The Arts and Dementia: Impact and Implementation

Today’s post offers some reflections and feedback about the TAnDem (The Arts and Dementia) conference that took place on the 20th September in Nottingham. Hopefully this will give a flavour of the event for people who were unable to attend.

Workshops by the TAnDem students

As the first cohort of TAnDem PhD students come to the end of their studentships, the third TAnDem conference provided an ideal opportunity for them to showcase their work. The students presented their findings at a series of workshops with care staff, arts practitioners, commissioners, researchers, and people affected by dementia.

These workshops provided a valuable opportunity for the students to share their findings, but more than that, feedback from attendees confirmed the ‘real-world’, practical value of their work and its potential impact for people living with dementia. Attendance and engagement with the workshops was appreciated by the students, as were the subsequent discussions that people contributed to.

The students are confident that the work they’ve undertaken as part of TAnDem will continue to have an impact on the arts and dementia field beyond the lifetime of the individual projects.

A few of the many highlights from the conference

A particular highlight was hearing Sebastian Crutch talking about the way in which people with dementia have contributed creatively to his own research over the years. Firstly as an inspiration, particularly the self-portraits of William Untermohlen, an artist who developed dementia, which alerted him to particular neurological aspects of the condition. Also inspirational were the words of Wendy Mitchell – “why be ashamed because you have a complex brain disease?”

Secondly as colleagues and co-researchers contributing insights into the condition. One example of this was his work with people with particular types of dementia on the Created out of Mind project, which demonstrated quite how much dementia changes the way we see and experience the world. His views about the misunderstandings that can arise in the care of people experiencing posterior cortical atrophy were also appreciated, and made all the more powerful by the film clip ‘Do you see what I see?’ which can be found on YouTube at

Sebastian Crutch presenting
Sebastian Crutch presenting

A further highlight was the Blue Skies singing group, which was originally organised by one of the TAnDem students based at the University of Nottingham as part of her research, but proved to be so successful and popular that it has continued. It was also moving to hear from the participants about how being part of the choir has been a meaningful experience for them and the bond that has developed between them. It of course goes without saying that sharing in their uplifting singing was a special moment for many.

The Blue Skies Singing Group
The Blue Skies Singing Group

Finally, the humour and frankness shown by Tony Husband when using images to relate the story of his father’s dementia provided a very human and poignant experience.

Although we can’t have everyone as a highlight, we would also like to acknowledge the other speakers at the conference including David Cutler from the Baring Foundation, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt from King’s College London, Helena Reynolds from Arts Derbyshire, the interactive storytelling workshops by Andrea Haley, and the performance of the Silva Lining’s Care Plan. Thanks to everyone for a great day (and apologies if we’ve missed anyone!).

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