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LSA showing archive films for people living with dementia

Date posted: 14.12.2016

London's Screen Archives have been curating programmes of archive films to create special reminiscence screenings for people living with dementia across London. Find out how screen heritage is helping to trigger reminiscence and bring communities together.

The London's Screen Archives (LSA) team at Film London preserve and share London's film heritage, working with the rich collections of some 80 partner archives that make up the LSA Network. As part of our major Heritage Lottery-funded London: A Bigger Picture project, we are curating programmes of archive film to screen across the capital, engaging people with footage of their local area and highlighting change and diversity over the past 100 years. You may have already seen our pop-up mobile cinema, the KinoVan, in your borough!

Dementia screenings

Over the past year, we have been exploring how to use archive film in even more innovative ways, with a particular focus on developing screenings that will engage some of the hardest to reach communities around London.

Studies have emphasised the role of reminiscence in activities for people living with dementia, and the power of archive film to connect people to the past makes it an obvious resource.

At the beginning of this year, members of the LSA team participated in the Alzheimer's Society nationwide 'dementia friends' scheme and undertook training lead by Age Exchange on how to run reminiscence-led interactive sessions.

LSA dementia-friendly archive screenings have now been held in 13 of the Outer Boroughs of London and there is ongoing demand for this type of event that goes beyond simply showing films and combines interactive, reminiscence-based activities. Collaboration with local archive partners has strengthened this offer, with artefacts, such as everyday objects from the past, helping to generate discussion and the sharing of stories.

Triggering reminiscence

Those campaigning for better provision for people living with dementia emphasise the importance of changing the conversation from 'what's the matter with you' to 'what matters to you'. Reminiscence can be a way of focusing on the individual, not the illness. So LSA have developed special thematic programmes that help to trigger memories and create opportunities to reminisce, whether about school days, hobbies, family, work or leisure. These are just some of the memories that people have shared at the screenings:

"Being the youngest we had our wedding dresses passed down. I was so jealous of my sister's dress, it looked better new!"

"My favourite dance was the waltz, though we would also do a bit of jive and some ballroom dancing."

"On Sundays my mum would prepare the meat then she'd slice the leftovers ready for sandwiches and a trip to a beach on the Monday."

Testimony from participants, family members and care staff is crucial to evidencing the positive impact this activity can have, whether that is as simple as helping people to communicate. Following one session a staff member told us "they wouldn't stop talking for the rest of the day, and they are normally quite a quiet bunch".

Spreading the word

Some 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia. With numbers set to rise, how the arts engage in helping people to live well with dementia will be an ongoing challenge. The dementia-friendly screenings that LSA have presented this year have been attracting interest from cinema exhibitors as well as arts and health practitioners who are interested in how archive film can help people living with dementia.

In September, we were part of the conversation at the 'Dementia-Friendly Screenings: Towards a National Strategy' conference in Birmingham. At the beginning of December, as part of our Creative Skillset-funded project 'Shared Pasts, Digital Futures', we ran a symposium that brought together the arts, archive and care sectors to explore dementia-friendly activities.

Get in touch if you would like to find out about archive screenings for your local group or community at

Learn more about the Shared Pasts Symposium

Find out more about LSA's general archive screenings

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