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New Horizons Creativity Project for people with dementia

Involving acute dementia sufferers and elderly patients with mental health issues at Franklyn Community hospital, rural care homes and centres / November 2011 – October 2012
Funded by Awards for All and partner organisations.

Working with these very challenging illnesses was a step in a new direction for DEPW. The aim was to improve social interaction, memory, mobility, engagement and enjoyment, as well as to create artwork for each venue.

Simon Ripley and Kerry Hart ran 30 printmaking workshops at Franklyn Hospital in Exeter, Hemyock Cameo Club at the Blackdown Healthy Living Centre and at Silverleigh Cedars Care Home in Axminster. They worked with a total of 163 participants, 5 artists/volunteers, 2 NHS Occupational Therapists, 5 Occupational Therapy students, 8 care workers and 15 family members of participants. Some sessions were run in collaboration with Dance in Devon to introduce movement and dance.

Participants created individual monotype and collagraph prints as well as large scale permanent artworks for the venues – laminated panels, framed prints and transparent window decals.


Feedback from all the venues and participants was enormously positive. Residents became more confident and proficient at a time when they were widely regarded as losing skills.

Families of participants experienced their older relatives in a new light – seeing their creativity and self expression, while residents shared pleasurable experiences with carers. This levelled the institutional hierarchy as both groups printed alongside each other as equals.

Quotes from participants:
“It’s been so good for us this, working on all these animals and birds is reminding us of what they are like. Well, we knew anyway but this is making us remember”

“I’m so interested in it – I think if I started doing this at home I would forget about cooking dinner”

Legacy of the project
  • Displaying the residents’ artwork gave them a stake in the fabric of the institution as well as making a lasting and visible legacy.
  • Franklyn Hospital is now seeking to run creative sessions on a permanent basis.
  • Simon Ripley continues to work with Franklyn Hospital through Arts Council Grants for the Arts funding.
  • Arts and Health South West used the project as a case study in a national press campaign called “Enhancing the Healing Environment”.
  • The activity was an opportunity to think afresh about the management and care of very challenging illnesses as well as to inspire and support healthcare workers.
  • Working with Exeter University and Devon PCT to evaluate the activity gave DEPW new tools to assess our work and build on it.

Find out more by reading Simon Ripley’s blog or his writing for The Age of Creativity. Or see the videos below.

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Handcrafted by Rock Kitchen Harris