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Beyond Dementia

Supporting active citizenship in those living with dementia

Beyond Dementia

Beyond Dementia is a Collection Centre exhibition that explores the lived experience of dementia, looking beyond the condition and highlighting the positives.

The exhibition is curated by the Fabulous Forgetful Friends, a group of people living with a diagnosis of dementia based in the Manchester area. Through the exhibition, the group have sought to tackle some of the misunderstandings and stigma surrounding the condition. It explores how the act of both viewing and making art can be a powerful way of connecting with self, forging meaningful connections with others, and improving the general well-being of those living with the condition and their carers.

The Alzheimer’s Society describes dementia as a set of different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. Each person’s experience of the condition is highly individual and can vary hugely to another person’s experience. Symptoms often include memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers predicted to rise to over 1 million by 2025, which is why it is imperative that we seek to find new ways, not only of treating dementia, but improving the quality of life of those living with a diagnosis.

Studies have shown that the creative part of the brain, in people with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, can remain undamaged for years. Being creative means accessing a part of your brain that overrides the stresses of memory loss, elevates mood, re-energises and restores a sense of personal identity.
Over the course of 7 months, the group have visited the Whitworth every Tuesday, where they have been introduced to a range of artistic techniques through a series of weekly creative workshops led by artists. The workshops have included screen-printing and linocut, ceramics, assemblage and horticulture in our Art Garden. A selection of the resulting artwork is on display in the table-top cases in this room.

The sessions focused on the enjoyment of being 'in the present moment,' being creative and making social connections, rather than on reminiscing about past events. In this way the focus is shifted from ideas of recovering something that has been lost, which can often prove painful and frustrating, to actively participating in new experiences and exploring the potential of the present moment.

The Fabulous Forgetful Friends are each photographed with a work that they have chosen from the Whitworth’s collection of 55,000 artworks (to the left of this text). The artworks themselves are also on display here with labels co-authored by the Friends. There are 5 groupings of work in the exhibition, each themed around a different key to living well with dementia- Only Connect, The Natural World, Perception & Lived Experience, Joyful Memories and Do What You Love. A resource table is also available in the space with further reading and we encourage visitors to leave their thoughts and reflections about their own experiences connected to Dementia on the comments board.

28 July – 17 September

To book events, please visit our Beyond Dementia events page