Living in Falmouth, I decided to enrol as a volunteer on the Walking Groups based in the St Austell area. The group meet every Wednesday somewhere in this vicinity to walk, have a cuppa, a biscuit and a good old natter! After only a few walks, I was really keen to work with the group and become part of it. In line with my practice/research on the MA, I created a project which I felt would build on the values of the Sensory Trust, encouraging the group to engage with their surroundings in different ways, using all of their senses and to document their experiences.
I passed around a disposable camera and asked the group to take photographs of their walks, with a particular theme or constraint in mind. The themes provide a focus, another form of cognitive stimulation and a shared topic of conversation: the group become the illustrators of their own narrative. They span a variety of ideas, such as senses, personal experiences and times of year. I have created 16 books so far, and their titles include: Texture at Treverbyn, Sound at Gossmoor and Green at Luxylyan. Some have little books inside of them, which expand further on the theme: for example, in Shadows at Wheal Martyn I depict the movement of the sun and in The First Signs of Spring at Lostwithiel I present a collection of their drawings.
This project is a fantastic example of mind and landscape coming together: it is a psycho-geographical project which allows the people to document their experiences in the landscape, whilst nurturing and sharing their inner landscapes. It also creates visual prompts which can allow them to revisit their shared memories, and is extremely important in providing the people with self-evidence that living with dementia can still mean that they can form new connections, both with people and landscape.
The group have been absolutely fantastic to work with, and after 8 months of going along I have become very much part of it. Myself and the other volunteers often say how much we get from going on the walks, and how much we miss it when we can’t make it! The group have such an incredible integrity, they support one another with the day to day and, really, are a group of friends enjoying nature together. I have made sure to emphasise this in the collection of books: we are a group of people who meet to enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company, and the person is very much seen before the dementia.
In September 2015 I launched Penryn Memory Cafe, for those living with dementia in the local community. We meet twice a month and share in an afternoon of refreshments, activities and songs.
As part of my MA in Illustration I have been exploring how different objects in the space play a role in enhancing the experiences for the attendees: from the raffle prizes, to the tablecloths, the objects create familiarity and enable them to stay grounded in the environment.
I have produced a publication - Memory Cafe - of my research, alongside images taken by Hannah Louise Wright. If you like to read more about this topic, please get in touch via my contact page.
in collaboration with Violeta Noy
We understand making memories as a personal, organic process and, as such, a fallible one. We deal with those glitches in the system, the things that are not quite, not quite right. We all fabricate memory, fill in gaps, even if we are unaware we are doing it.