Cash boost to make famous theatres dementia friendly

Actors Tim Licata, left, and Ian Cameron from the production company Plutot la Vie share tea and scones with Christine Macleod at the Festival Theatre after performing their two-man show A Clean Sweep. Picture: Greg Macvean
Actors Tim Licata, left, and Ian Cameron from the production company Plutot la Vie share tea and scones with Christine Macleod at the Festival Theatre after performing their two-man show A Clean Sweep. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Two famous theatres have been given a £320,000 cash boost to help transform them into some of the UK’s first dementia-friendly venues.

The King’s and Festival theatres will be scheduling a series of shows targeted at those affected by dementia, as well as adapting existing programmes to better suit the needs of those living with the disease.

And the funding – from the Life Changes Trust, a charity funded by the National Lottery that works to improve the lives of dementia sufferers and young people in care – will also go towards providing dementia training for staff and making the buildings safer.

Last month saw the first performance of A Clean Sweep at the Festival Theatre – a specially adapted, dementia-friendly show from theatre company Plutot La Vie. Using familiar objects, live music, softened light and sound cues and a shortened running time, the performance sought to make the theatre experience more welcoming to those living with the debilitating illness.

Duncan Hendry, chief executive at the theatres, said staff at the venues were working to create a “welcoming and supportive social environment” for dementia sufferers.

He said: “We are delighted that our application to the Life Changes Trust to create a dementia-friendly community across our two theatres has been successful.

“We look forward to working with people with dementia and their families to address what the barriers to accessing venues like ours might be, so that we can create welcoming and supportive social environments in our theatres.

“Our staff fully support the creation of a dementia-friendly community at our venues and we are keen to take an industry lead in Scotland to encourage other theatres to adopt dementia-friendly 
practices.”

It is estimated that around 88,000 people across Scotland suffer from dementia – with that figure set to double by 2038 as the population ages.

Anna Buchanan, director of the Life Changes Trust dementia programme, said: ‘Many people living with dementia stop taking part in activities that may have given them great pleasure in the past, or which allowed them to mix with their peers.

“Initiatives like these bring people together in a dementia friendly community of interest where they have opportunities to be part of something that is meaningful to them.

“This funding will support the theatres to create an environment where people affected by dementia feel welcome and included – a place where the door remains open and does not close just because someone has dementia.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com