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Courtyard Centre for the Arts becomes the first arts venue nationally to join the Dementia Action Alliance

  • Date: 25 February 2013
  • Area: Midlands
Arts and Older People's Project Coordinator, Alice Saunders

Arts and Older People's Project Coordinator, Alice Saunders.

Herefordshire’s Courtyard Centre for the Arts has made history by becoming the first arts venue nationally to join the Dementia Action Alliance and pledge to improve the experience of some of the 800,000 dementia sufferers in the UK.

By improving accessibility to the arts and theatre for people with dementia, the pledge will establish The Courtyard as a leader in the development of dementia friendly arts venues.

Jeevan Jones, Dementia Action Alliance Coordinator for Alzheimer's Society in the West Midlands said: “We're delighted to welcome The Courtyard Centre for the Arts to the local Dementia Action Alliance. Life doesn't stop when you receive a diagnosis of dementia. Many people want to continue to enjoy the same activities they did before their diagnosis such as going to the theatre, the shops, the hairdresser or the pub, but after a bad experience end up feeling isolated and lonely.

‘With over 3,000 people living with dementia in Herefordshire it is vital that businesses adapt and make themselves accessible to those living with the condition. Through local Dementia Action Alliances we hope to encourage local businesses, such as The Courtyard, to help us create dementia friendly communities. We will support them to improve their understanding of dementia and make small changes that will enable people living with dementia, their families and carers to access their services, feel a part of the local community and enjoy life again.”

A  plan has been developed with The Courtyard’s Arts and Older Peoples Project Coordinator Alice Saunders along with Jan Sharpe from the Alzheimer’s Society, who have been working together to establish what the theatre already does to raise awareness of dementia, and what steps can be taken across the building to shape the future of dementia and the arts.  Alice will visit memory cafes across the county and work with a steering group (including Courtyard staff and health professionals) to develop a plan and training programme for key front Courtyard staff in a bid to make it the most dementia friendly venue.

Alice Saunders, Arts and Older People’s Project Coordinator at The Courtyard said: ‘It is not only the responsibility of family members, friends and professionals to improve the quality of life for those with dementia, but local organisations who play a key role in the community of Herefordshire.  The Courtyard will be working very closely with those with dementia and their carers to build initiatives that will ensure we can make The Courtyard as accessible as possible. Improving a communities understanding of dementia is vital to ensuring that those with dementia can live fulfilling lives and improving understanding and awareness within our staff will be our first priority. It is our intrinsic belief that the arts can enhance and enrich the lives of all members of the community and our commitment to the Dementia Action Alliance is the first step to improving access for those with dementia.’

The result of this training and research will work towards participatory events for Dementia Awareness Week on 23 May this year, such as a live draw event for people of all ages and other live performances and events will take place around the building, giving staff an opportunity to put their training into practice.  These events will not only help promote awareness of dementia, but help the steering group better understand the needs and challenges of families so that theatre can introduce policies to make every event at The Courtyard more accessible for families living with the dementia.