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West Yorkshire Playhouse Launches Guide To Staging Dementia Friendly Performances

West Yorkshire Playhouse Launches Guide To Staging Dementia Friendly Performances

West Yorkshire Playhouse Launches Guide To Staging Dementia Friendly Performances

A guide instructing theatres on how to stage performances for people living with dementia is being published by West Yorkshire Playhouse in Dementia Awareness Week.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Guide To Dementia Friendly Performances provides best practice advice based on its award-winning performance model, in which the theatre-going experience is specifically tailored to meet the needs of people living with dementia. Having pioneered these accessible performances, staging the UK’s first dementia friendly performance in 2014, the Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Dementia Care Awards.

The guide will be launched at the Playhouse on Tuesday 17 May and will be available to download here. It has been funded by The Baring Foundation.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining, said:

‘Since adapting our first dementia friendly performance we’ve received incredible feedback from people living with dementia and support from care organisations. This response reflects the huge impact that making performances accessible to people who face barriers to attending the theatre following a diagnosis of dementia has on health and wellbeing.

Having staged a number of successful dementia friendly performances the guide draws on our experience, consultations with people living with dementia and their supporters, and long-running work with older people. We’re incredibly proud to be publishing these findings and sharing best practice advice to encourage venues to adopt this model on a national scale and open up our theatres to people living with dementia.’

Dementia friendly performances were innovated by West Yorkshire Playhouse, with White Christmas being the first performance adapted to meet the needs of people living with dementia. The Playhouse presented dementia friendly performances of Beryl and its major Christmas production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2015. Adaptations include altering sound and lighting levels and engaging with audiences in advance and after a performance to promote familiarisation with a show and the theatre environment.

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This work is led by Nicky Taylor, the Playhouse’s Community Development Manager, who specialises in arts and health and has more than 20 years experience working with older people.
Nicky says:

‘Leading projects for people living with dementia demonstrated that a creative environment helps people to thrive and feel valued, and engaging with the arts has startling benefits for people living with dementia. A diagnosis often leads to a loss of confidence and isolation and by making theatres accessible we are able to tackle these issues and provide enriching, meaningful experiences that reconnect people to their communities.

Since initiating Dementia Friendly Performances, I have worked with and received enquiries from theatres across the UK, Ireland and internationally. West Yorkshire Playhouse’s guide addresses this demand by bringing together feedback from our consultations and perspectives from staff and creatives who are directly involved in the process of staging Dementia Friendly Performances, from front of house assistants, to lighting and sound designers and performers. With the publishing of this best practice advice we’re excited about the possibilities this national resource presents.’

The Playhouse will be presenting dementia friendly performances of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Edinburgh Festival Theatre on Friday 14 October 2016 and the UK première staging of Strictly Ballroom The Musical at West Yorkshire Playhouse on Tuesday 17 January 2017.

Highlighting the impact of these performances, Wendy Mitchell, blogger, living positively with dementia, said:

‘I can no longer follow storylines and many would feel it was pointless to attend a performance. After attending Chitty Chitty Bang Bang my overwhelming emotion was one of happiness. I enjoyed the laughter, singing of familiar songs, but most of all I enjoyed being part of the experience. I encourage all theatres to follow West Yorkshire Playhouse’s lead and allow people with dementia to continue to experience that wonderful feeling that being part of an audience can bring.’

Find out more about our Dementia Friendly Performances

Download our Guide to Dementia Friendly Performances

This guide has been funded by The Baring Foundation

Baring Foundation

Funder of work with people with dementia


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Major funders
Arts Council England Leeds City Council The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation
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