Launch of new digital app made for and by people living with dementia

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A new digital artwork has been created by people living with dementia, school children and young people. The APP, entitled Garden of Remember will be become part of the permanent collection of NetPark, the world’s first digital art park, situated in Chalkwell Park, Essex.

Digital image of red flowers and green foliage with the title 'The Garden of Remember' overlaid

Title illlustration for ‘The Garden of Remember’ by Joe Magee

Artists, Elsa James, Joe Magee, Alistair Gentry and Jack Hurst, worked with participants to help shape this work raising awareness about living well with dementia. Garden of Remember is one of the many projects coming out of an innovative partnership between Southend Borough Council and  art organisation, Metal, to create the NetPark Wellbeing Project.

Based at Metal Art School over 500 people living with mental health concerns were given the opportunity to take part in creative and digital learning over the past year. Garden of Remember shares memories of places and play across the generations – bridging the 80 years between the youngest and oldest participants.

Emma Mills of the NetPark Wellbeing Projects said: ‘A year in the making The Garden of Remember  began with children and young people receiving dementia training and learning skills that would equip them with a better understanding of how to support people with dementia to live well. They then met with the dementia participants and together went on walks around the park to record and film stories and memories, triggered and inspired by the landscape and features.’

Using the stories and memories as a starting point under the art direction of artist Elsa James, the children went on to create traditional and digital artworks working with ipads. Writer, Alistair Gentry, and illustrator, Joe Magee were brought in to develop a narrative and the artwork for the APP. Two actors from Southend Shakespeare Company then recorded the narrative that you listen to as you walk around Chalkwell Park. University of Essex, Computer Sciences Student, Segun Olaretan helped provide the software technical support as part of his course.

Digital image of a gas mask with foliage set in the eye holes

Illustration for ‘The Garden of Remember’ by Joe Magee

Colette Bailey of Metal said: ‘The APP is part of Metal’s ongoing work to broaden access to the arts and new creative skills for people of all ages and from all walks of life. It is also part of our contribution to the ongoing drive to make Southend a Dementia friendly town. All our staff completed dementia training as part of the project and the resulting work demonstrates brilliantly how arts projects can help raise the awareness and visibility of those perhaps least visible in our community.’

Digital image of the profile of a face

Illustration for ‘The Garden of Remember’ by Joe Magee

Jo Dickinson, the Strategy and Commissioning Manager Mental Health and Dementia at Southend Borough Council said: ‘I am enormously impressed by the APP that has been developed for people in Southend and further afield to enjoy in Chalkwell Park The school children listening, learning and enjoying the reminiscences of the older person has changed perceptions and challenged the stigma of dementia. A participant saying they felt ‘respected’ again by being part of the project sums it up.’

The Garden of Remember will be launched at Metal, Chalkwell Park, Southend on Sea on Friday 10 March from 2pm to 4pm. Please click on this link to find out more about Metal Cutlure