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Life drawings exhibition by Hastings dementia residents

Posted 10:04 pm 16th November 2018

An exhibition of life drawings by people with dementia will be open at a care home from
Saturday (December 19th, 2015).

Hastings Court Care Home residents have been painting a model in classes run by
Drawing Life’s Judy Parkinson, art teacher Robert Sample and life model Mike Mitchell.
The scheme is backed by the Big Lottery Fund and apparently, helps the residents’
calmness and sense of well-being.

Paresh Malhotra, a neurologist from Charing Cross Hospital, attended a class to examine
motor-skills and visuo-spatial attention in people with dementia.

He thinks the project has a lot of value with repeated engagement, the concentration and
the wellbeing it induces.

“It is so much better than doing something passive like watching television,” he said.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an ambient song made entirely of sound effects
recorded by Keith Rodway during the classes.

For more details contact Judy on 07768 633755.



My Virtual Dementia Bus Trip

Posted 10:03 pm 17th November 2018

By Judy Parkinson

Experience what dementia might be like!  It says on the side of the bus.  I run Drawing Life –
drawing classes for people who live with dementia.  Naturally I do my best to communicate
with people at my classes in a kind and understanding way, and if I can do better so much the
better.  When Hastings Court Care Home, where I teach, invited me on a virtual dementia
bus tour I booked a place – I have to say, with some trepidation.  Here was a chance for me
to step into the shoes of people who live with dementia.  I was prepared to go on a trip
somewhere out of my mind and my comfort zone, but how far I could not have imagined.
It soon became clear the bus wasn’t actually going anywhere, but I was – in body and mind.

Our tour guide is a surly man dressed in black without a name or any manners.  He
doesn’t say hello or ask my name.  Not the right kind of guy for a people-facing job I think, but
go along with it anyway.  He barks orders.  Sit down.  Put these in your shoes, spiky side up.
Give me your hand, put this plastic glove on.  I’ll put the chunky one on top.  Other hand.
Take your glasses off.  Give them to me.  Goggles on first, then head phones.  He guided me
into the bus.  No turning back.  Destination unknown.

It’s dark.  I can’t see.  Maybe I can, but not much.  Noise.  Loud.  Coloured lights flashing.
Words.  Tinnitus.  Voices. The floor moves.  Must not fall over.  Noise.  Static.  A shadow
moves.  Radio.  He growls at me.  I can’t hear.  Words. What do I do?  Pins and needles.
Buzzing.  Woolly fingertips.  Sirens.  Voices.  Noise.  Panic.  Dark.  Someone behind me.
Speaking.  Do something useful.  Where?  Is that a hole?  I dropped the cup.  Dark shadow.
That man.  Behind me.  What’s he saying?  Match the socks on the bed.  Why?  What did he
say?  Alarm.  Where’s the bed?  Is it clean? I can’t feel it.   Can’t find any socks.  Is that a
toilet?  My feet hurt.  Dizzy.  I don’t feel safe.  Can I sit down?  Where are the others?  Door
slams.  Bang.  Bang.  Everything at the wrong angle.  Loud.  Voices.  Traffic.  Urgent.
Something bad is happening.  I sit down.  Then it stops.  He lifts the goggles and the head-
phones.  Someone’s crying.

Hi I’m John.  He smiles.  How are you?  His Mr Grumpy act was devised to make you feel
uncomfortable.  It worked.

What did I learn?  This experience has been scientifically designed by an American doctor,
PK Beville, and it replicates some of the sensual assaults felt by people living with dementia.
Apart from being disorientated by memory lapses, people live with feelings of susceptibility,
loss of sight and speech, inability to recognize faces – even your own, dizziness, offensive
noise in your head day and night, fingers that feel like marshmallow, tingling feet.  You feel
vulnerable, small, needing to ask permission to do the most basic things.  You are obliged to
trust people who help you, whether they are pleasant or downright unkind.

Even before I stepped into the bus, I allowed Mr Grumpy put the gloves, goggles and head-
phones on me.  At that point I could easily have done those things for myself, but by then he
was in control.  That loss of self happened frighteningly fast.  John explained afterwards
that he told me a list of five tasks.  I have no memory of that.  I was too busy adjusting to
that fearful environment inside the bus.  All his other instructions were muffled and he
seemed to speak too fast.  I couldn’t work out if he was beside me or in front.

It was very, very dark inside the bus.  The goggles act for macular degeneration, dark in the
middle with limited peripheral vision.  Flashing coloured lights represent the hallucinations
that affect some people.  Why didn’t I search for a light switch or open a curtain like I would
normally?  I was so distracted by the assault on my senses that any modicum of self-
determination had evaporated.

The bus journey was unforgettable – I was frightened, defenseless, emotionally and sensually
interfered with – all in the space of about 15 minutes.  It was vital training for anyone working
with the dementia community.  As I write this, five days later, my feet still tingle from the spiky
insoles I had to wear.  No one would want to take a trip to destination dementia.
But some of us will.



Life-drawings at Hastings Arts Forum

Posted 1:41 pm 31st October 2018

Dementia is a barrier that cruelly cuts the sufferer off from their family and friends.
But various forms of artistic expression have been shown to provide welcome
channels of communication, as Judy Parkinson has found with the Drawing Life
classes she runs at Hastings Court Care Home. An exhibition of the work opens
on Tuesday 17 May at Hastings Arts Forum, she tells Nick Terdre.

What would you do if you won the lottery?  Judy Parkinson says she felt like a winner
when she won a grant from the Big Lottery Fund. “Thanks to the grant, I took life
drawing classes to people, most of whom are living with dementia,” says Judy.

Living with dementia isn’t much fun; for the subjects themselves, for their families or
for their carers. But some of the best laughs of the week were had with a group of
residents at Hastings Court, many of whom live with dementia.

Judy proceeded to set up Drawing Life and, along with art teacher, Robert Sample
and life model, Mike Mitchell, visited Hastings Court to lead life-drawing classes. To
celebrate the achievements of the participants, the team is holding a show of selected
works at the Hastings Arts Forum from 17 to 29 May.  The show will be accompanied
by an ambient soundscape made entirely of sound effects recorded during the classes
by Keith Rodway.

“I came up with the idea for Drawing Life because I am interested in memory,” says Judy.
“I’m the author of the best-selling book about mnemonics, I Before E (Except After C):
Old-School Ways to Remember Stuff
.  I’ve also spent many an hour at life-drawing
classes. It is sometimes said that as we age we revert to childhood. Picasso said that it
took him a lifetime to paint like a child.  I thought I would investigate this paradox.

“Most people in the class look at the model as if for the first time. Many start with no
memory of what they drew before. However, life-drawing is an activity for which you
don’t actually need memory. Whoever you are, you are simply there in the moment.

“The drawings are remarkable. The work became more proficient and confident as a
kind of motor memory kicked in. Is it art, science or therapy? According to senior
lecturer in art and design, Chris Milton, the drawings have an incredible spontaneity,
and a sense of sophistication evocative of abstract and expressionist art.

“Dr Paresh Malhotra, a neurologist from Charing Cross Hospital, attended a class.
He thinks the project has a lot of value with repeated engagement, the concentration
and the well-being it induces. “So much better than doing something passive,” he said.

“Apart from the likely mental health benefits, the sense of well-being and calmness in
the class is palpable, not to mention the songs, the saucy comments and the infectious
laughter that can overcome everyone present – apart from Mike our model, who keeps
a straight face and a steady eye, but he’s smiling inside for sure.”

Drawing Life Life drawings by people living with dementia. Hastings Arts Forum,
36 Marina, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0BU, 17-29 May (closed Monday 22 May),
11am-5pm. Private view Friday 20 May, 6.30-8.30pm.

Drawing Life website

See also Life-drawing classes bring laughter and fun to relieve dementia darkness



Drawing for dementia

Posted 6:01 pm 19th November 2018

Classes that bring art ‘to life’ for residents at a Hastings care home can continue
thanks to further funding from the Big Lottery Fund. Hastings Court on The Ridge
has been running the classes, which use a life model, in collaboration with
Hastings artist and author, Judy Parkinson, for just over a year.

“These classes offer something different to people in residential care,” said Judy.
“Unlike some art activities, this is an active, engaged class that also encourages
reminiscence, as residents, particularly the men, think back to when their own
bodies were fit and strong like the model’s.

“Although people won’t necessarily remember what they drew last time, they grow
in confidence and the pictures they produce are wonderful.” The sessions form the
‘Drawing Life’ project. It has been reviewed by behavioural neurologist, Dr Paresh
Malhotra, from Charing Cross Hospital in London, who describes it as having
“a lot of value” and there is also interest in the project from researchers at Brighton
University and Kings College, London.

Around ten residents take part each week, many of whom have dementia. Home
manager, Georgina Gamble, says the classes complement the range of activities the
home offers.“Art is known to have benefits for people with dementia, such as
boosting their self-esteem, offering them an outlet for emotions and memories, and
also helping with their communication.

“Having a person to draw seems to enhance this. You can see residents concentrating
and really looking. It’s a markedly different response to if they draw a bowl of fruit
or copy a landscape.”

Janet Hemsley has dementia and takes part in every class, sometimes with her
daughter, Sarah Overbury. “It helps us to communicate,” said Sarah. “It isn’t always
easy to talk to Mum but this gives us something to work on together, it’s fantastic.”

Another regular student is John Wollatt. “It makes us smile,” he said, “because that’s
what we’re here to do!”

Life model, Mike Mitchell, describes the classes as “tremendously moving.”

“My mother had dementia. She loved nature and would spend a lot of time looking
at the view out of the window, but her brain wasn’t really active, it wasn’t firing.
To see these people engaged and involved, and reflecting on their drawings has been
amazing. It’s been a very intimate experience for me.”

Judy, who has written a book about memory, first tried out the classes last year and
is hoping to soon stage an exhibition of the residents’ work at the Jerwood Gallery in
Hastings and in London.

“I want people to see what’s been produced,” she said. “Residents have used charcoal
and chalk which has added to the sensory experience, and they have such a sense of
achievement when they see a framed drawing on the wall.”

For more information visit: Drawing For Life.