Artworks created by dementia group will pack a punchline at new exhibition

Works of art created by people living with dementia will be showcased at an event in Hull to raise awareness of the condition and to promote understanding of its impact on the senses – including humour.

June Cooke working with a Butterflies member at the percussion workshop.

Music, sculpture, paintings and photography are among the art forms which will feature in the three-day exhibition at Social in Humber Street from Monday 13 March until Wednesday 15 March.

All the work has resulted from a project delivered over the last 18 months by the Butterflies Memory Loss Support Group with the support of The Ideas Fund.

June Cooke, founder of Butterflies, said: “The exhibition is an opportunity for us to display the work and for others to share their experiences with us. The resources we have created will be made available to families who have had a diagnosis of dementia, and to professionals and students working in dementia.

“Members created their own photo books and did modelling with paper and wood. We also did a joke book about humour and dementia.”

Supported by The Ideas Fund, Butterflies worked with mentors from the University of Hull, Two Ridings Community Foundation and the Time Bank Hull and East Riding.

The Butterflies members and their families used their experience of dementia to create the resources using everyday language rather than medical terminology.

June said: “They are the experts and their work from the projects gets across the message that dementia isn’t just about memory. Sight and hearing are among the other things that can be affected.

“There are lots of different things that you experience and one of the main aspects of this is looking at what takes someone from a good place to a bad place. We try to give carers the tools to understand why someone they love suddenly displays unusual behaviour, and to think about what sparked that.

“All of the work involved some sort of art and asked questions about anger and dementia, guilt and dementia and sleep and dementia, relationships in dementia and things I wished I’d known in dementia.”

June selected Social for the exhibition as a venue which is central and, rather than a clinical environment, is a welcoming social space where Butterflies can widen its audience to bring in people who have dementia but aren’t members of the group.

She said: “We received six new members as a result of the music workshop and more are coming in all the time.

“After the lockdowns there was a bit of a hiatus because a lot of people were scared to come out but that’s changing and we are now getting more diagnoses and more people because they realise there are things that can be done to help them take control of their lives.

“We have about 90 members and their families and five staff who are all part-time. It would be nice to get more support from individuals and businesses and hopefully the event will help with that.”

The exhibition is open from 1pm until 7.30pm on Monday 13 March and Tuesday 14 March and from 1pm until 9.30pm on Wednesday 15 March. It is open to the public and admission is free.

Along with the sculpture, paintings and photography the exhibition will feature recordings of the music and a film of the wider project. And the joke book produced by the Butterflies members.

June said: “I like this one – I have an Alexa to help me, she reminds me when its bed time, reminds me to lock the door, reminds me when to eat, it’s like having a wife without the hassle.”