Hackney’s first Dementia Festival to mark Dementia Action Week

Hackney hosted its first ever Dementia Festival from 21 to 25 May to mark Dementia Action Week. The week-long Festival was launched at a Tea Dance in Shoreditch Town Hall on Monday 21 May attended by the Mayor Philip Glanville, former Speaker Cllr Soraya Adejare and Dementia Champion Cllr Yvonne Maxwell. Residents relived memories by learning classic ballroom dances such as the foxtrot, waltz, swing and Latin American, led by a former World Latin American Dance Champion, Raymond Root.  

The festival was hosted by the Council, members of Hackney Dementia Action Alliance, Homerton Hospital, local businesses, arts, leisure and community organisations.

There was also a Singing for the Brain event at the London Aquatics Centre on Thursday 24 May, organised by the North East London Alzheimer’s Society. More than than 350 people attended including former EastEnders actor John Partridge, in a bid to hold the biggest ‘Singing for the Brain’ event to date. It featured a star turn from 88-year-old Hackney Wick resident Hugh Callaghan who took to the stage to sing the classic Irish ballad ‘Danny Boy.’ Hugh who was diagnosed with dementia more than four years ago, attends weekly sessions at the Copper Box Arena with his carer Adeline Masterson, 85, also from Hackney Wick.

She said: “Hugh loves music, it is his life and he thoroughly enjoyed singing in front of such a large crowd. The weekly singing sessions keep him going, helping his memory even as the disease progresses. We thoroughly recommend the sessions for anyone affected, it is an opportunity to socialise and make friends. It is so wonderful to see events like this being held as part of the Dementia Festival which brings people together.”

Other activities and events included memory bank workshops, screenings of classic films at Hackney Picturehouse and the Rio Cinema as well as Dementia Friends sessions and activities at St Joseph’s Hospice during the week.  Universal Board Games, St Mary’s Secret Garden, GLL Leisure Hackney Libraries, City and Hackney Alzheimer’s Society, Hackney Archives and Homerton Hospital also held events and activities during the week.

Sandra Cater, Dementia Friendly Community Coordinator in Hackney, said: “We have been so pleased by the turnout and support we’ve received during the festival.  Everyone has worked extremely hard to make it a week to remember for Hackney residents living with dementia.  All of the events and activities were designed for people with dementia in mind, due to the numerous benefits they offer and we hope the festival has made people feel that they are included and involved in their community.”

Cllr Yvonne Maxwell, Councillor for Hoxton West ward and Dementia Champion, said: “I’m really pleased that we have held a festival specifically for people with dementia, which is part of our ongoing commitment to become a dementia-friendly Council and borough. It has been a fantastic week of events that really have helped to further raise awareness and understanding of the condition and made people with dementia feel included and involved in their community.

“The Festival has also been a great example of how Hackney Council, in partnership with the other Hackney Dementia Action Alliance members and supporters can improve the lives of people affected by dementia and work more closely with them.”

For more information about the festival go to hackney.gov.uk/dementia-festival.