Creative writing is a highly versatile and expressive medium particularly suited to those in long term residential settings where opportunities to engage with the outside world may be limited by physical or medical constraints. To date, Independent Arts' Magic Doors creative writing project has run in three residential care homes on the Isle of Wight: Solent Grange, Orchard House, and Vecta House, with a fourth project running currently at St. Vincent’s, and a fifth in planning for Fairview.
The project typically involves supported sessions with qualified practitioners who mediate ideas and imaginative expression through shared discussion to create beautiful written pieces of poetry and prose. Participation does not need to rely on written skills, and nonverbal residents can also take part, frequently demonstrating nuanced choice and preference when helped with appropriate visual and tactile prompts. Whilst material from these projects often draws from the past, demonstrating vivid visual and imaginative recollection, participants will also frequently describe highly evocative scenes and sensations from experiences rooted in the present, which is particularly important for those living with dementia to encourage current thought.
Practitioners use a range of visual and tactile prompts to resonate with participants. Keys are particularly poignant for many, sparking fascinating discussions. Music also forms part of the Magic Doors tool box providing a different kind of immersive imaginative stimulus, and again, this can be particularly helpful for nonverbal participants or for those with diminished cognitive ability.
Poetry and rhyme also play a strong role and care staff are encouraged beyond the project to continue using poetry as far as possible in their everyday routines. In this way creative writing has the potential to actively inform and improve the culture of residential settings, augmenting stronger and potentially more meaningful relationships between carers and residents.
At the end of each project the body of work produced is interpreted through a small exhibition blending text and visual imagery so that residents can have the opportunity to recall and enjoy their experience. Our practitioners work alongside Activities Coordinators and Homes Managers to facilitate the smooth running of the project and we have received some wonderful testimonials from the homes that have participated so far and from family members.
“My Mum has Alzheimer's disease. The Magic Doors project enabled her to express lovely memories of things that enrich her life. These were made into pictures for the walls of the home. To see from the muddle of words my Mum shining through was moving and reminded me of her joy of life. Thank you."
Relative of resident at Vecta House residential Care Home, Newport
“The project exceeded all our expectations in all ways, such as the way the members of staff from Independent Arts communicated and took time with our residents and got the most from them and the end project was superb and many family members have expressed their thanks for the prints."
Activities Manager, Vecta House Residential Care Home, Newport
“I have had the most amazing feedback from our residents, family members and staff, The residents said that it was enjoyable and very interesting. One resident has since started writing again after a very long time. She had become uninterested and felt that her writing wasn’t important any more, but since Ann and Nick’s visits she has been re-born – it has given her back her interest in poetry, so massive pat on the back for that!”
Activities Manager, Orchard House residential care home, Newport
Work from these Magic Doors sessions featured in the Independent Arts exhibition, The Poetry of Dementia, at Lord Louis Library Newport in November 2017.
For more information on Magic Doors, please
The Magic Key, created by Jade Thomas.
The Magic Door, created by Simon Jilley.
Panels from our care homes displays, above and left.
Thanks to Barchester's Charitable Foundation for supporting Magic Doors at Orchard House and Vecta House, Newport.