Theatre invites us to share stories, to stand in the shoes of others to appreciate their worlds. Understanding experiences of dementia is of interest to theater artists and academic researchers, yet involving people with dementia in exploration of the topic is often an afterthought. Co-production is a powerful method of eliciting opinions, ideas and actions of people with a shared interest, to create change though few examples involve people with dementia, or have a creative focus. This project aims to understand the potential of a center linking theater practice and dementia research involving people with dementia through creative co-production.
This feasibility study will involve 12 people affected by dementia (either diagnosed or primary supporter of a participant in the study). They will explore the center’s key areas of focus through a co-production process, supported by creative practitioners and an advisory group of UK/international stakeholders. The process will result in the creation of an initial plan for the center’s priorities and primary research project concepts. The lead researcher will conduct a review of existing models linking practice and research in arts and health, visiting up to three such centres for in-person learning.
A study using qualitative participant observation and semi-structured interviews and quantitative sense of purpose/quality of life measures will explore the impact of the co-production process on participants. Data will be analyzed and written up as a journal paper for peer review, adding to the evidence on creative co-production with people with dementia. An accessible creative output, the form of which (film, short play, animation) will be agreed by participants with dementia, will communicate the study’s findings to a lay audience.
This study will challenge stigma by demonstrating the abilities of people with dementia, creatively and as collaborators in research. It will make the case for further research funding towards the center’s inception. The goal is to establish the center based on the feasibility study, producing evidence and powerful creative products to support theatre and dementia practice, whilst engaging people with dementia as active long-term contributors, with meaningful roles, purpose, and community.