HERITAGE PATHFINDERS 2021- 22
A project partnership between Leominster Meeting Centre, supersum
& the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester.
Meeting Centres provide a safe place to adapt to living well with dementia through a programme of member led activities to support people and their families in adjusting to changing needs. Walking alongside Meeting Centre members, Finding a Way embraced the art of wandering; exploring the navigational challenges of dementia and the heritage of a small market town in Herefordshire. Kate experimented with fun ways to wander safely, feel more confident in supported improvisation, and investigate non-linear pathways.
‘Wandering’ - she wandered off; his mind is wandering - is a word that can hold negative connotations when associated with dementia, but when applied to the artistic process, ‘wandering’ is often celebrated. Consider Guy Debord’s ‘Theory of the Derive’ or the creative metaphor ‘thinking outside the box’, valued as a way to new and exciting perspectives.
Using Zoom technology made familiar by the pandemic, walks around Leominster and beyond were ‘livestreamed’ (never recorded and therefore fixed) back to the Meeting Centre. Wearing a headset and microphone, and carrying a smart phone on a selfie stick, Kate was in constant communication with participants. There was no planned route and ‘wanderers’ back indoors were encouraged to suggest what Kate should do and where she could walk. As the project progressed, more participants chose to go on wanders about town ‘in real life’, sharing their ‘in the moment’ experiences with those back at the Centre - who perhaps had mobility challenges or did not feel well enough to go outside that day.
Music is well recognised to help people living with dementia; the recall of melody and lyrics often defies the condition. Music also supports the ‘living in the moment’ philosophy of the Meeting Centre. Alternative lyrics were written for old favourites tunes and new songs were composed to present the links between music, non-linearity and dementia. For, although a musical note exists ‘living in the moment’, the memory of the note before and the expectation of the note after creates a tune.
Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside (with Yvie George)
In an experimental trip to the seaside, Kate livestreamed a walk in Aberystwyth back to Leominster. Participants chose to share in jumping the waves, go rock pooling, walk on the cliff path, and chat to people on the beach. In the Meeting Centre there were sand and sea themed activities with fish’n’chips and ice creams for lunch.
Creative approaches to navigation
Without prior knowledge of the townscape, arrival by public transport, and no access to digital or paper maps, Walkspace artists were challenged to locate the site of a Leominster story. Walking alone, with one image and minimal text, they ‘followed their noses’ and relied on luck, instinct and serendipitous encounters with locals.
A walk to the museum
Most historic towns have their own heritage trail and this was Finding a Way’s improvised, mutable take on the tradition. The more mobile Meeting Centre members walked across the churchyard, through the park and town streets to Leominster Folk Museum, selecting features and exhibits of interest to stream back to those back at the Centre.