One of the most exciting aspects of our project is the opportunity to engage with people in the wider community. I’ve been working in community arts for over twenty years and I know the enormous impact the arts, and especially literature, can have on people in a variety of ways. The arts can help us explore experiences and issues in a safe and creative way. The arts can foster empathy and understanding of experiences different to our own. The arts can offer an imaginative outlet in which to express difficult and complex issues and experiences. The community outreach element of the Dementia in the Minds of Characters and Readers project has the potential to do all this and more besides. I’m really excited to be working alongside the research team to help ensure their findings make the maximum impact on people both within and beyond academia.
I have a packed year ahead of me. I’ll be running a two day Dementia Fiction festival in mid-September 2021 where we’ll invite writers, academic, community organisations and people with an interest in Dementia to engage in conversations and performances exploring the themes raised by the team’s research. I’ll also be working with people living with Dementia to collate a small pamphlet of personal testimonies focused on what it’s like to live with Dementia. We’re hoping this pamphlet will be a valuable resource for people working in healthcare roles and community organisations, and for those who know someone living with Dementia and want to get a little more insight into their experience. My final big project will be co-editing a new anthology of commissioned short stories on the subject of Dementia. The writers who contribute to this book will be writing from a variety of different perspectives, backgrounds and stylistic techniques, but all will be seeking to explore aspects of what it’s like to live with Dementia and how it impacts families and communities. This anthology will help readers gain more insight into Dementia. We’re hopeful it will also foster empathy and help contemporary writers consider how to write ethically and accurately about Dementia. We believe it will have a huge and lasting impact in the years to come.
Alongside smaller community projects, schools work, reading groups and book reviews which I’ll post here on this website, my year’s going to be pretty full. I’m already looking forward to the great conversations and new ideas I’m going to encounter as part of this project and to finding ways to ensure as many people in possible are included in our conversation.