Creative cafés and ArtBox: Dementia Friendly projects

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Ailsa Richardson, Engagement Officer for older people

Since my last blog, there’s been a lot going on with the Dementia Friendly projects at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Creative cafes

We ran another series of Creative Cafés for people living with dementia which included sessions with poet Caleb Parkin, visiting artist Freya Gabie, Fine Art curator Jenny Gaschke and myself.

Freya Gabie was one of the artists-in-residence in our Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. Participants really enjoyed the exhibition (with the assistance of magnifying glasses) and the drawing experiments with Freya.

Participant and volunteer looking at the cross section of a bone in the museum

We also created a collective poem with Caleb and had a musical accompaniment while viewing paintings in the Old Masters gallery. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful painting collection housed in light, colourful and spacious galleries.

Many of our visitors are surprised at how much they enjoy these galleries and that they may have overlooked their existence! We have found that both carers and elders always leave very upbeat and wanting to come back next time. 

Some feedback we’ve received:

“The level of engagement was phenomenal round the table and in the gallery’ (Bristol Culture volunteer)

‘Very happy, I like drawing. It’s lovely, I’m relaxed.’(Participant)

 ”I feel really good – because I learned a lot from the exhibition and enjoyed the drawing experiment.” (Participant)


ArtBox is currently in design and development, and is due to be launched in mid-September. It is designed for people living with dementia who cannot currently visit the museum due to the seriousness of their condition and challenges to their health.

We are making four activity boxes that draw on the activity sessions in the Creative Cafes. They are designed to be sensory, tactile, interactive, playful and accessible.

The boxes will be made available by staff in the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) and in care homes in the surrounding area via the charity Alive.

The design and fabrication team are Lisa Cole (artist/designer), Chris Ingram (designer for The Factory, Knowle West Media Centre), Caleb Parkin (poet), Kate Uzzell (textile artist) and myself.

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