Scottish Opera’s Project for People Living with Dementia Returns 

Memory Spinners, the project designed by Scottish Opera (SO) to engage with people living with dementia through music and art, has begun at Glasgow’s St Columba’s Church and St Andrew’s The Byre. Launched in 2012, the sessions were put on hold for two years during the pandemic, so this is the first time the groups have been able to come together since then.

SO believes that engagement with music and the other art forms can help those living with dementia and their carers to stay positive and take pleasure in the many aspects of engaging with the arts that bring pleasure and fulfilment, helping to alleviate feelings of anxiety and distress that this disease can bring.

It’s a common misconception that all people living with dementia can no longer learn new skills. A key aim for the programme is to create a relaxing and welcoming environment where people can develop informal support networks as they get to know one another. Each week, rehearsals and visual arts activities build towards a short performance inspired by the music, characters and storyline of a popular piece from the operatic repertoire to which friends and families are invited.

A team of artists and volunteers are on hand to ensure that everyone can participate on an equal footing. Over the years, many carers and family members have expressed how precious the opportunity to share the communal experience of creating a performance has been.

Previous Memory Spinners participants have praised the inclusive and encouraging sessions as being a positive experience for those living with dementia as well as carers who felt the sessions gave them much needed respite and relieving isolation.

SO’s Director of Education and Outreach Jane Davidson said “We are thrilled to be able to re-start our Glasgow Memory Spinners programme after two years’ absence due to Covid 19 protocols. …We’re so looking forward to seeing some old friends as well as making many new ones. Music and laughter have always been at the core of the Memory Spinners project, and we hope that our cast of wonderful participants will enjoy spending time in the company of operetta’s most delightful heroine, The Merry Widow– as she takes us on whirlwind trip through the glamourous, romantic and champagne sparking world of nineteenth century Vienna.”

The Memory Spinners programme is open to all with a diagnosis, no matter the stage, along with their family member or carer. New members are very welcome, and those interested in signing up can contact: Katie.Poulter@scottishopera.org.uk

The Glasgow sessions will run until 4th April at St Columba’s Church, 74 Hopehill Rd, Glasgow G20 7HH.

The St Andrews sessions will run until 5 April, and a new block will also run from 19 April to 21 June at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Queens Terrace, St Andrews, KY16 9QF.

Irene Brown

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