‘Dementia, How I See It’ is a new exhibition of screen prints created as a collaboration between Misfits Poetry Group and Artshed. The exhibition, organised by Donna Baber at Fresh Arts, will be shown at the Schools and Community Gallery at Southmead Hospital from June to December 2024.

The idea for the exhibition started with the Misfits Poetry Group. The group have all known, loved and lost someone with dementia, a condition that is more common among people with learning disabilities. Alzheimer’s Society estimates that “1 in 5 people with learning disabilities who are over the age of 65 will develop dementia. People with Down’s syndrome have an even higher risk, with about 2 in 3 people over the age of 60 developing dementia, usually Alzheimer’s disease.” This compares to 1 in 11 people over 65 for the wider population (NHS 2024).

The Misfits poetry group wanted to spend some time writing poetry about dementia, everyone wrote individual poems and Dan, Beth, Rob, Claire, Rachael, Tim, Liam and Bill all wrote one as a group with facilitator Anita Karla Kelly:

Dementia: How I See It

Dementia can be like 170 years old, in a dark place

where nobody goes. It will be in the cave, sea, ground

a creature with scaly skin, wet feet and smells like rotten

cuttings, peelings of fruits that have been left in the scorching

sun for too long. Dementia is 89 years old, or 66, or 70, or 54.

Who are you?

Some sort of alien with creepy eyes that follow you around.

Where am I?

It could enter your brain and make you confused. It could hold you to ransom,

have you weaker and weaker, it can snap like a whip.

Here I am ready or not.

Who are you?

Dementia put keys in the microwave, fork in the toaster, bathroom’s flooded,

taps running, keys in the fridge, dinner on the head, time for bed.

What’s for dinner, lunch, breakfast?

Tears, scratch, kick, tears.

What am I doing here?

How the Project Came About:

In November 2023 The Misfits moved into St Pauls Learning Centre and reached out to artist Barbara Disney at Creative Shift who delivers art sessions from the same building, to see how we might collaborate. Barbara introduced us to her group at the Artshed at M-shed and Misfits and Artshed started working together to create powerful screen prints inspired by the poem, learning new ways to express what they feel. They created prints to go with each line of the poem, using bold colour and images to illustrate the words.

Beth, Rachel, Tim, Liam, Dan, Alistair, Claire, Bill all took part in the Artshed sessions, got to know new people and learn new skills. Beth has written a blog about the art sessions which you can read here.

Across 6 weeks of working together Artshed artists and Misfits Poets worked together to build connection between the two artist communities. 

More about Creative Shift:

CreativeShift CIC is a small team of dedicated arts on referral practitioners committed to supporting people experiencing social isolation and mental or physical health challenges across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Artmaking is proven to support positive mental health and wellbeing. The creative process transports people away from everyday stresses and worries, promoting relaxation, delight, curiosity, connection, a sense of achievement and wonder.

Taking part in a creative process encourages people to adapt more easily, seeing the world with fresh perspective.  Weekly in person and online Arts on Referral programmes, regular follow-on groups and citywide projects connect with people in a way that works for them and enables positive life changes.

Artshed at Mshed is open to anyone who previously attended the community-based art on referral programmes and who would like to continue their creative journey in one of Bristol’s cultural centres. As well as personal projects Artshed participants regularly produce collaborative work for public exhibition.

“Working with Misfits Poetry group to produce the work for Fresh Arts was a lively, thought provoking and fun experience”.

Barbara Disney, CreativeShift

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