mind full maltings: exploring how to better engage with people with dementia

Sarah, the marketing and engagement coordinator for house, has been working with Farnham Maltings to deliver a new project which aims to engage with people with dementia and their carers. In this blog, Sarah recaps on the project so far and lessons already learnt at the venue.

mind full maltings

Farnham Maltings has recently embarked on a new project to explore how to better engage with and welcome those with dementia in Farnham. Funded by Dementia Friendly Surrey, mind full maltings includes training, building adaptations and a creative programme all suited to elders and those with dementia.

Through my role at house, I am assisting the Maltings team in shaping and delivering the project, with the aim to use this learning to help other house venues engage people with dementia better. Dementia is an area I have little professional and personal experience of, but as the disease continues to effect more people in the UK it’s clear that arts centres nationwide must begin to address how they can support and engage with these people in a meaningful way.

Before progressing to create a plan, we first needed to research the area in depth. We were fortunate enough to meet with The Courtyard Theatre in Hereford, who are considered leaders in the field of dementia arts engagement. Their small team had three years of learning to share with us, and we were pleased to hear that most of our initial ideas chimed with many of their previous work. Leaving the meeting it was clear that all of our ideas had to be first trialled before really understanding the needs of the target group, a slightly scary realisation when leaping into the unknown.

A few weeks passed, and we found ourselves designing a mind full maltings information pack. The first of its kind, we decided to create a document which would hold the background, creative programme and associate events all in one package. Distributed to local health centres, the library, museum and dementia clinics, we’re now playing the waiting game to see who attends the events. Most of our programme is free to attend or heavily subsidised, a tactic recommended by The Courtyard who introduced a slow price progression for their events so people could adopt a routine of paying each time, and I am interested to see how this will work in Farnham.

With a creative offering available to access and promoted locally through the packs, we have turned our focus to the welcome of the building; from the route taken to reach a room, to signage and box office team preparation. Holding a Dementia Awareness training session with support from Dementia Friendly Surrey was integral to engaging the whole building and front of house with the project. The frontline staff learnt how to best support those with dementia in the building, and we’re currently looking into one person in the building becoming our designated Dementia Champion to further their learning in the area. You can download the support materials from the Dementia Awareness training here and here to share this learning in your building.

Looking ahead, we hope to increase our creative programme to include a singing group and a craft project, both of which we’ll research more after our first relaxed cinema screening has taken place. It’s certainly has been a learning process so far, and I am sure that it will continue to be so in the coming months.