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West Yorkshire Playhouse stages first dementia-friendly performance

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas will be specially adapted to meet the specific needs of people living with dementia.

West Yorkshire Playhouse

Building on its commitment to being fully accessible and inclusive, this December West Yorkshire Playhouse will stage its first Dementia Friendly performance. Forming part of a wide and diverse programme of work with communities across Leeds, the theatre will present a performance of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas on Tuesday 16 December at 2pm, which will be specially adapted to meet the specific needs of people living with dementia.

This new initiative builds on the success of Relaxed Performances for people with learning disabilities, which the Playhouse pioneered in 2009 and has since been adopted by theatres across the UK. Dementia Friendly performances will include adaptations to the show, clearer visual markers and signage in the physical environment, a relaxed attitude to movement and audience responses during the show, extra space in the auditorium and a programme of training for theatre staff and actors. Led by the Playhouse’s Community Development Officer Nicky Taylor in consultation with individuals and organisations working with people living with dementia, this performance will be tailored by the Playhouse to meet the specific needs of people living with dementia and their companions.

Artistic director James Brining says:  “We’re thrilled that West Yorkshire Playhouse will host its first Dementia Friendly production, as we continue to develop innovative ways to widen access and ensure more people can engage with our theatre. The conception of this Dementia Friendly Production builds on the work of our award-winning Relaxed Performances, which have been hugely successful in breaking down barriers that people can face when visiting the theatre.”

This work is led by Nicky Taylor, who is a member of Leeds Dementia Action Alliance steering group: “Living with dementia can present additional challenges in everyday activities, but with a little extra support it is possible for people to enjoy many of the activities they have previously enjoyed, and of course to try new things too. As a theatre we can support people to enjoy a show by making some changes to the physical environment but also by creating an atmosphere of welcome to embrace people’s changing needs. We don’t want families who are experiencing dementia to miss out on a visit to the theatre due to worry or stress.”

Tickets for the performance will be on sale through West Yorkshire Playhouse’s box office soon. To register your interest please contact Nicky Taylor on nicky.taylor@wyp.org.uk or 0113 213 7296.

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