For a person living with dementia visiting the theatre can be a challenging experience or even too much. At the West Yorkshire Playhouse staff and people living with dementia have worked together to remove the barriers that could stop someone with dementia coming to see a show.
Maggie Graham, Dementia Friendly Leeds Campaign Manager, went to the West Yorkshire Playhouse recently for a special dementia friendly performance of Beryl – a play about the Leeds-born female cycling champion from the 1950s. Many congratulations to West Yorkshire Playhouse on its heart-warming dementia friendly performance of Beryl.
Beryl is the true story of Beryl Burton from Leeds, who took up cycling in the 1950s following childhood illness and rose to become five times world pursuit champion, 13 times national champion and twice road-racing world champion. It was fascinating to learn more about this inspiring local woman and take a thoroughly enjoyable trip down Memory Lane at the same time.
Community development manager at the Playhouse, Nicky Taylor, has worked closely with the cast and crew to help make the play more accessible for people with dementia. This involved advising on subtle changes to the script, staging and lighting amongst other things, and providing a relaxed environment for the audience. There was no doubt the whole audience had a very enjoyable afternoon, going by the many nods and chuckles throughout.
It was nice to hear all the references to familiar places in Leeds and the cast did an amazing job playing various different parts and the different times in Beryl’s life while always keeping it clear who was who – as well as where and when! The actors had apparently done a lot of work around ensuring the clarity of the characters which definitely paid off. There was an exciting meet and greet with the cast afterwards – people spoke about their connections to Beryl Burton – even the man who built her house in Woodlesford was there! And people reflected on their happy memories of cycling around the city and on holiday.
It’s the second time that West Yorkshire Playhouse has mounted a dementia friendly performance, following the recent success of White Christmas, and it is part of the really unique work being carried out at the theatre to support and welcome people living with dementia.
The Playhouse is a member of the Leeds Dementia Action Alliance, which now numbers over 80 organisations supporting the campaign and working across the city to welcome people with dementia. For more information about how your organisation can get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maggie Graham, Dementia Friendly Leeds Campaign Manager
The next dementia friendly performance at the West Yorkshire Playhouse will be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in January 2016.
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