Friday, 29 November 2013

After nine visits to three Derbyshire care homes, Julia Damassa looks back on her King Lear Tapestory workshops for people who are living with dementia, their professional carers and their families.

Introducing the Tapestory set to Professional Caregivers Julie, Patricja and Dawn at the Staveley Centre in Langwith (c) 1623We are almost at the end of our telling. The Tapestory is made and the nine method workshops facilitated in the three Derbyshire Care Homes in Autumn 2013 are complete.

Artists, Caregivers and Story Sharers have come together in the same place at the same time to tap into old and new stories inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear.

As Artists, we provide a framework, but not the Art that sits within it, for that is for the Story Sharers to do. (Method note from my thinking: Artists as Framers shape the frame, Story Sharers as Artists create the Art, Caregivers as Curators mount the work and hang it in the gallery).

The Professional Caregivers, having trained with me in the first workshop, are channels, the mediators of creativity, the enablers for creative practice and artistic endeavour.

Story Sharers respond to the Tapestory set with my colleagues at the Oaklands Care Centre in Bolsover (c) 1623They are the pencil and paper, the amplifier for the voice, the metronome for the song, the hands for the hands, the feet for the dance. Yes, I believe this is caring, and so much more. This is the enabling and encouraging of people to be imaginative and creative. This takes courage.

Does Ageing and Dementia prevent us from being imaginative and creative, from creating new works of art, from contributing to the cultural landscape and to the development of younger artists? I hope our work shouts a resounding "No"!

What I feel, having sung and passed on the Autumn Humming Song many many times, is that stories, however tragic, are always simpler to share and own than we imagine. Stories cannot hurt us, they may even heal us.

: Listen to me singing the Autumn Humming Song from King Lear

I began with what many consider to be the most challenging of stories, The Tragedy of King Lear by William Shakespeare, and shaped a simple workshop with one creative outcome and three aims.

Front page of King Lear in the First Folio (c) 1623The outcome: a new story, and the aims: to be happy, to have fun and to get creative. In hindsight, having doubted that this could be achieved with the text of King Lear, I feel now that it is right and fitting, respectful and dignified to use the most mature and complex of Art to inspire the creativity of people who have lived the longest and seen the most.

The art is in drawing upon our connectivity, our compassion, and our sensitivity as humankind. Collaboration makes us creative and courageous.

What I have learned personally is difficult to express here as it concerns "matters of the heart" and "a hearts's desire", and therefore is gentler shared in a story, with family, with friends, with loved ones and others.

Click here for the Oaklands Tapestory : CORONATION
Click here for the Staveley Tapestory : REUNION
Click here for the Morton Tapestory : FAMILY

What I know now is that the tree in my Tapestory Seasons sketch is a Beech tree, though I am not sure yet what that means!

My Tapestory Season sketch (c) Julia Damassa

When I made the ten embroidered sketches, a personal pictorial telling of King Lear, each image was incomplete, a fragment, a moment in the play ... a stile without sky, a ship without sea, a cup without tea. When I listened to the Caregiver asking the Story Sharer, "What are you drawing?" He replied, "the whole picture" and for me it became clear, this is about our shared collaborative creative connection to Shakespeare.

The threads in Tapestory design represent Derbyshire's innovative textile heritage. I wanted to honour Derbyshire's investment in new innovation, and say thank you. The threads in Tapestory method are from the Ancient Chinese Proverb: "An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

Now we move into the Winter for our development week at Derby QUAD culminating in our scratch night presentation at Derby Theatre on 06 December. I hope to meet you there. I look toward to talking about Shakespeare, Tapestory and Seasons with you!



Blog 1 : Introducing King Lear Tapestory
Blog 2 : King Lear Tapestory update

Oaklands Tapestory : CORONATION
Staveley Tapestory : REUNION
Morton Tapestory : FAMILY

Julia Damassa : actor, inventor, entrepreneur


King Lear Tapestory is one of three strands of 1623's participatory research into King Lear and dementia that will inform a work-in-progress performance at Derby Theatre Studio on 6 December 2013. For more details, please click here.

Our King Lear and dementia project is supported by Arts Council England, Derbyshire County Council, QUAD, Derby Theatre and the University of Derby. 

Arts CouncilDerbyshire County Council Logo - High Quality Mono Transparent PNGQUAD Derby Theatre    Derby University


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