Bloomsbury Festival in a Box: engaging socially isolated people with dementia

Project Summary

This project is hosted by: Central Services of the School

Research interests:
Communities, Classes, Races, Culture, Local Government
Africa, Africa, Asia, Asia, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
Project period:
01-Aug-2013 - 01-May-2014
Project summary:

The Bloomsbury Festival is an established annual event dedicated to celebrating the cultural, intellectual and social wealth of Bloomsbury and its diverse communities. A registered charity, the festival supports community projects year-round that inspire positive change in people's lives through the creation of beautiful art. Via the AHRC-funded Bloomsbury Festival Cultural Engagement Project hosted by the School of Advanced Study, University of London (Feb-May 2013), in 2013 the Festival has drawn upon the interdisciplinary humanities research expertise in the School of Advanced Study to develop and refine its cultural engagement programme. Specifically, it has sought to find a means of both extending and critically interrogating the impact of its work with hard-to-reach and vulnerable social groups in the Bloomsbury and broader Camden areas. Identifying older people with dementia as a core population capable of multi-sensory cultural engagement, but typically unable to participate in the Festival's outreach programme, an early outcome of this project has been the establishment of a reciprocal relationship with Age UK Camden's Dementia Befriending Service, which supports people living with dementia in Camden.
Working closely with this service, and drawing upon the expertise of Dr Claudia Cooper—honorary consultant old age psychiatrist to the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust--the 'Bloomsbury Festival in a Box' project will between August and October 2013 develop, trial, and analyse a peripatetic 'Festival in a Box' outreach project that takes boxes of materials associated with the Festival out to people unable to leave their homes to take part in cultural life. As well as being therapeutic devices, these boxes will form innovative research vessels that will gather qualitative data on the value of cultural participation among older people with dementia in Camden. Carefully designed to include a range of sensory and cultural materials that will prompt narrative responses and recollections from service users, the Bloomsbury Festival boxes will engender social stimulation as well as interests in new activities, ideas and experiences among those living with dementia. The project will therefore benefit not only the individuals directly involved, but the broader research community.

The Bloomsbury Festival in a Box will offer service users a unique opportunity to participate in a cultural event from which they would normally be excluded, and will in turn raise awareness of those living with dementia via a highly respected cultural forum. Moreover, it will offer those living with dementia an opportunity to share their knowledge and stories of the area, providing history and insight into Bloomsbury and the surrounding locale. As some service users have lived in the area for many years, participation in the outreach programme will not only be an opportunity for them to actively re-engage with community life, but also to participate in re-narrating the history of Bloomsbury itself. Over the course of weekly visits to the homes of service users, these boxes will become miniature 'archives of engagement', gathering rich and unusual data over the course of the outreach experience.
A high level of interest in the proposed research project is anticipated, both within the area and on a national scale. Reflecting this, the final results of the project will be disseminated via a website and an academic publication, and via a one day event that will bring together practitioners and researchers in fields of gerontology and arts and health for a knowledge exchange opportunity intended to further the sharing of expertise and research methodologies in this field.

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Management Details

Lead researcher & project contact:

Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Dr Michael Eades Cultural Contexts Research Fellow School of Advanced Study



Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Dr Claudia Cooper Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry School of Life and Medical Sciences university College London



Funder Grant type Award
AHRC AH/L005794/1 - Cultural Value Project Awards