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Theatre & Dementia

Theatre & Dementia

Bringing dementia-friendly theatre to Leeds

Leeds Playhouse is proud to be a dementia-friendly theatre. We offer regular opportunities for people living with dementia (older people and people with young-onset dementia) and their partners to attend creative sessions and theatre performances.

The majority of our staff are Dementia Friends, and some have attended further training to specifically support customers with dementia. Dementia can be an incredibly isolating condition, but we know that there is hope and joy to be found through exploring our creativity in a supportive and understanding environment.

Leeds Playhouse is proud to have been recognised with two major national awards for this pioneering work: Best Dementia Friendly Project 2015 and Outstanding Innovation in Dementia Care 2015.

Download our Dementia Friendly Performances Leaflet 

Our work with people with dementia

  • Our Time

    Weekly Our Time sessions include drama, art, poetry, song, movement and dance – these sessions are designed for people living with dementia and their partners. Sessions are gentle and fun with up to 15 participants. They are led by a dedicated team of artists and support staff. We follow a similar structure each week to give people a sense of familiarity. This includes a gentle breath, movement and vocal warm up and singing songs, followed by responding to a theme through poetry, music, drama, movement and visual arts. We always conclude the session with tea and biscuits and a chat. Everyone who attends the session takes part together as equals.

    There are no right or wrong answers as we rely entirely on creativity, imagination and opinion. There is no pressure to recall facts.

    If you would like to find out more information or would like to join a session, please get in touch by contacting Nicky Taylor at or Maggie De Ruyck at – or call us on 0113 213 7296.

  • Peer Support Cultural Partnership

    In 2010 we introduced creative programmes for people living with dementia and their partners alongside other cultural partners in Leeds. We offer 12-week programmes in partnership with Leeds Museums and Galleries, Leeds Libraries and Leeds City Council’s Peer Support Service for people living with dementia. Programmes are themed around theatre shows or museum exhibitions, and we bring these to life through creative sessions, backstage tours and group visits.

  • Dementia-Friendly Performances

    In December 2014, we staged the UK’s first dementia-friendly performance of a mainstream theatre production, White Christmas. A second successful dementia-friendly performance – a matinee of our Spring 2015 production Beryl – followed. A 2016 matinee of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang attracted over 500 people, cementing dementia-friendly performances as a regular element of West Yorkshire Playhouse programming.

    Working with people living with dementia and the people who support them, we explore and address the potential barriers that might stop someone with dementia coming to see a show. We provide clear signage and visual markers, quiet spaces and additional trained staff and volunteers to support customers in our front of house space. We also adapt sound and lighting cues and stage action within the show itself where necessary. We offer pre-show creative sessions to prepare people for the show, either at the Playhouse or in the community.

    We now support other theatres to adopt this model, taking dementia-friendly performances to a much wider audience, and influencing accessible performances across the theatre sector. Every year we now offer at least one dementia-friendly performance in each season.

  • Every Third Minute

    Every Third Minute: a festival of theatre, dementia and hope is a unique collaboration between nine Festival Curators – people living with dementia and their supporters – and theatre-makers at Leeds Playhouse.

    This ambitious and innovative festival was staged over seven weeks at Leeds Playhouse between 9 February and 31 March 2018. The title of the festival, reflecting that every third minute in the UK, someone will begin living with dementia, was chosen by the Festival Curators. The impact of the Festival Curators in the planning and delivery of the whole project cannot be overstated – it underpinned the entire ethos of the festival, asking the question: ‘what stories would we tell about dementia if people living with dementia were making the decisions?’

    Every Third Minute attracted 7500 people to attend events, including a brand new production of Still Alice, guided by activist Wendy Mitchell, who lives with young-onset dementia, and a consultant to the director and acting company. After its Leeds premiere, Still Alice tours the UK in Autumn 2018, bringing a balanced story of living with dementia, informed by lived experience, to an even broader audience.

    The festival’s 11 productions (including 4 newly commissioned plays), 4 training programmes and 16 workshops/talks attracted people with dementia and their families and friends, care staff, researchers, artists, policy-makers and a general theatre audience. On an individual level, the festival gave opportunities for people with dementia to laugh together, to share moments of joy and achievement with family members, and to express themselves.

    Work with the Festival Curators is ongoing, as the group shares learning from the festival at conferences such as UK Dementia Congress, and weekly meetings are now focused on developing the skills of the Festival Curators to share their creative skills with people living in care homes.

    Download the festival brochure here

    Download our Every Third Minute evaluation report here

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Find out more about our Every Third Minute Festival

Find out more about dementia-friendly performances

Download BrochureAutumn / Winter 22
Download BrochureAutumn / Winter 22
Major funders
Arts Council England Leeds City Council The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation
Principal Capital and Families Partner
Caddick Developments
Principal Capital and Access Partner
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors