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Chelmsford Theatre launches dementia reminiscence workshop

Dementia Workshop Shutterstock (1)

Chelmsford Theatre has launched a free drama-based reminiscence workshop for people with early onset dementia. A Suitcase Full of Stories offers an opportunity for people living with dementia to socialise with others and share stories of key life events as they explore a suitcase of themed objects.


Sharing the joys of summer holidays past and present

The first workshop will be held to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday 21 September and will look at the theme ‘summer holidays’.

The session will see objects linked to summer holidays unpacked from a suitcase. These items will act as triggers and sensory stimuli to aid participants’ memory and storytelling. Attendees will be able to feel seashells, taste ice cream, hold buckets and spades, smell sun cream and listen to the sounds of the seaside. As the objects are unpacked, stories of past, present, and future summer holidays will be told.

Participants are also encouraged to bring along their own items relating to summer holidays and share their memories invoked by the objects – whether they’re real or imagined.

The session is run by Rachel Hopwood, a trained and experienced dementia arts facilitator. Rachel says it aims to help people with early onset dementia share stories without the pressure to remember in detail:

“I want A Suitcase Full of Stories to give people with early onset dementia the confidence to connect with others and tell their stories. There’s no pressure for participants to remember details from the past. If new stories emerge then that’s absolutely fine – we want to embrace inconsistencies. I’m really looking forward to working with our local community on this new project.”

Rachel Hopwood, Events and Outreach Manager, Chelmsford Theatre

First session at Chelmsford Theatre Studio on 21 September

The first session takes place at Chelmsford Theatre Studio on Thursday 21 September from 10.30am–12pm. Attendees can bring up to two carers, family members or friends with them. Previous drama experience is not required to take part. To sign up for the free session, email outreach.theatre@chelmsford.gov.uk.

Chelmsford Theatre Exterior Aaron Crowe
Image by Aaron Crowe.

Bringing A Suitcase Full of Stories to wide-reaching communities

Further workshops with different themes, such as schools and weddings, will be held in the coming months. You can sign up to the theatre newsletter to be the first to hear of new sessions.

A Suitcase Full of Stories can also travel further afield for a small fee. Dementia support groups, charities or care homes interested in bringing the workshop to them can make an enquiry with Chelmsford Theatre’s outreach team by emailing outreach.theatre@chelmsford.gov.uk.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.