Being silently bold at the 100/6000 Gathering – Blog 2

And so, day 2 of the 1st Scottish Dementia Art Festival dawns and it coincides with the 100/6000 Gathering opening. Now in its 3rd year the 100/6000 Gathering was created by Ron Coleman who thought “If we have 100 people with dementia gathering together, we have 6000 years of experience and there is nothing we can’t solve.” It is about those with lived experience owning their dementia and taking charge with everyone else only allowed to observe. The 100/6000 Gathering is for and by people living with dementia and this year’s conversation centred around the role of creativity in helping those living with dementia to retain their autonomy for longer.

Ron Coleman opens the 3rd 100/6000 Gathering

After a warm welcome and official open from Ron he introduced MSP Maree Todd who is the Scottish Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport. Maree Todd couldn’t be there in person but had sent a recorded speech which was shown on screen. Maree Todd has worked closely with those with lived experience of dementia to devise the new Dementia Strategy for Scotland. In her she expressed her enthusiasm for both the Scottish Dementia Arts Festival and the 100/6000 Gathering with the words “These events dispel the stigma of what those living with dementia can achieve”.  Ms Todd also went on to say that the creative arts empower individuals and have fantastic therapeutic benefits for increasing feelings of well-being for those living with dementia and their supporters. The Minister ended her speech with plans for a National Anti-stigma Campaign around dementia with the aim of “Inspiring and expanding views of what our dementia community contribute to Scotland”.

Maree Todd MSP & Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing & Sport

Ron then invited those with lived experience to respond to Maree Todd’s speech and bold partner Alan Buick was first to the microphone with his response of “People don’t realise what we go through and now it’s been brought to attention everyone should know.” Well said Alan and we are delighted to hear you use your bold voice. Another bold partner Willy Gilder was next to respond with the words “It’s great if people want to spend money but everyone can write or paint and using your imagination costs nothing. The more we can do for ourselves the better. We need money and support, but we are the power that can move mountains”. What more motivation does the Gathering need than that to take control of their own destiny, the observers learned, listened, and were inspired and that was all before lunch.

Alan Buick boldy sharing

After lunch those with lived experience had a discussion around the following question ‘Artists, Patients or Students: How do we want to be treated when doing art?’ Their response came back loud and clear “We want to be known as ourselves not sufferers, not patients, not artists nor student just Alan, Lil, Gary, Michael, Gerry, Willy, Audrey… see the person, not the diagnosis.” And with yet more inspiration and clear guidance from our dementia trailblazers the first day of the 100/6000 Gathering drew to a close but the evening events for the Scottish Dementia Arts Festival were just beginning.

Caught in this Moment of Time

The evening entertainment on day 2 at the Scottish Dementia Arts Festival began with a delightful family affair of Ron Coleman’s play, ‘Caught in This Moment of Time’ dealing with issues around the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in people living with dementia. Dawn & I had seen Ron’s play when it was in Edinburgh, but this performance was even more special as Ron took part in the dancing section himself with his wife Karen Taylor playing herself and also dancing with Ron which was so touching and their daughter Frankie playing the part of Alexa and also directing. Ron kept telling the story of how Frankie was trying to give him some tips on characterisation, but Ron quipped “Frankie how can you teach me to be more me?” however after some useful tips on raising his voice here and emphasising different things there Ron did admit that Frankie had indeed made Ron more Ron.

A Family Affair – ‘Caught in this moment in time’

Ron Coleman, describes the play as a way of raising several possible discussions including:

1: That the capabilities of people with dementia are often overlooked.
2: That AI has the potential to help us remain in our own homes for much longer if used properly.
3: The need to put in place effective planning methods that enables the interaction between AI and the person living with dementia.
4: Communication has be clearer and more honest than how it is at present.

The Dementia Symphony & Dance

We were then treated to a very moving premiere of The Dementia Symphony & Dance at the Scottish Dementia Arts Festival. This exclusive performance of a specially composed piece in the form of a symphony composed in collaboration with Ron Coleman about his experience of being diagnosed and living with dementia was brought to life through beautifully choreographed dance interpreting the drama of the music with movement. There was then a Q&A with the composer & dancers of the symphony including a discussion on the perceived relationship of the dancers; were they mother & daughter or an older self, trying to hold on to the person they were, the answer is up to the viewer. Personally, I felt it was mother and daughter and my favourite part was when the music seemed to be spiralling out of control as were the dancers with spirals lighting the stage which I felt represented the utter confusion for both the mother and daughter after diagnosis. You will need to try and catch this performance yourself and make up your own mind.

The Dementia Symphony & Dance

Day 2 ended with a big bang of poetry, drama, music & dance all inspired and created out of lived experience of dementia bringing us back to the sentiments MSP Maree Todd expressed at the beginning of the day. Creative arts empower individuals and have fantastic therapeutic benefits for increasing feelings of well-being for those living with dementia and their supporters and also those lucky enough to be at the 1st Scottish Dementia Arts Festival.