The Belgrade Theatre and the UK’s leading full mask theatre company, Vamos, are joining forces to raise awareness and unite against dementia to mark Dementia Awareness Week from 14 – 20 May. This exciting multi-faceted project has been designed to give people living with dementia and their carers the chance to enjoy theatre performance and help raise awareness of the disease.
As part of the project, Vamos Theatre will present Finding Joy on the Belgrade’s B2 stage from Thurs 16 to Sat 18 November, following huge success at last year’s Edinburgh Festival and two international sell-out tours. On the Saturday matinee performance, the Belgrade Theatre will also be hosting its first ever Dementia Friendly Performance, which will be specially adapted to suit the needs of those living with dementia as well as being fully accessible to hearing and D/deaf audiences alike.
Finding Joy tells the true story of a teenager’s decision to care for his grandmother with dementia, with humour, poignancy, and warmth. Joy is 83 today: she’s funny, loves to dance, and is losing her memory. Her grandson Danny is rebellious, bright and always getting into trouble. When Danny decides to look after Joy, they discover a shared playfulness and a mutual affection. But is that enough to take on the challenges ahead?
Alongside the production, Vamos Theatre Company will be delivering a series of workshops for carers, healthcare sector staff and venues/arts management professionals in mask theatre techniques and non-verbal communication. Additionally, they will be performing their interactive theatre piece, Sharing Joy, for the residents of Earlsdon Park Retirement Village in a special one-off performance.
Rachael Savage, Artistic Director of Vamos Theatre said of the project, “This is an essential and ambitious project for people living with dementia and their carers, that will not only enrich their lives by encouraging participation, instilling a sense of community and enjoying the Arts, but also aid the carers in their understanding about the importance of non-verbal communication. We’re delighted that the Belgrade Theatre, who have an outstanding reputation for their work with people living with dementia, is a project partner with us and we truly hope that collectively we can encourage a step change in the way the Arts and the health and care sectors work together in the future to improve the lives of many.”
With Dementia and Alzheimer’s now the biggest causes of death in England and Wales, the Belgrade Theatre has made a commitment to becoming a Dementia Friendly venue, as part of its broader Arts Gymnasium project targeted at those aged 50+.
Working with The Alzeimer’s Society, the theatre has provided Dementia Friends Information Sessions for all of its staff, freelancers and volunteers and regularly hosts these free sessions every two months which are open for the public to attend. The theatre also runs weekly drama sessions for over 50s living with early stage Dementia which are designed to bring people together in a friendly and sociable environment whilst giving them the opportunity to express themselves creatively.
Arts Gymnasium Project Manager Alice Williams said, “We’re very pleased to be hosting our first ever Dementia Friendly performance with the acclaimed Vamos Theatre company, and to be promoting awareness of Dementia through this funny and heart-warming show. Research has shown that engaging with drama activities and the arts helps to promote health and well-being which is something the Belgrade Theatre is hoping to achieve through its Arts Gymnasium project. We are already seeing the benefits of this for our participants in combatting isolation, growing their confidence and allowing them a safe space for their voices to be heard.”
Vamos will be touring to the Belgrade Theatre as well as a host of other venues straddling the West Midlands, south west and south east, in a bid to engage with some of the hardest to reach audiences, including people with complex barriers to involvement due to dementia, and their carers, whether they be professional carers, health professionals, care partners or family carers.
Tickets for Finding Joy are available now priced from £13, by calling the Belgrade Theatre’s Box Office team on 024 7655 3055 or book online www.belgrade.co.uk. For more information about the Belgrade’s Arts Gymnasium project and to get involved, please e-mail Alice Williams at AWilliams@belgrade.co.uk or call 024 7684 6770.