May 19, 2017, by Charlotte Kingsbury

Dementia Awareness – A pop-up café with unexpected results

By Justine Schneider, Professor of Mental Health and Social Care, Faculty of Social Sciences 

We celebrated Dementia Awareness Week 2017 with an installation in Nottingham’s Market Square.  The aim was to showcase art works produced by people with dementia, to raise awareness and to have fun.  The café had been conceived by Victoria Tischler as an output of the research project Dementia and Imagination. Its design was co-produced with people with dementia and their carers at workshop of the DA&WN project, and Nottingham Contemporary led the implementation.


Actor Vicky McClure sat at a table with Victoria Tischler of the University of West London

Actor Vicky McClure sat at a table with Victoria Tischler of the University of West London

I was a bit annoyed to miss the visit on the first day of local celebrity Vicky McClure, who also tweeted her support.  Still I would have been completely tongue-tied, after watching so many hours of her marvellous acting on the small screen.  When I went along, early on the second day, there was already a buzz in the marquee.  Free art and free food go well together.  At 11 am the tables were already full of people conversing like old friends, since many had been in the day before.  Costumed actors, artists and volunteers were ensuring that everyone felt welcome, most of all people with dementia and their carers.

Admiral Nursing and the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society were represented in the adjacent marquee. This included a curtained-off space suitable for more private conversations.  A carer consulted an Admiral Nurse, for example, while her husband with dementia was entertained next door.  Admiral Nurses are the experts in dementia care, and can be consulted every day of the week on their telephone helpline:  0871 876 9457.

I joined a laughter yoga workshop – 15 minutes of exercising the laughter muscles certainly boosted my outlook on the grey weather.  There were also singing sessions, as well as opportunities to create visual art, and delectable sandwiches, cakes and jellies produced by Nourish.  An unexpected element of the event was how it attracted people who spend a lot of their time in the town centre.  The weather, the food and the welcome brought together a wide range of people in addition to the expected participants with dementia and their relatives. I met a young man who had been homeless for three weeks and who had not only found a pop-up community centre where he was welcome and sheltered from the rain, but occupied in creative and stimulating ways.

The arts are good for all of us, but people on the margins of society are often excluded from the fundamental form of human expression and communication.  This is true for people with dementia as well as for other excluded and stigmatised groups. The pop-up café – in its very transience – made it possible to overcome many of the barriers to inclusion that such groups face in society.  Creating a space for inclusion made everyone feel a little bit better about belonging to that society for two days, but it also confronted us with the massive disadvantages faced by people with dementia and others for the rest of the time.


The University’s annual Month of the Mind programme aims to raise awareness of, and create space to discuss, issues of mental, emotional and neurological wellbeing and difference which may impact our staff, and to help mitigate stigma through communication and representation of diverse experiences, cultures and identities.   Month of the Mind includes Mental Health Awareness Week and Dementia Awareness Week.   To learn more about University events, or to discuss your own ideas and activities, please contact 

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