Kirklees Council funded ‘Breathing Space’ initiative supports local residents living with dementia through arts and music

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Running across Kirklees, hoot creative art’s specialist arts and dementia project ‘Breathing Space’ highlights the link between creativity, music and dementia, ahead of Kirklees Year of Music 2023. Supported by Kirklees Council and Kirklees  Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) hoot is encouraging more people across the region to get involved and attend the sessions. 

First established in 2009 and funded by Kirklees Council and the Kirklees CCG, the ‘Breathing Space’ initiative offers a range of free creative activities to people living with the early stages of dementia or memory concerns, their carers or family members. Skilled and experienced artists design and deliver the activities and strive to make participation a fun, stimulating, enlightening and uplifting experience for people with dementia, their partners or carers.  

The main goals of the sessions are to provide a space and activity that is safe, fun and allows people to shed the labels of “carer” or “cared for” and enjoy something together. Taking part in a fun and creative activity together promotes positive relationships, builds confidence and enhances both participants’ wellbeing. 

Moira Wade, Older People’s Lead and Breathing Space Project Manager at hoot creative arts said: “Breathing Space music sessions take a variety of formats and the focus is on what’s possible, on getting together, having fun, sharing stories and sometimes creating something unique together. The sessions have included African Djembe drumming and making and playing the kazoos and more recently, playing familiar songs through a speaker to stimulate memory and recollection and encouraging participants to join with voice, instruments and requests.  

“In other sessions, the group compose, sing and record a unique song. The artist will usually take a theme, such as colours, holidays or the weather and facilitates the group in conversation and reminiscence.  They will note down keywords and phrases and then with the participants, shape the words into a song and create a tune to fit. Once they are happy, instruments will be added, the song recorded and everyone is given a copy. As well as having fun, participants express pride in their achievement and some tell us that they remember the words of their songs from week to week, whilst being unable to remember what they watched on TV the previous evening.”     

Ahead of the upcoming dedicated Year of Music in Kirklees in 2023, hoot has highlighted the connection between music and its benefits for those suffering from dementia. The role that music and creativity play in supporting people’s health and wellbeing has become even more apparent in recent years, and that includes people living with dementia. Music can reflect a person’s identity, allow us to connect with others, inspire and comfort us, and remind us of memories. Studies have shown that music can lower stress-related hormones and help to reduce anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. 

For people living with dementia, the ability to process, respond to and engage with music remains regardless of what stage they’re at. Therapeutic music activities reduce feelings of agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia and are 35 times less expensive when compared with many other therapies and interventions*.

Breathing Space activities offer people the space to fully explore and benefit from all that music has to offer; with friendly staff who have lots of experience of working with people with dementia and carers.

‘Breathing Space’ activities run on Mondays throughout the year with some short breaks. Sessions in Huddersfield take place on Mondays between 10:30 am – 12:30 pm at hoot creative arts’ building – Bates Mill, Milford Street, Huddersfield HD1 3DX. The accessible location has on-street parking available outside. Sessions also run in Batley every Monday from 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm at Batley Community Centre, Upper Commercial Street, Batley WF17 5DH. The venue is also accessible. 

Supported by Kirklees Council and Kirklees CCG, hoot is encouraging more people across the region to get involved with the sessions. To sign up, or enquire on someone else’s behalf the quickest way is on hoot’s website using the online form which can be found here

Moira Wade added: “We believe that having dementia doesn’t stop you from enjoying new challenges and learning new things given the opportunity and the right approach. 

“We are big believers in having fun; there’s no pressure or expectation for you to do anything that you don’t want to do. You don’t need any previous experience or creative confidence to be involved, just a willingness to give it a go and see what happens.

“My passion for engaging with people living with dementia developed from my experience with my mum who lived with Alzheimer’s disease for many years. We shared some lovely special times together singing and listening to music. I want other people to be able to experience the many and varied benefits of sharing quality creative time together.” 

Details about activities including Breathing Space session dates can be found on hoot’s website: www.hootcreativearts.co.uk/our-activities

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