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Festival outreach project explores the benefits of music for people living with dementia

Published June 14, 2019 10.43am

The power of music to evoke memories is at the heart of a community arts project bringing together young performers and people living with dementia.

Dementia days

Brian Pearson and Florence Sanders enjoy a dance during the Dance Hall Days workshop at Beamish

Our community arts team has joined forces with Beamish Museum and the Alzheimer's Society for Dance Hall Days. The project, part of our international BRASS Festival, will explore how music can improve wellbeing, as well as its ability to trigger happy memories.

As part of the project, people living with dementia and their carers have attended two workshops at the museum where they spoke about their own 'dance hall days'. From looking at old records and discussing the songs they used to listen to, to reminiscing about the places they went and the people they met, it was an opportunity for individuals to look at the role music played in their past and how it can continue to delight and inspire them in the future.


Music and stories

The project will culminate in an event in Beamish Museum's new Welfare Hall on Thursday, 18 July at 2pm, when members of Durham County Band and young actors will perform a special show interweaving music and stories shared during the workshops. Paul Edis will provide musical direction, with Bex Mather arranging the dramatic composition of the production.

The show is one of many concerts, gigs and street parties taking place during this year's Durham BRASS Festival, which is set to entertain and inspire people of all ages from Friday, 12 July to Sunday, 21 July.

To view the full Durham BRASS programme, visit the BRASS: Durham International Festival website

Bringing communities together

Cllr Joy Allen, our Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: "The theme for this year's festival is Brass and Health and Dance Hall Days is a fantastic example of the positive difference music can make to people's lives.

"Music not only brings communities together, but it can lift your mood and evoke vivid memories of people and places we may not have thought about for years. This is particularly true of brass music, especially in the North East where it is so closely linked to our mining heritage."

Constructed as part of the £18 million Remaking Beamish project, the Welfare Hall is due to open this month and is the first exhibit in the attraction's new 1950s town. It is a replica of Leeholme Welfare Hall, which opened in 1957, making it the ideal setting for the Dance Hall Days event.

Offering support

Beamish's health and wellbeing team run a weekly programme of sessions and group activities to support older people, people living with dementia and other long-term health conditions and their families and carers at Orchard Cottage in the museum.

Dance hall days

During the sessions the group spoke about the role music has played in their lives

Michelle Kindleysides, head of health and wellbeing at Beamish Museum, said: "It's been such a lovely project to be involved with and I know we at Beamish, and all the participants, feel really privileged to be able to support the BRASS festival in this unique way. 

"We've had some really lovely sessions here, talking about nights out, dancing, music and 'young love' and by far our favourite part was when we moved the furniture and did some dancing in the cottage too. We're all really looking forward to seeing the final performance."

The project ties in with the Alzheimer's Society's Dementia Friendly Communities Programme, which encourages everyone to share responsibility for ensuring people with dementia feel understood, valued and able to contribute.

Music therapy

Belinda Williams, Dementia Friendly Communities coordinator for Alzheimer's Society, said: "One of Alzheimer's Society's most popular services is Singing for the Brain, which is based around the principles of music therapy and singing. It's wonderful to see how people light up when music evokes memories from their past.

"Activities such as this, which include and engage people living with dementia, are extremely important and form an integral part of the dementia friendly communities we are seeking to create.

"We want people living with dementia to feel valued and part of the communities they live in and we're grateful to organisations such as Durham County Council and Beamish Museum for the important role they are playing in helping us towards this goal."

Members of the public are welcome to attend the performance at Beamish on Thursday, 18 July. Normal museum admission fees apply.

Festival news

For festival updates follow 'Brass International Festival' on Facebook or @DurhamBRASS on Twitter and Instagram for the latest news.

BRASS is one of an unprecedented number of cultural events taking place in Durham in 2019. To find out what else is going on and how to get involved in the #Durham19 campaign visit the #Durham19 page.

For information about the Alzheimer's Society and the support it offers, visit the Alzheimer's Society website.

More information about Beamish and the events going on there this summer can be found on the Beamish Museum website.

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