Innovative dementia care showcases in central London

'Winston's World' cartoon by illustrator Tony Husband

An initiative to raise awareness of new and creative ways of caring for people with dementia launches today at the Menier Gallery, in central London.

The ‘Imagination Café London’ is a week-long, pop-up installation previewing today (Monday) and opening to the public tomorrow until 19 May, as part of a UK-wide tour this year.

Devised by Professor Victoria Tischler, Head of Dementia Care Centre at the University of West London, the Imagination Café offers activities specially designed for people with dementia including visual art, archive object handling, music, storytelling and drama. It provides training to artists interested in working in dementia care which is led by artists who have themselves worked on Dementia and Imagination, ensuring that valuable skills and expertise are shared widely. Everyone is welcome to attend the café for a unique learning experience.

At the Imagination Café this week is a welcoming, creative, communal space that showcases a variety of multisensory approaches that can be used in dementia care. These include a dementia-friendly afternoon tea courtesy of 'Nourish by Jane Clarke,' items selected from the Boots UK archive, as well as visual arts displays and activities from Dementia and Imagination and Art in Residence by the Ben Uri gallery. Relevant information is provided courtesy of Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.

It is all underpinned by research carried out by Professor Tischler and her colleagues at the Universities of Bangor, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Manchester Metropolitan. The Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC) and Economic and Social Research provided funding.

Professor Tischler said: ‘I was inspired to create The Imagination Café after seeing artwork made by people with dementia as part of the Dementia and Imagination project. The art was not made to be exhibited but some of it is very accomplished and interesting. I thought that if it were framed and exhibited, many people may be surprised that someone with dementia could be creative, producing artwork that is complex, intriguing, or even beautiful.’

Cakes at a recent dementia event

Commenting on the initiative, Sophie Clapp, archivist at Boots UK said: ‘Boots has been working with Professor Tischler to provide everyday items from our extensive archive to help trigger memories for people living with dementia. I am delighted to be a part of this project and it’s wonderful that we have been able to use items from the Boots archive in this way.’

Welcoming the Imagination Café, Ben Pearce, Director of the charity of Paintings in Hospitals said: ‘The Imagination Cafe will highlight our own interest in developing new collaborations to promote working creatively as a major benefit to people living with dementia.  The Imagination Cafe will support findings and ideas on arts and dementia, and raise awareness of it more generally with Gallery audiences.’

Book a free ticket to learn from artists about working in dementia care at the Menier Galley at 51 Southwark St, this week.

Find out more about the University's research in the area of dementia care.