As part of Where the Arts Belong, a programme of projects exploring the impact of arts and culture on people living with dementia, artist Suki Chan is currently in residence with project Belong Villages, our project partner.
Over the past few months, Suki has hosted various sessions with members of the community at the Belong Village in Crewe. You can read her first blog here to see the activities she's planned for the residents.
In this latest blog, Suki discusses her first artist talk and shares her conversations with the people she has met on her journey so far.
First Artist Talk and Film Screening
My artist talk and film screening took place in The Venue on the first floor of Belong. The staff were very helpful to assist with bringing the residents from the households to the talk. The first person to arrive was very friendly and at first I was not sure if he was a resident or a member of staff here. He was very kind to compliment me on how joyous I was. He sat down with Mrs. B at the table and there was something very familiar about him. When Brenda complained about the pain in her leg, he would nod with understanding and empathy.
During my presentation and screenings of short films, he would nod and smile at the right moments and seemed very engaged. Later when I learned that he was a university lecturer I realised what the familiarity was. He had an air of professionalism about him. His mannerism and gentleness was not dissimilar to some of the scientists and academics I have been fortunate to have collaborated with over the years. When I showed interest in his specialist subject, he laughed and said, “But don’t ask me anything about it.” He seemed aware that he has forgotten his specialist subject. Treading carefully, I did not ask any further as it might be difficult for someone to lose the knowledge of a subject that they have been teaching others over the years.
Mrs. M had a nice smile and during the talk she would comment on how certain people and places seemed familiar to her. I explained that it is quite possible that she has seen Colin Blakemore before on TV as he is a famous vision scientist. Mrs. B arrived later and she was very friendly and full of smiles. I later learned that she used to be a radiographer. I asked her if she used to stand behind the screen to minimise the amount of radiation she was exposed to. She nodded enthusiastically as she said yes. It seemed to bring back a lot of memories for her.
As I was packing up the teapots I could not help but notice there were a number of coats on the coat hanger in the venue. I wondered who these coats belonged to. The Venue is like a place within a place. People who live in the households may want to put a coat on to go to The Venue even though the corridors around the village are sufficiently warm. In that sense, the coat hanger signifies the ritual of leaving one’s home and arriving somewhere new.
Where the Arts Belong is part-funded by Arts Council England and the Baring Foundation through Celebrating Age, a programme of varied projects exploring the impact of engaging with arts and culture on older people.