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REAL LIVES: THE ART OF LIVING WITH DEMENTIA FEATURES STRIKING ARTWORK BY DEMENTIA NI MEMBERS

Dementia NI's travelling art exhibition has arrived in Newtownards!

Real Lives: The Art Of Living With Dementia, which explores what it is really like living with dementia and challenges widespread stigma about the condition, will be hosted at Ards Arts Centre until Saturday 24th February 2024.

Open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturday 10am to 1pm, the exhibition showcases thought-provoking photography, striking patchwork quilts and moving poetry. In total there are 45 pieces created by Dementia NI members, all of whom live with a diagnosis of dementia.

The exhibition, which has been travelling to local communities in Northern Ireland since its launch in March 2023, has already been shown at venues including the Waterside Theatre in Derry-Londonderry and Mossley Mill Theatre in Newtownabbey.

There are over 20,000 people living with dementia across Northern Ireland and this number is projected to rise to 60,000 by 2050*, due in part to our ageing population.

Years of stigma and misunderstanding have led to common misconceptions about what it means to live with dementia. In fact, dementia has been reported as the condition people fear the most, with over half (56%) of people putting off seeking a diagnosis for up to a year or more**.

Our exhibition sets out to challenge these misconceptions, transforming how people view the condition and starting conversations through the medium of art. It shares a message of hope that many people with dementia are still able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis and live well with dementia.

The patchwork quilts on display were created during an online project hosted by Dementia NI and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, to help local people with dementia stay active during lockdown. Working with Arts Council art tutors, our members were encouraged to make their own heirloom quilts which tell the story of their lives.

It includes a quilt created by Dementia NI member Allison Batchelor, from Dundonald, County Down. Through her poignant and well-crafted work of art, Allison shares what is still important in her life despite her diagnosis.

“When you receive a diagnosis of dementia you believe your life is over and that it’s impossible to learn new skills, however this is not the case,” says Allison. “During this amazing art project we learnt many new skills and, in my opinion, produced first-class artwork. We’re challenging the public’s perception of what dementia looks like and are constantly endeavouring to break down stigma and barriers. This art project was so enjoyable and I am very glad to have been involved.”

The free exhibition also features photographs, taken by Dementia NI members including Davie McElhinney from Enniskillen, with support from Arts Care. Through photographs, Davie tells his story of the emotions he experienced after diagnosis and the journey he went on from shock and despair to acceptance and hope.

“After a diagnosis of dementia, it is still possible to experience new things and achieve something worthwhile,” says Davie. “It is my hope that stigma continues to be challenged and we can have an open dialogue around how to challenge assumptions about dementia when they appear. People think dementia is an elderly person’s condition but that’s not the case. We [Dementia NI members] are early onset and are living well with medication and support. It’s trying to break that misconception; most people only know the media image.”

Claire-Rose Canavan, Empowerment Facilitator for Dementia NI, says, “This exhibition is special to our members and we’re so thrilled they permitted us to share it with the public. We warmly invite you to come along and view it for yourselves.”

The exhibition, which offers free admission for the general public, is open Tuesday to Friday 10am - 4pm and Saturday 10am - 1pm, from Thursday 1st February to Saturday 24th February 2024, at the Ards Arts Centre, Town Hall, Conway Square, Newtownards, BT23 4NP.

In addition, we would like to thank our funders - Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Dementia NI’s Empowerment Groups meet regularly across Northern Ireland. They are free of charge and anyone who has received a diagnosis and is in the early to middle stages of dementia may like to attend. For more info call 028 9693 1555 or email info@dementiani.org

If you would like more information on the exhibition or to speak to one of our members, please email jane@dementiani.org or call 07966 881 422.

* Statistic provided by Age UK

** Statistic provided by the Alzheimer’s Society

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