Making the Royal Exchange Theatre more dementia-friendly

Andy Barry, Dementia Friends Champion and Adults’ Programme Leader at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester tells us what the theatre is doing to become more dementia-friendly.

Why did you decide to get involved with Dementia Friends?
I attended a Dementia Friends Session through another organisation I volunteer with and found it really useful and enlightening. Although I don’t have a personal connection with dementia I felt I wanted to do more to raise awareness so I decided to attend the Dementia Friends Champion training.

Why did your organisation get involved with Dementia Friends?
I was inspired by the work of other cultural institutions in Manchester like The Whitworth Art Gallery who had started to deliver Information sessions. I approached our Director of Engagement and our Visitor Experience Manager who thought it would be a great idea for staff, volunteers, friends of the theatre and the many young people we work with to get involved and find out some more. We welcome a lot of visitors into our building for performances and workshops and this includes a lot of older people so making sure as many of our staff as possible have a clearer understanding about the challenges people living with dementia face means that we can better support people when they visit us.

What has been the benefit to your organisation of colleagues becoming Dementia Friends and watching the online videos?
An unexpected benefit has been the way the Sessions have brought people together from different departments within the organisation.

Would you recommend our videos to other organisations?
Sharing the links to the videos was a great way to follow up with staff and keep the Dementia Friends campaign alive within the organisation even once the first round of Information Sessions had been completed. 

Has your involvement with Dementia Friends led to any changes being made in your organisation? Anything you do differently now?
We have recently started Relaxed Performances for people with a range of needs but this now very much includes talking about people living with dementia. When front of house staff had their relaxed performance training, we included a Dementia Friends Information Session as part of this.

If you’d like to sign your organisation up to Dementia Friends, visit the website.

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