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Forty London arts organisations have signed up to a new charter as other initiatives promote the arts in care homes across the UK.

A V&A Dundee talk at Henford House, a Barchester care home

V&A Dundee

A new charter aims to make cultural venues accessible to people with dementia as the sector reopens, tackling a "lack of understanding and stigma" to attract new audiences.

Forty London-based arts organisations have pledged to sign the Dementia Friendly Venues Charter launched by Mayor Sadiq Khan for Dementia Action Week.

Venues are asked to provide sensory maps and visual guides, signage to guide transitions between spaces, and a hybrid on-site/digital offer, as well as co-creating specific programmes for people living with dementia: "For example, they may act as curators, research evaluators, performers, employees, volunteers and so on."


The goal is to become dementia inclusive rather than dementia friendly so those affected by the condition can attend everything - not just actitivies specially designed for them.

At least 40% of employees, including all marketing and communications staff, would train with the Alzheimer's Society - a collaborator on the charter - to become "dementia friends".

The initiative comes as more than 150 nursing and care home workers undertake arts training funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and V&A Dundee announces a new partnership with 240 care homes and private hospitals across the UK.

An estimated 850,000 Britons have  dementia - nearly 70,000 of those are living in London. This group, together with their carers, "represents an enormous audience that many venues might have previously neglected," the charter notes.

Khan said: "As our city begins to re-open and our campaign to attract visitors gets into full swing, I want to send a clear message that our cultural venues are here to welcome people with dementia and we all have a part to play to ensure our capital is a more welcoming place."

Berna Huebner, Director of the Hilgos Foundation, which supports arts participation for people with memory impairments, said the initiative was "just wonderful".

“Dementia-friendly arts venues are vital so that people with dementia and their carers can more easily visit museums and other cultural attractions to benefit from the power of art.

"Let's hope more cities adopt this approach."

The charter

Museum of London is leading on the charter, delivering a dementia friendly arts and culture network to share best practice among the signatories.

Its Memories of London programme offers sensory creative activities on site and at care homes and day care centres. Programme Manager Amy Eastwood said 5,000 people have participated since 2019 and the organisation is "excited to welcome back Londoners and to continue working closely with those living with dementia" when it reopened on Thursay (May 19).

Battersea Arts Centre became a fully relaxed venue in February 2020, allowing audiences to talk and move around during performances. 

Inclusive Practice Manager Kelsie Acton said the organisation plans to create sensory maps and resting places for its building and offer staff training to become dementia friendly.

"We know that access is a creative, generative force and are excited for the changes that will come from working with the other signatories to make our venue more welcoming to people with dementia."

The Albany will further develop its award-winning Meet Me programme for over-60s with other London venues: "As we begin to think about gradually welcoming people back into our building over the next few months, the charter will help us to access guidance and materials... so we can become even more accessible and open into the future."

Other facets of the charter include a buddy system and greeters for those affected by dementia, meeting them at bus stops or stations before they enter the building.

The document notes that not every section will apply to every organisation "but there will be something there for everyone to begin the journey of... making a long-lasting and meaningful difference".

Care homes

Thousands of care home residents will soon be able to access a programme of online talks guiding them through the V&A Dundee's exhibitions over several months.

A partnership between the museum and Barchester Healthcare provides access to older people outside the city and an experience to share with their friends and family.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring our stories to life for so many individuals who cannot visit the museum in person," V&A Head of Learning Joanna Mawdsley said.

Meanwhile, Arts Care in Northern Ireland is training 150 healthcare workers, having adjusted its in-person work in response to the pandemic.

The organisation has delivered art boxes to nursing and care homes across the country - the training facilitates staff there to use the boxes with the older people they care for.

Arts Care CEO and Artistic Director Jenny Elliot said the need for support and continued access to the arts was "very much there".

"Healthcare staff are now integrating creativity into their everyday care practice which has had great benefits for the older people they care for."