Poetry as therapy for people with dementia in Barnsley

6 March 2017

People with dementia at two care homes in Barnsley are benefiting from poetry as therapy, as part of a wider project to encourage people to express themselves through language.

Residents of the Field View and Chapel View care homes in Mapplewell have been working with a therapist to construct poetry based around objects and imagery which stimulate imagination, memories and emotions.

The sessions, which have been taking place since the beginning of the year, form part of the Hear My Voice programme, launched by Barnsley Museums to encourage people to express themselves using written and spoken words.

Emotional health and wellbeing practitioner Diane Hinchliffe has led the sessions at the care homes, working with 12 residents during group and one-to-one work. 

She said: “The group sessions encourage relationship-building, increased confidence and self-esteem, and the poetry created leaves a wonderful legacy for families and friends to look back on. And the one-to-one work provides an uninterrupted space for listening to a person’s story, feelings and memories, which may not otherwise have been shared. The poetry provides a way for their voices to be heard.”

Kathleen Freear, a 94-year-old resident at Chapel View Care Home, has dementia and has been attending the poetry sessions for the last few weeks.

Her daughter, Judith Brummitt, said: “Mum has really enjoyed the social aspect of the activities and the poetry seems to bring something out of her. Her face lights up and she smiles, as she remembers things that have happened in the past.”

Kathleen wrote a poem about a baker’s shop, based on the one her own mother used to run when she was a child, and Judith said it seemed to take her back to things she used to enjoy.

“Having conversations with other people, and being listened to in the sessions, has been really good for mum and she seems much brighter, chatty, and generally more alive.”

On Friday 10th March, friends and family will gather at Field View Care Home to hear the residents recite their poems in front of the Mayor of Barnsley, Cllr Linda Burgess.

And on Sunday 12th March, they will join Diane to take part in a poetry workshop during the Rockley Rotary Club Memory Café. The event, at the Berneslai Café within the Town Hall, aims to bring people with dementia and their families and carers together through words and language.

It forms part of the Hear My Voice Literary Festival, which runs from 4th – 25th March to celebrate the achievements of the three-year Hear My Voice Programme, launched by Barnsley Museums in June 2016. 

Cllr Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place at Barnsley Council, said: “It’s wonderful to hear about the positive effects of the poetry sessions on people with dementia. The Hear My Voice programme and festival aims to engage people of all ages and backgrounds with words and language, from primary school children right through to people in their nineties.” 

The Hear My Voice programme is coordinated by Barnsley Museums with support from partners, and has received funding from Barnsley TUC Training Ltd.


Notes to editor

Attached image shows Diane Hinchliffe (right) with Kathleen Freear.

Barnsley Museums are working with partners to deliver the Hear My Voice programme and festival. They include the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) who are supporting two of the festival’s events - ‘Birding for Wording’ on 25th March, which combines a birdwatching walk with a themed poetry workshop, and The Ebenezer Elliott Literary and Heritage Walk on 18th March, which retraces the footsteps of the South Yorkshire poet and political radical also known as ‘the Corn Law Rhymer’.

The other partners are Creative Recovery, the RSPB and the Ted Hughes Project. A grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund will support Hear My Voice: This is my Home, a project focusing on memories and stories from people from Barnsley’s LGBTQ+, disabled and ethnic minority communities. 

The Barnsley Museums portfolio is owned and operated by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and includes the Cooper Gallery, Cannon Hall, Worsbrough Mill, Elsecar Heritage Centre and Experience Barnsley.

Chapel View and Field View Care Homes are owned and operated by Panaceon Healthcare Ltd.

For more information on Hear My Voice, contact Mary Ferguson on 01226 766900 or at mary@capitalbmedia.co.uk

For more information on Barnsley Museums, contact Devinia Skirrow on 01226 787 944 or at DeviniaSkirrow@barnsley.gov.uk 

For more information on Chapel View & Field View Care Homes please contact 01226 390131 (Field View Care Home) or 01226 388181 (Chapel View Care Home).

This press release was prepared by Capital B Media, a public relations and media training agency based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. For more information, please visit www.capitalbmedia.co.uk

View current news