All the world’s a stage for theatre project tackling dementia

People with dementia will see their life on stage thanks to a new scheme which uses theatre to reduce isolation and reconnect people with their memories.

The Camberwell-based Dot Collective has received an £18,000 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder – for its ‘A Map To You’ project.

Professional playwrights work with people with dementia and their families, taking elements from their lives and incorporating them into a short play which the participant and their families can watch.

As part of the scheme, which evolved out of a switch from group sessions to more individual work during lockdown, participants also get an audio, video and text version of the play to keep.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“Maintaining social connections and keeping the brain stimulated are vital to slowing the effects of dementia, but these are things that have been hard for many people to do during the enforced isolation of lockdown.

“The Dot Collective has come up with a really inspired way of reconnecting people with dementia to their own lives, triggering memories and using the power of theatre to promote wellbeing.”

A Map To You also features storytelling workshops – group sessions where people with dementia are encouraged to share their memories, using props, costumes and music to stimulate their imagination.

The Dot Collective was founded by Laura Harling in memory of her late grandmother, Dorothy Harling, after whom the charity is named, who had dementia and was resident in a care home in East Sussex.

The Dot Collective Artistic Director Laura Harling said:

“My grandmother didn’t have very interesting activities or social stimulation and she went into a rapid decline. Often it’s the case that when people with dementia don’t have that, they just give up.

“A Map To You is about connecting families back together through the shared memories of the past, while creating new memories in the present.

“It is a really joyful experience which has a lasting impact for participants, who get a real sense of achievement, and their families, who get to have a keepsake of something their love-one took part in and enjoyed.”

More information about The Dot Collective is at www.thedotcollective.com

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case study: ‘It keeps me going and gets me away from the TV’

Brian, a resident of assisted living in Southwark, was referred to The Dot Collective by his dementia support worker at the Alzheimer’s Society and over the summer shared his life story with artistic director Laura Harling and playwright A.C. Smith.

Brian has befrienders who phone him once a week and occasionally take him out, and a carer who helps him, but has no family to speak of and misses company and conversation in his life. What began as a handful of sessions to hear his stories has become an ongoing friendship between him, Laura and The Dot Collective.

A.C. Smith has written a short play in response to hearing Brian’s stories, including his time in the army in Cyprus, travelling to Argentina in the Merchant Navy, jumping down ropes from helicopters in Dartmoor and running pubs in Dorset and London.

Brian said: “It’s all well and good people wanting to ‘care’ but most of them do what they think you need and don’t get to know you.

“I enjoy talking to The Dot Collective – it keeps me going and gets me away from the TV. I am looking forward to going to the theatre and seeing my play – I’m very thankful.”

Picture captions

- Brian, from Southwark, pictured on a trip with The Dot Collective to the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, to see models of liners like the one he sailed on.

- scenes from The Dot Collective Zoom storytelling workshops – Dot Collective Artistic Director Laura Harling with Creative Associate Stuart Turner

- creative boxes sent out to online workshop participants

- City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, a charity founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is now responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its grants team, City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – gives out over £25 million a year to good causes across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk