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The Arts and Dementia (TAnDem) Doctoral Training Centre Conference - Malvern, UK

Updated: Apr 2

Blog post written by Robyn Dowlen (AHECRN Blog Editor) On Thursday 21st of September I attended The Arts and Dementia (TAnDem) Doctoral Training Centre’s second annual conference in Malvern, UK. TAnDem is an Alzheimer’s Society training centre that funds 6 PhD students to generate knowledge and evidence about the arts and dementia. Their annual conference had the main theme of how we can translate research into practice The keynote, delivered by Geoff Wong, offered a new perspective on evaluation by introduction realist evaluation and discussing complexity in arts interventions. The keynote was followed by a presentation by Theatre Veder (Marieke Westra and Marijke van Haeften), who demonstrated the Veder method, which combines physical contact, theatre, poetry and performance to enhance the wellbeing and quality of life of people living with dementia in care homes. This generated debate in the audience about artist employment versus the training of care staff to implement artistic methods in their care role. There was also discussion surrounding the aesthetics of dementia.

During the lunch break there was an opportunity to engage with Idea Cafes or films. This enabled an interactive session where conference attendees could meet with other researchers to discuss key elements of research, evaluation and practice. Afternoon sessions explored the role of arts in care and in residential care settings with a focus on performance in care and artist residencies. First, presentations by Rachael Savage (Vamos Theatre), and Magic Me explored the role of practitioners and training within the sector. Rachael discussed the role of full face masks in interacting with people with dementia, and the success of Finding Joy, a production focused on the life of one person living with dementia. Magic Me told of the successes of 4 artist residencies within four Anchor care homes in London. It was fascinating to learn about the projects, and there was an interesting debate about the role of research and evaluation for arts projects.

In the second afternoon session I attended the failure-free creative dance activities workshop, led by Diane Amans and Penny Allan (The Courtyard). This workshop explored means of engaging people living with dementia with dance, in a way that was creative and safe. We explored the use of feathers and balloons to encourage engagement, and learned about how simple it can be to adapt materials to aid dancing. Overall the day was a celebration of arts projects for people living with dementia, and explored difficult questions surrounding the roles of researchers and arts practitioners in this body of work. It was a really engaging and exciting conference, and I look forward to attending again next year! The conference will be held again next year in Nottingham on the 21st September. If you are interested in blogging about an event please get in touch.

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