Facilitators and participants at the Haynes Dementia Hub hold up a sheet, using sunlight and  to create multicoloured shadows with coloured acetate. 2019

Lisa Muten was one half of the partnership that led our long running project with artists in residence work at the Haynes Dementia Hub from 2016. The Together Project is in partnership with Haynes and Jacksons Lane.  Lisa recently stepped away from the work to pursue some of her own creative ideas and we asked her to share her thoughts about the project…  

"I remember walking into the Haynes Centre in late autumn 2016 on the first day with few expectations, open to the possibilities of a new project as a collaborative artist in residence.   The Haynes Centre is a day centre that specialises in care and support for persons living with Dementia. It is bright and clean, and the staff are friendly and welcoming to visitors. In 2016 it was well attended with an average of 18-20 attendees daily. 

Over the course of the four to five years of working with the Haynes clients and staff, the project has developed in an organic and sensitive form responding to the clients’ interests, abilities as well as the overall aims of the project. 

The project has developed in an organic and sensitive form responding to the clients' interests and abilities, as well as the overall aims of the project

Lisa Muten, Artist Facilitator

The first year was very much a getting to know each other, spending time with the clients, staff, talking to carers and developing ideas and possibilities. We worked together to create stories and moments of inventiveness to share through a process of making, exploring materials and sharing stories, songs, dance, laughter and tears triggered by the materials to hand, the environment we were in, and what was relevant on that day or in that moment. The emphasis was on process rather than outcome. 

In the second year of the Together Project we had the exciting opportunity to present to work at a Tate Exchange session. This provided us with the venue to present work created by the clients and share the processes to a wider audience. At the Tate we presented ‘Hand Held Stories’ -  a series of hand-made vessels that held stories from the community at the Haynes. We also presented a film and soundtrack that explored the stories held in our hands through actions, words and movements. 

Despite the challenges of accessing the Tate, the Haynes clients and staff enjoyed seeing their work there and felt immensely proud of their stories being told. 

The third year was more of a creative exploration of the space at the Haynes prompted by the fact that we visited on a different day when by chance the clients were more further along their dementia journey. We explored the changing the environment through the use of lights, fabric, sounds and smell to take participants on an immersive journey through play and storytelling.  

​As this practice developed, participants became more and more engaged in the process of creating new spaces and folding them up again to office a closure to the absorbing experience

During the fourth year, Covid hit and the Haynes had to close for a while. It was then that Spare Tyre ‘Through the Letterbox’ was conceived and clients at the Haynes all received individualised packs posted to them that reflected some of the work we had been doing at the Haynes: using similar materials to explore the senses as well as including a variety of immersive videos on a choice of themed DVDs and a specially made CD of sounds and music. 

It was good to be able to return the Haynes at the end of 2021. The place had changed, through the impact of Covid and many clients had moved on or were reluctant to step out into the world again. The smaller number of participants has however, provided an opportunity for more one-to-one work and the ability to important ability reconnect with the clients and staff. 

By April 2022 the numbers were on the increase. With a new intake of participants, the vibrancy of the Haynes was returning. My last day there was so much fun with dancing and games that included everyone. It felt right to be handing the creative reins on to a new set of artists: Sophie, Harshita, Daisy and Flavia. 

Artists and facilitators interact with a large piece of textured multicoloured fabric and string. Haynes Centre 2019

I have learnt so much from working with the clients at the Haynes on the Together Project; in the main the requirement to be creatively responsive and open to the present moment. 

The creative tools we had to hand worked on the senses, through touch, vision, sound and smell to create a calm focus and improve well-being in that present moment for the participant. This has both been in group work or often more effectively in one to one work. 

As the brain deteriorates, verbal language can be disorientating and stressful. Some people living with Dementia find it hard to locate the right words and this can cause stress and anxiety. So communicating through the visual, touch, gentle movement and non- verbal sounds can create a calm focus for moments of connection and engagement to take place. The artistic tools can create a moment of imaginary escape from the stress of living with Dementia and this in effect helps promote moments calm and reduce anxiety. 

The creative process can also provide opportunities of empowerment and independence to the person living with Dementia. Allowing participants to respond to the creative materials provided in their own way without judgement -  whether through activities such as threading, folding or moving coloured shapes in the light–gives participants an opportunity to go on their own individual journey through their sensory interaction with the materials. 

Providing a space for participants to work together as a group and also explore their own creativity within an artistic and expressive process, offers people a connection to others as well as acknowledging the individual in that moment. The one to one work that we have been able to explore in this last season, created an intense and unique dynamic.  

I feel proud of what Spare Tyre has achieved on the Together Project and I have witnessed that it is the art that can provide a space for moments of magic to take place, stimulating the imagination and providing an escape from the everyday. "