Written by Jo Armstrong. Follow Jo’s Instagram page @leigh_culture to keep up to date with local cultural events and happenings.
A local dementia art group participant has won a national Christmas Card Competition specifically for people living with dementia, judged by singing legend Tony Christie. Gail Ditchburn, a member of Net Park Wellbeing Project’s dementia art class for the past 9 months, is one of two winners picked by the celebrity judge from entrants across the UK in a competition hosted by ‘Creative Minds’ and ‘Mind for You’.
The NetPark Wellbeing Project, a co-production between Southend-on-sea Borough Council and Metal, runs two successful art classes for people living with dementia. Class facilitator Ian Wilson was keen to enter students for The Dementia Christmas Card Competition, hosted in partnership by national organisations ‘Creative Minds’ and ‘Mind for You’, and he is thrilled with Gail’s win.
Gail, previously a civil servant and art teacher at her local church before being diagnosed with early onset dementia, submitted the design ‘Snowman Chasing Santa’. Cotton wool was used to depict snow and collage materials for the background, while the Christmas figures are in 3D.
Tony Christie deemed it a worthy winner as he found it “very creative and really humorous.”
‘Creative Minds’ is an organisation founded in 2012 by James Cropper, a former Support Worker, which provides accessible and empowering art sessions to a diverse range of clientele in various settings including care homes, schools, learning disability services and day centres. Succeeding in “empowering people through our service and making art accessible to all”, it has grown into a vibrant community of over 40 artists from across the country delivering fun and therapeutic art sessions to all age groups. ‘Mind For You’ is an organisation that offers supported holidays throughout the year for people living with dementia and their carers to enjoy together as an alternative to traditional respite. Founded by Carol Sargent in 2007 after her mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimers, it has since taken over 600 guests on 92 holidays to 12 different destinations in England, Scotland and Wales, demonstrating that “a diagnosis of dementia shouldn’t mean holidays become a thing of the past”.
Gail wins a free ‘Mind for You’ holiday for two, a session of free ‘Creative Minds’ Art Sessions, four packs of cards for her friends and family and a framed picture of her winning card. The winning designs will also be made available for the public to buy via Etsy, with a percentage of every pack sold going towards a fund to offer Creative Minds Arts Sessions and holidays to people living with dementia who would not be able to afford them. Gail’s card can be found by searching ‘Snowman Chasing Santa’ on www.etsy.com