Kirklees Council funds ‘Breathing Space’ project to support residents with dementia

A charity is running an arts and dementia project called “Breathing Space” to highlight the link between creativity, music and dementia, ahead of the Kirklees Year of Music 2023.

By Jessica Barton
Sunday, 15th May 2022, 2:00 pm

First established in 2009 and funded by Kirklees Council and the Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the “Breathing Space” initiative offers a range of free creative activities to people living with the early stages of dementia, their carers or family members.

Skilled and experienced artists design and deliver the activities and strive to make participation a fun, stimulating, enlightening and uplifting experience for people with dementia, their partners or carers.

The main goals of the sessions are to provide a space and activity that is safe, fun and allows people to shed the labels of “carer” or “cared for” and enjoy something together.

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The project has been set up ahead of the upcoming dedicated Year of Music in Kirklees in 2023.

Moira Wade, older people’s lead and Breathing Space project manager at hoot creative arts, said: “Breathing Space music sessions take a variety of formats and the focus is on what’s possible, on getting together, having fun, sharing stories and sometimes creating something unique together.

“The sessions have included African Djembe drumming and making and playing the kazoos and more recently, playing familiar songs through a speaker to stimulate memory and recollection and encouraging participants to join with voice, instruments and requests.

“In other sessions, the group compose, sing and record a unique song.

“The artist will usually take a theme, such as colours, holidays or the weather and facilitates the group in conversation and reminiscence.

The sessions take place in Batley every Monday afternoon.

“They will note down keywords and phrases and then, with the participants, shape the words into a song and create a tune to fit.

“Once they are happy, instruments will be added, the song recorded and everyone is given a copy.

“As well as having fun, participants express pride in their achievement and some tell us that they remember the words of their songs from week to week, whilst being unable to remember what they watched on TV the previous evening.”

Ahead of the upcoming dedicated Year of Music in Kirklees in 2023, hoot has highlighted the connection between music and its benefits for those suffering from dementia.

The role that music and creativity play in supporting people’s health and well-being has become even more apparent in recent years, and that includes people living with dementia.

For people living with dementia, the ability to process, respond to and engage with music remains regardless of what stage they’re at.

Moira added: “We believe that having dementia doesn’t stop you from enjoying new challenges and learning new things given the opportunity and the right approach.

“We are big believers in having fun; there’s no pressure or expectation for you to do anything that you don’t want to do.

“You don’t need any previous experience or creative confidence to be involved, just a willingness to give it a go and see what happens.

“My passion for engaging with people living with dementia developed from my experience with my mum who lived with Alzheimer’s disease for many years.

“We shared some lovely special times together singing and listening to music. I want other people to be able to experience the many and varied benefits of sharing quality creative time together.”

Hoot creative arts is an arts and mental health charity based in Huddersfield.

It offers a diverse range of creative activities that support mental health and emotional well-being and has been running for 20 years.

“Breathing Space” activities run on Mondays throughout the year, with some short breaks.

Supported by Kirklees Council and Kirklees CCG, hoot is encouraging more people across the region to get involved with the sessions.

Sessions take place in Batley every Monday from 2.30pm until 4.30pm at Batley Community Centre, Upper Commercial Street, Batley, WF17 5DH - the venue is accessible.

More details about “Breathing Space” and session dates can be found on the hoot website at www.hootcreativearts.co.uk/our-activities