Dementia Friendly creative cafés

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Ailsa Richardson, Engagement Officer – Older People

Our Dementia Friendly creative cafes are pop up cafes at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery for people living with dementia and their carers and family members.

We have run seven cafes since July and have been inviting people from across the city in collaboration with the charity Alive and the Dementia Wellbeing Service (North Bristol).

At a creative café, we start by warmly welcoming participants to the museum. We then visit the galleries to see some of the museum collections and meet curators and visiting artists.

We’ve engaged in lots of creative activities that encourage communication and new experiences including conversations about costume and textures in the 550 year old painting, St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child by Dieric Bouts. This led to the creation of personalised photographic portraits in the galleries with artists, Kate Uzzell and Polly Garnett.

We’ve also enjoyed poetry readings in the galleries and created individual and collective poems with Bristol-based poet, Caleb Parkin as well as music in the modern and contemporary art gallery.

Through evaluation of the sessions, we’ve found a hunger for more information about the paintings. We noticed that participants will spend a long time with one picture and this sort of engagement opened our eyes to different aspects of the paintings.

A conversation with participants Roger and Alice about ‘hands’ in paintings led to observations about skies and how they indicate the time of day and other aspects of the environment. Roger pointed out that it could be dawn in the Bouts painting.

A picture taken from a Dementia friendly creative cafe - a group of people looking at a painting in the French galleryWe’ve also found the feeling that there is ‘a community with you’. One of our Front of House staff commented that it’s become like a warm welcoming club. Sometimes participants have expressed feelings about their condition and about living with dementia. Sharing experiences led to a camaraderie and increasing confidence for members of the group.

We’ve received valuable feedback. One word responses include: enchanting, cushty, awe-inspiring, inspirational, tender, friendly, beautiful, amusing, lovely.

Other comments:

  • Thanks for such a beautiful workshop today it felt really special that so many family members were part of the workshop.
  • These are experiences to be treasured. This work – what you are doing – is hugely beneficial.
  • I enjoyed it all – can I come every week?
  • The detail that the Old Masters could create was really surprising.
  • I surprised myself – I wasn’t one for going to galleries and looking at paintings; I wasn’t sure about coming but I really enjoyed it.
  • A lot of things aren’t as easy as they were (for mum) but this has been. It has been a joy for her to engage with the arts again and getting to know others. She is always looking forward to the sessions. Mother/daughter time.
  • It’s a great programme and the participants are such interesting people.

What happens next?

There will be some Dementia Friendly museum tours happening soon and another series of creative cafés in the spring.

Supported by:

6 comments on “Dementia Friendly creative cafés

  1. John Perrin

    Please email me when the Spring meetings start again as I didn’t know about them this term.


    1. Ailsa Richardson

      Hi John,
      Thanks for your reply and for your interest. We haven’t been advertising the Creative Cafes much publicly because two local organisations working with people living with dementia have been recruiting participants and they have been filled this way. One of these is the Dementia Wellbeing Service. However we haven’t confirmed participant or dates for the next series in March/April I will certainly keep you informed. Also LinkAge North Bristol are organising a visit in January and you could book that through them. Best wishes, Ailsa


  2. Patricia Pringle

    This sounds lovely. My partner has Alzheimers and I would love to bring him to one of these sessions.
    Please would you keep me informed.
    Thank you,
    Patricia Pringle


    1. Ailsa Richardson

      Hi Patricia,
      Thanks for your reply. The Dementia Wellbeing Service, the charity Alive and LinkAge North Bristol have also been assisting us to find participants for the Creative Cafes and visits. If you are linked in to any of these they may also be able to book you on. I haven’t quite confirmed all the dates for March/April but they will be on Monday Mornings and finish before Easter! Best wishes, Ailsa


  3. maddy


    I have been told the cafes are up and running again now, do you know what dates these are? I can’t find it anywhere!

    Thanks, Maddy


    1. Lauren MacCarthy Author

      Yes they are – we are in the middle of a series and it is currently booked up. Do you want me to keep you on my waiting list if any spaces become available?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.