FEATURE: Dementia Friendly Cinema @ Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For many of us, going to the cinema is a luxury we take for granted on a regular basis. But for the rising number of people who are suffering from dementia, even just going outside of the house can be a challenge in itself, let alone managing to get to the pictures. With a £10,000 donation from The Ballinger Charitable Trust, the Tyneside Cinema are aiming to try and alleviate some of the stress involved for dementia patients and their carers in going to the cinema by introducing new measures and specialised screenings of classic films at the venue. The funding will be going towards specialist training for staff, subsidised tickets, removing barriers to access and asking people what type of movies should be shown at the screenings.

Ahead of the first screening as part of the scheme – a showing of the timeless classic The Wizard of Oz on Thursday 30th July – we talked to Tyneside Cinema’s Programme Manager Jonny Tull about Dementia Friendly Cinema and its benefits for both patients and carers.

How did the Tyneside Cinema first get involved with the Ballinger Charitable Trust and their work?

The Tyneside had an approach by the Elders Council of Newcastle, who had seen an article in The Guardian about a project for people with Dementia at the Duke’s cinema in Lancaster. We met with the Elders Council and started to work out how we could build a pilot project together which looked into this and started in earnest in February this year. After that we contacted potential partner organisations and via our relationship with Dementia Care, The Ballinger Trust became aware of the project and agreed to support it.

In all, the Dementia Friendly Cinema project has been developed and informed by a steering group which includes the Elders Council, Tyneside Cinema, Alzheimer’s Society, Newcastle Carers, Dementia Care, Newcastle Quality of Life Partnership and Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing.

Can you tell us what the very generous donation to the trust has gone towards? Has it gone towards staff training, accessibility or other resources?

We’re looking at a range of things with this project including staff training and awareness, temporary changes to the building, consultation and research, and the marketing of the film programme. This funding also gives us the ability to create a new role at the Cinema to run the screenings, develop audiences and looking after our guests at events, making sure that we get our welcome absolutely right.

How will you be making the Tyneside accessible to people with dementia and their carers?

We’ve had a dementia design audit summary undertaken. The whole building, top to bottom, has been evaluated for dementia friendliness and out of that we’ve had a number of recommendations made.  As we’re not a custom-built environment (and an old building too!) there are some things that we couldn’t easily consider for what is currently a time-bound pilot project, some things that we might have to undertake at a later date, and some alterations that we can make to the building for the lifetime of this project. We’re looking at signage, and wayfarer materials, and removing some things in the building that may cause distress to customers too, including mirrors and floor mats, which both pose their own issues.


“We want anyone with dementia to feel comfortable going to the cinema via what we’re doing, to have some fun whilst they’re here and to feel safe and looked after by our staff during their time with us”

What type of films will you be screening at the Dementia Friendly Cinema?

The exact full programme is yet to be decided, but we’re looking into a range of classic films, musicals and comedies.

Will the screenings also be open to other members of the public?

They will be open to anyone!

It’s said that cultural activities and experiences such as listening to music and watching films often helps people suffering with dementia; do you think this scheme will have a positive mental impact on sufferers?

That’s absolutely our ambition.  We want anyone with dementia to feel comfortable going to the cinema via what we’re doing, to have some fun whilst they’re here and to feel safe and looked after by our staff during their time with us.

How else are you hoping that the scheme will help people with dementia?

It will change how our staff work on a day-to-day basis, and it will ensure that we get better and better at welcoming all audiences. We’re also hoping that it encourages people with dementia to come to the cinema more often – here or elsewhere. The more industry-focused aspect of this is the impact on other venues. Already other arts organisations in the north east are seeing what we’re starting to do and developing their own projects. Our ambition at the end of our pilot scheme here is to have a toolkit which tells the story of what we’ve done and what we’ve learned which we can then hand over to other cinemas so they can have ago themselves.

What about carers? What benefits do you think Dementia Friendly Cinema will have for them?

Carers can come too!  We hope that everyone will come along and have fun, and we’ve taken a lot of advice from carers to try and ensure that Dementia Friendly Cinema at the Tyneside works for everyone.

Do you think the scheme will help to take away some of the stigmas attached to the disease?

Definitely! The impact of dementia on society and daily life is increasing and we all have to work hard to respect and react to that.  That’s the driving force behind our ambitions.

The first screening in the Tyneside Cinema’s Dementia Friendly Cinema programme is The Wizard of Oz on Thursday 30th July at 1.00pm. Tickets can be booked by calling the cinema on 0191 227 5500. Tickets cost £4.50 and carers can attend for free.

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