incorporated into the festival for several years. One visitor to the stand called it ‘extreme public engagement’!

Research artist Carol Hanson rolled up with a full campsite including twittering bird sounds, sizzling sausages and a light up camping stove. Festival goers filled in ‘toast-cards’ to leave a happy memory of the festival or a question or story about dementia for Doris and Ivor in their post box. Carol will use the stories and tales to inspire and explore in the next phase of her art work for the study.

Conversations in action on the stand and the sun comes out to shine on

Doris and Ivor’s campsite.

In good festival fashion there were rain showers a plenty! Happily, the stand was well protected thanks to research artist Jeni McConnell's outdoor cover. One twitter commentator said it was “great to see dementia taken into new places”


The final counting tally at the end of the 4 day festival.

Our next newsletter….

Will be out in December!

Our final newsletter for 2015 comes to you in December, with our final round of updates for the year!

The Dementia and Imagination research is jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council under the Connected Communities programme. Both councils celebrate key anniversaries this year: the AHRC is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary whilst the ESRC celebrates 50 years of research.

We are delighted to be completing our interventions and moving towards the analysis of our data during this important year for both research councils.

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