Being bowled (bold) over at the final day of the 1st Scottish Dementia Arts Festival – Blog 3

As we embarked on the final full day of the Dementia Arts Festival & 100/6000 Gathering we were unaware that the Deepness Dementia team had saved all the best delights of the festival til last. We were bowled (bold) over by the day that was to unfold. Creating a Dementia Arts Manifesto Forest with Willy Gilder; Capturing a box of smiles with Ronald Amanze; Boom Saloon inspiring storywriting with their STAND Word Play workbook launch; Gus Harrower & Robyn Smith and their band treating us to the gift of songs all written by STAND members ‘Shattering the Stereotype’ and last but by no means least ‘Dementia and all that jazz’ with Sophie Bancroft, Tom Lyne & guests.

If you weren’t there you’re in for a treat showcasing all that those living with dementia can achieve through the arts. If you were there you may as well read on to relive the magic.

Creating a Dementia Arts Manifesto Forest with Willy Gilder

The first question we were asked to begin creating our Dementia Arts Manifesto was ‘Is Art Important to those living with dementia?’ a resounding yes because:

  • We can express ourselves
  • It helps us stay active
  • We can capture our feelings with original song lyrics
  • We can write poems that share our life stories
  • We can plant raised flowers beds with words to explain how we feel about dementia
  • Art is important but so is capturing sporting memories
  • History boxes from the library bring back memories

Gerry concluded this discussion by saying “Anything that stimulates the brain and brings back memories helps our dementia”.

Next question ‘What policies should a Dementia Arts Manifesto include?’

  1. Access needs to be free and government funded
  2. We need to be empowered help ourselves and contribute
  3. Facilitators need to be available to support when required
  4. Those who are non verbal living with dementia need extra support such as scrabble tiles, word tiles and electronic talking mats
  5. Intergenerational projects with young school children, teenagers and special needs children
  6. Encourage a social conscience in society to develop a dementia inclusive community
  7. Social prescribing and keeping people well, recognising meeting centres as a health service and a screening centre
  8. Join Networks = STAND, Dementia Friendly Dunblane, Forfar, Peebles, Kirrie Connections
  9. Equality of service led by people living with dementia

To capture all of this our DAF artist in residence Willy Gilder asked us to draw a tree flourishing with all the things we want to achieve from our Dementia Arts Manifesto. What do we want? We want ordinary, small things to enable the big things which keep us well such as:

  • Driving Birdwatching
  • A Dementia Adventure Centre
  • Nature Singing
  • Transport
  • Photography Baking
  • Antiques
  • Memory Boxes Storytelling
  • VR Headsets to have adventures
  • People & Places Go to Space
  • Act in a play
  • Be in a rock band
  • Daily Fulfilment
  • Boating
  • Visiting Museums
  • Dementia Hell’s Angels
  • Pottery
  • Drawing
  • Films
  • Sport

And so we placed our trees in the Dementia Arts Manifesto Forest on the floor and were inspired by all that we had shared and pledged to achieve with a discussion of bringing these trees to the Scottish Government in Holyrood so watch this space.

Capturing a box of smiles with Ronald Amanze

After lunch we were intrigued to discover more about Ronald Amanze’s ‘Box of Smiles’ workshop. Ronald Amanze lives with vascular dementia and hosts the much loved Ronald Amanze show on Deepness Dementia Radio. As we all turned up to find out more about smiles Ronald was delighted to see us and shared very openly his story and how he felt about delivering the workshop “At breakfast Jim said he was looking forward to my Box of Smiles workshop that afternoon when I panicked! I can’t do that, it’s too soon. In a calming way, Jim was so amazing and beautiful replying that he would co-facilitate the workshop with me and after some reassuring chat we agreed.”

Ronald & Jim

So 14 eager participants waited to hear what was next and what unfolded what simply beautiful and authentic embraced with kindness for all that took part. I will leave it to Ronald’s words to explain what he asked us to do in the workshop but from my perspective what we all shared was showing character, being creative, showing love and being bold, all the bold values, thank you Ronald.

Ronald Amanze explains “In the Box of Smiles workshop, we ask everyone to write a few lines about what makes them smile. Then one by one, they recite it to the whole group and I record it on my iPad. With a bit of help and direction from myself to read out their smiles slowly, it becomes so beautiful. Then with a few tweaks to the voice recording I add some amazing music to it and we have a beautiful recital, a beautiful song, which is put together into a Box of Smiles. I’m still putting music to our Box of Smiles in Inverness, to create an end product.” So again watch this space.

Ronald Amanze capturing Dawn’s box of smiles

Boom Saloon & STAND Word Play workbook launch

With the promise of cake our next treat (in more ways than one) was the STAND Boom Saloon launch of their publication ‘Word Play’ a selection of poems and workshops to support those living with dementia to play with words. Boom saloon first approached STAND in the summer of 2020 proposing a creative writing workshop. The first phase of the collaboration was carried out digitally engaging with writers all around the world enjoying a range of different insights and inspirations. What followed is a workbook including a selection of words, phrases and poetry penned by STAND. This is accompanied by five guided workshops which allow you to enjoy word play yourself, whether living with dementia or supporting someone who is. At the launch alongside the cake we were also encouraged to take part in a workshop where you deleted the words from a story to create a new story so that there was no pressure of a blank page but a new story could emerge and be created from the words that were already there. To order copies of the Word Play workbook e-mail STAND at or

Gus Harrower & Robyn Smith performing STAND’s ‘Shattering the Stereotype’

Now let’s get the Dementia Arts Festival party started with the musical writing talents of the members of STAND brought to life with gifted musicians Gus Harrower and Robyn Smith and their talented band who join the STAND group weekly finding value in collborative songwriting workshops connecting with incredible people. As well as being gifted ‘STAND Songs volume 2’ we were also treated to hits such as ‘I’m Still Me’, ‘ Me and My Mountains’ and my personal favourite ‘Bike in a Box’. All songs were created through the STAND groups who exist to support people living with a dementia diagnosis and their familes and friends. As STAND commented ‘The creation of these songs has been inspirational, they have taken us to places we could never have imagined.’ And this was evident in the room as the purple T-shirted brigade that is STAND tapped their toes, clapped their hands and rocked along to their own hits. In conversation afterwards many were heard enquiring as to where they could purchase the music as it was a joy to listen to, see the links at the end.

‘Dementia and all that jazz’ with Sophie Bancroft, Tom Lyne & guests.

There was lots to entertain from the razzamataz of jazz finale at the Scottish Dementia Arts Festival but my highlights were Nancy singing ‘Knickers’ to the tune of ‘Diamonds are a girls best friend’, Maxine wowing us with her beautiful jazz voice and hearing the songs ‘Nancy’ and Agnes’ which will feature in ‘Dementia the Musical’ which tours next year. Knackered as we all were from a jazz packed day we left inspired, enthused and joyful for all that had been and all that is to come, so look out Edinburgh the 2nd Scottish Dementia Arts Festival is headed your way in 2024!

Nancy McAdam Singing ‘Knickers!’

See links below for all that has been featured in this blog:

Deepness Dementia Radio

Boom Saloon