Creative cafés and ArtBox: Dementia Friendly projects

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Ailsa Richardson, Engagement Officer for older people

Bristol Museums Development Trust granted £12,000 from visitor donations towards the running of future creative cafés and other community engagement projects. Every donation matters and helps to support work like this. Thank you.

£40 could cover the costs for a person with dementia to attend a Creative Café. Please consider making a donation.


Creative cafes

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

Creative Cafes are pop up cafés at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery for people living with dementia and their carers and family members. They aim to improve the health and wellbeing of the participants through creative activities and by exploring the wealth of objects and paintings at the museum.

Fourteen cafés have run since the project started in July 2018, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aim is to run another 12 over the next year, thanks to your donations. Participants are invited from across the city in collaboration with the charities Alive and LinkAge, as well as the Dementia Wellbeing Service (NHS).

This year we have run 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.

In this way, the work we do in our Creative Cafés here in the museum can make its way out into the community.

Thanks to the design and fabrication team: Lisa Cole (artist/designer), Chris Ingram (designer for The Factory, Knowle West Media Centre), Caleb Parkin (poet), Kate Uzzell (textile artist) and Ailsa Richardson, (Engagement Officer for Older People).

Find out more about ArtBox.

2 comments on “Creative cafés and ArtBox: Dementia Friendly projects

  1. Domenica Hall

    Dear Sir or Madam
    I am very interested in organising some visits to the Dementia Cafes for our residents at St Monica Trust.
    Is there a list with timetable of the cafes that offer this service.

    I look very much forward to hearing from you
    Yours sincerely
    Domenica Hall (Community Engagement Coordinator)


    1. Ailsa Richardson

      Hi Domenica, Thanks for your enquiry. Can you e mail me at [email protected] so I have your e mail. I am in the process of setting some new dates for Creative Cafes from March onwards.
      The charity Alive usually gather participants for our Creative Cafes from a number of care homes so if you have contact with them that is probably the best way to book some places. Best wishes, Ailsa


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.