Following a significant funding award from the Scottish charity Life Changes Trust in March of this year, the Festival and King’s Theatres are delighted to announce the official launch of Forget Me Not, a pioneering collaborative project designed to create dementia friendly communities at the heart of our cultural venues.
Led by the project’s Coordinator Paul Hudson, Forget Me Not has set out its agenda to make the Festival and King’s Theatres accessible and inviting venues for people living with dementia and their families. It will identify what these audiences want from their theatre experiences, what the challenges are for people living with dementia to attending their local theatres and what can be done to support and encourage this valuable social activity.
Programming bespoke public events and community engagement will be at the core of the new project and Forget Me Not will launch with a series of events in October 2015 at The Studio at the Festival Theatre, programmed as part of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival. Events will include a performance of Scottish company The Letter J’s intergenerational theatre show, Grandad & Me that premièred at the 2014 Imaginate Festival, a Tea Dance and a 1940s-themed dance performance by students at Performing Arts Studio Scotland. These events are free but ticketed through the Box Office, open to all ages and designed to create a relaxed environment where families and carers can enjoy live performance together, and eat cake!
Forget Me Not Coordinator Paul Hudson who is a former performer, director and stage manager in the performing arts and most recently was the Coordinator of the Musical Memories project for Alzheimer Scotland said, “The most important lesson I’ve learnt is that the smallest amount of support can make the biggest difference to people’s lives. It’s about making it easier for people who are used to coming to the theatre.”
Forget Me Not will work closely with research partners including Alzheimer Scotland, Stirling University and the University of the West of Scotland, and in close consultation with people living with dementia and their carers to develop templates on how to make an arts venue dementia friendly, that will be shared with arts organisations across the UK to help create an industry standard.
Jane, one of the Forget Me Not Champions and a carer for her husband since he was diagnosed, said, “This is a wonderful and far-seeing initiative. It gives people diagnosed with dementia the opportunity to participate and also for their continued inclusion in a wider society. And that, surely, is what theatre is all about?”
The Life Changes Trust was established by the Big Lottery Fund in April 2013 with a ten year endowment of £50 million to support the empowerment and inclusion of people affected by dementia and with young people with experience of being in care. Over the next three years, it will invest around £3 million in establishing and supporting a wide variety of Dementia Friendly Community initiatives across Scotland.
Festival and King's are already leaders in initiatives involving Dementia support having staged a performance of A Clean Sweep devised by Plutôt La Vie theatre company and have produced relaxed versions of shows for children in Edinburgh with additional support needs to great success.