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Creative Matters ‘Caring for Dementia’

People living with dementia and their carers can take some precious time out to stitch a Cloth of Kindness during Norwich Theatre Royal’s new Creative Matters season ‘Caring for Dementia’ next month.

The season, which runs during May, plans to turn the spotlight on carers and people who are living with dementia and is offering free to attend events in addition to ticketed shows in a programme of performances, films, exhibitions, workshops and events, taking place in the main theatre building, its Stage Two auditorium and also at Norwich Playhouse.

The free Cloth of Kindness stitching workshops for carers and cared for will take place  in the upstairs sofa area of the main theatre building on May 4 and May 25, creating a piece of work designed around positive thoughts, kindness and memories.

Participants will work alongside volunteers to discuss their ideas and experiences of kindness which they can then have a go at sewing onto patches of cloth, or if this is too difficult they can get involved in choosing colours of fabric and thread and the volunteers will sew their words and memories of happy events and kind experiences. The resulting patches will be sewn together to make the Cloth of Kindness.

Sally-Anne Lomas, who will run the event, said: “Sewing is a very calming and soothing activity. The sewing skills needed to participate in a Cloth of Kindness are basic and easily learnt. It is a low energy, creative activity open to everyone and the focus on kindness is uplifting. Each patch is personal and unique, but sewn together they make something even greater as a whole. Some of the most touching patches are those where people have struggled with the sewing but the thought expressed is very sincere. We’ve chosen soft fabrics and warm colours because we want the Cloths to replicate the feeling of being enfolded in a loving embrace. I feel as if everyone going through tough times needs a Cloth of Kindness.”

Stage Two will also host free-to-attend film showings of Lady in the Van (cert 12A) on May 15 and Mr Holmes (PG) on May 26. There will also be a free drop-in Dementia Friendly Coffee Morning at the theatre on May 11, between 10.30 – 12noon, giving an opportunity to socialise and talk with people in similar situations and gain advice from Age UK Norwich or Dementia UK; and a free Family Workshop of Family Crafts and Tales on May 30 which will enable family members of all ages to explore nostalgic stories of Chapelfield Gardens and other fondly-remembered days out, old records, floral crafts, dressing up and tea and cake.

There will also be a special Dementia Friends Family Session in conjunction with Age UK Norwich on May 29 created especially for children and their families to take part in during the half term holiday and aimed at educating people about dementia to help increase understanding amongst all ages and help reduce stigma.

From May 4-31, visitors attending any of the Creative Matters events will be able to view Talking Life: An Exhibition by the Wellcome Collection. This photographic exhibition, developed by Created Out of Mind and Wellcome, reveals the diverse and unique experiences of people living with different types of dementia and is part of a series of podcast conversations.

With 8,650 people over 65 in Norfolk already diagnosed with some form of dementia, and many more who have not yet been diagnosed, Norwich has a bid under way to make the city an official ‘Dementia City’, with organisations, businesses and individuals working hard to raise awareness and give help where needed.

Sam Patel, the theatre’s community participation manager, explained the Creative Matters season running in Stage Two would play its part in highlighting the issue:

“You can participate on a level to suit you – visit the exhibition, watch a performance, take part in a Q&A, receive training – offered to carers (Creative Skills for Carers) and young people to become dementia friends. We offer a safe space to explore issues affecting people with dementia and loved ones or carers, with support from professional practitioners and partner organisations.”

The paid-for performances include shows in Stage Two such as Cockamamy (£12/£10 concs), a five-star award-winning production which received fantastic responses at the Camden and Edinburgh Fringes, on May 31; and A Little Bit of Light by Norwich-based Glass House (£15 – carer free) on May 24; plus The Nature of Forgetting from Theatre Re (£14/£12 concs) at The Playhouse on May 9.

Practical sessions include a workshop for practitioners (£20) also from Theatre Re in Stage Two on May 8; a workshop on May 14 by Spare Tyre (£20 – carer free), an arts organisation specialising in working with people with dementia and their carers; and Memory, Music and Magic (£5) on May 9, again by Theatre Re, exploring the link between memory and music; plus ArtatWork will run a Mindful Drawing session (£10) for carers offering valuable time-out on May 21.

For more information, or to book for any of the events planned for the Creative Matters Dementia Season, please see bit.ly/creativematters.