Hearts for the Arts Shortlist: London Borough of Waltham Forest, Dementia Programme at William Morris Gallery

Shortlisted in the inaugural National Campaign for the Arts/What Next? Hearts for the Arts Awards 2017 for Best Local Authority Arts Initiative.

Waltham Forest Council’s Culture and Heritage Team, based at the William Morris Gallery, has developed and delivered an innovative arts programme for residents living with dementia, generating positive wellbeing outcomes for participants.

The Gallery is a member of the Waltham Forest Dementia Support Network and in 2015 the network highlighted the lack of stimulating activities for those living with dementia, as well as the need for dementia support staff to develop the skills to run art-based activities independently.

Seventeen workshops were delivered in summer 2016, 11 taking place in the community and six at the Gallery, attended by 128 participants and 68 support staff. Each participant worked on an individual and a collaborative artwork. Sessions began with handling original Morris textiles, Indian printed cottons and African kanga, helping to stimulate conversation and memories amongst participants. The evaluation, using the UCL Wellbeing Measures Toolkit, demonstrated that participants had benefitted from increased social interaction and greater levels of confidence.

Two creative workshops were delivered for support staff and carers. These were designed to introduce staff to the Gallery and encourage them to feel confident using the resources independently for creative activities. There was significant demand for these workshops and participants confirmed that they would use their new skills back in the day centres where they work.

The William Morris Gallery Team has developed new resources and session plans following this project, and staff and volunteers feel more confident engaging people with dementia. This project has now attracted external funding; Arts4Dementia will provide funding for printmaking workshops for people with early onset dementia. This work will ensure that these innovative approaches to increasing the engagement of people with dementia with the Gallery and its collections are sustained into the future.

What the judges had to say:

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, double bassist: “It’s good to see an initiative aimed at dementia sufferers that keeps the diversity of the community high on its priorities”