Following a significant funding award from Scottish charitythe Life Changes Trust in March of this year, the Festival and King’s Theatres are delighted to announce the official launch of Forget Me Not, a pioneering collaborative project designed to create dementia friendly communities at the heart of our cultural venues.

Led by the project’s Coordinator Paul Hudson in the Learning & Participation team (pictured, with Cerin Richardson (left) and Catrin Sheridan), Forget Me Not has set out its agenda to make the Festival and King’s Theatres accessible and inviting venues for people living with dementia and their families. It will identify what these audiences want from their theatre experiences, what the challenges are for people living with dementia to attending their local theatres and what can be done to support and encourage this valuable social activity.

Programming bespoke public events and community engagement will be at the core of the new project. Forget Me Not will launch with a series of events in October 2015 at The Studio at the Festival Theatre, programmed as part of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival. Events will include a performance of intergenerational theatre show Grandad & Me, a Tea Dance and a 1940s-themed dance performance by students at Performing Arts Studio Scotland. These events are free but ticketed through the Box Office, open to all ages and designed to create a relaxed environment where families and carers can enjoy live performance together, and eat cake.

Forget Me Not will work closely with research partners including Alzheimer Scotland, Stirling University and the University of the West of Scotland, and in close consultation with people living with dementia and their carers to develop templates on how to make an arts venue dementia friendly, templates that will be shared with arts organisations across the UK to help create an industry standard.

Forget Me Not’s project initiatives in the coming months will include:

·         Full access and customer service audits at the Festival and King’s Theatres to establish the adjustments needed to ensure a positive visitor experience for people living with dementia and their carers. The audits will examine all aspects of a theatre visit from ordering in the café, to buying a ticket at the box office, to going in to see a show.

·         The appointment of Forget Me Not Champions to lead on outreach activity, engaging with existing dementia support groups to establish what audiences want and what’s stopping them from attending their local arts venues.

·         The creation of the Forget Me Not Theatre Club, a social club for carers of people living with dementia.

·         A series of public events in October 2015 in The Studio at the Festival Theatre programmed in collaboration with Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival. The events will include a Tea Dance, a performance of Grandad & Me and a WWII-themed dance performance.

·         Working with some of the UK’s leading theatre practitioners to commission new work specifically designed and created for people living with dementia, their carers and their families.

Forget Me Not Coordinator Paul Hudson has worked as a performer, director and stage manager in the performing arts for a number of years. He has managed his own singing teaching and vocal practice business, worked as a Singing Lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and most recently was the Coordinator of the Musical Memories project for Alzheimer Scotland.

On the launch of Forget Me Not at the Festival and King’s Theatres he said: ‘The most important lesson I’ve learnt is that the smallest amount of support can make the biggest difference to people’s lives. It’s about making it easier for people who are used to coming to the theatre to keep on coming to the theatre.’

Jane, one of the Forget Me Not Champions and a carer for her husband since he was diagnosed, said: ‘This is a wonderful and far-seeing initiative. It gives people diagnosed with dementia the opportunity to participate and also for their continued inclusion in a wider society.   And that, surely, is what theatre is all about?’

The Life Changes Trust was established by the Big Lottery Fund in April 2013 with a ten year endowment of £50 million to support transformational improvements in the quality of life, well-being, empowerment and inclusion of people affected by dementia and young people with experience of being in care.

Dementia Friendly Communities include, empower and support people affected by dementia and their carers in every aspect of life, from accessing services to using public transport.  They can be geographical communities or communities of interest.

They also help empower those whose lives are affected by dementia so that they can remain integrated in society, live as independently as possible and participate actively in decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. 

Over the next three years, the Life Changes Trust will invest around £3 million in establishing and supporting a wide variety of Dementia Friendly Community initiatives across Scotland.

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