Lost memories found in giant mural

19 SEPTEMBER 2019

A unique 10-metre-long work of art, produced by a group of people in Newcastle-under-Lyme who live with dementia, has gone on public display in the town’s Belong Heritage Gallery, as part of a ground-breaking therapy to help individuals recover lost memories and improve their wellbeing and lives.

Artwork at Belong Newcastle Under Lyme

Resident Evelyn Ball with with Belong Newcastle-Under-Lyme team member Dan Turner and resident Eileen Watford by the 10m long work of art.

Critically acclaimed visual artist Jo Löki developed the artwork with participants from the Belong Newcastle-under-Lyme care village, on the town’s Lower Street, as part of the ‘Meet Me at Live Age’ community programme, which was showcased at the annual Live Age festival led by New Vic Theatre in partnership with Keele University and Age UK North Staffordshire. Serving as an artistic expression of the memories, stories and lives of residents at the dementia-championing care village, the project explored the therapeutic benefits of art as an outlet for the elderly, as well as immortalising participants’ memories in the art installation.
Over four months, customers and staff at Belong took part in various observational drawing activities including sessions in Belong’s garden, visits to Queen Elizabeth Park and activities in the studio. The finished piece, which measures 1.5 by 10 metres, was inspired by the Blue Willow China ceramics and pottery that feature in the Belong Heritage Gallery’s Samuel Bell Tea Room, reflecting The Potteries heritage and the stories of participants many of whom worked in the The Potteries industry.
Jo Löki commented: “It was important that the participants at Belong could experience the wellbeing and benefits of drawing and sharing memories, while developing their creative skills. Sharing the stories and oral histories of their lives meant that participants could reflect on their life experiences, and connect with the art mentally as well as physically. One of the most positive effects of the residency was that participants became friends, and so ‘A Forest of Memories’ became a vehicle for social inclusion.”
Head of Education at New Vic Theatre and director of the Live Age programme, Jill Rezzano, said: “Through ‘A Forest of Memories’, the New Vic’s ‘Meet Me at Live Age’ programme was enabled to reach out to the Belong community as a whole, inspiring residents, colleagues and staff who wholeheartedly supported and inspired us in return. Working with such a talented and committed artist as Jo allowed the creative potential of everyone in the group to be fully realised and celebrated.”