Dementia has become one of the most important health and care issues facing the world. In the UK, the number of people with dementia is estimated at around 850,000 and worldwide cases are set to triple by 2050. Recognising the arts as an alternative therapy, over the past three years Wolverhampton Grand Theatre has been leading the way for arts venues with its dementia-friendly services and for 2022 will further it’s provision, reaching more people than ever before thanks to a new partnership with leading Black Country-based water safety specialists Nant Limited.
Previously, the theatre’s monthly Memory Cafés, held at the Grand Theatre with live music and entertainment have provided many benefits for those living with dementia, helping to improve general attention, cognition, memory, speech and communication skills and has shown to help reduce agitation and depression. Throughout the lockdown of 2020, the memory café’s continued online with filmed content being streamed digitally to care homes across the Midlands.
What started as an open call for local Care Homes to request a performance on the Grand Theatre’s Facebook page, sparked nationwide attention, soon garnering interest from further afield. The Grand Theatre has now expanded its reach as to include as many care homes as possible by creating a digital version of the dementia-friendly performances that will be streamed into care homes in Herefordshire, Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Country Durham and into Scotland in Fife.
Then came a message from the United States… from an assisted living and memory care community in Phoenix Arizona. Seniors at Brookdale Desert Ridge engage in daily paths of engagement and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is now part of their enrichment, with streamed performances from Miss Beth Belle as well as from Wolverhampton-born professional performers Richard and Katie Astbury.
Miss Beth Belle is a vintage performer from the Midlands with a repertoire spanning the 1920s – 1960s and visits care homes with her act. The nostalgic act, which sparks memories and emotions has proven hugely popular with Grand Theatre patrons at both the in-person Memory Cafes and online as digital performances sent to the Memory Café.
For 7 weeks in the summer and autumn of 2021, together with the Grand Theatre, Miss Beth Belle was able to visit the care and residential homes in person, expanding the reach of the Grand’s dementia provision to visit 66 locations across 7 weeks.
Through the Memory Café scheme, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre reaches approximately 140 people a month. Across the 7-week Care Home tour, numbers were in excess of 2,000 people who benefited emotionally and behaviourally from the performance.
All of this provision is provided to the users completely free of charge thanks to the support of Headline Sponsors FBC Manby Bowdler and Supporting Sponsors The Steve Bull Foundation and Paycare. A 2022 tour of care and residential homes with Miss Beth Belle is now possible thanks to generous sponsorship from new partner Nant, a water safety specialist company based in Wolverhampton.
Remy Lloyd, Outreach Manager for Access and Inclusion at the Grand Theatre said; “We are incredibly grateful to Nant for their generous support, helping us to continue the hugely beneficial performances in care and residential homes this year. Thanks to the support of our existing sponsors, we have managed to reach thousands of people who would never have had the opportunity to engage with the Grand Theatre, providing them with the many health benefits that live music and performance can have on their physical and mental wellbeing. Now, with Nant’s sponsorship of our 2022 tour, we look forward to furthering our reach even more.”
Richard Deakin, Technical Director of Nant said; “As a leading Black Country business, we are pleased to support the Grand Theatre in their important Memory Cafe work for those living with dementia. We recognise the significant difference which the Memory Cafe team can bring to audiences at care and residential homes, helping with memory, speech and communication skills. Having grown our reputation for top quality service in Legionella control for 28 years, Nant works with leading care home groups. In delivering innovative systems to ensure care home water supplies are as safe and secure as possible, our employees meet people with dementia so we are building on our partnership with the Grand by training our staff to be dementia friends as part of our commitment to making a positive difference.”
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre are also delighted to announce an expansion to the monthly Memory Café’s that widens the Audience Development work currently being undertaken at the theatre. The theatre is drastically improving the attendance of South Asian and Black, African and Caribbean audiences at performance programmed throughout the year. Now, from 4 February 2022, two of the theatre’s Black, African and Caribbean ambassadors, Carl McGregor and Sophie Clayton will launch their strand of cafes that will appeal to the audiences who have recently discovered the Grand Theatre through the outreach work.