Lost in Time and Space

Creative Dementia Arts Network worked with Modern Art Oxford towards the successful completion and dissemination of the Lost in Time and Space (LITAS) project. LITAS is led by Modern Art Oxford (MAO) one of South England’s leading galleries for modern and contemporary art that also facilitates community focused activities, including workshops for families and partnerships with schools, while promoting work in Oxford’s most socially marginalised communities.

In 2011, whilst preparing family workshops for an exhibition of new work by Kerry Tribe around identity and memory, Sarah Plumb, MAO’s Project Manager for Learning and Partnerships, saw an opportunity to engage with groups for whom these core themes had particular resonance. Securing Heritage Lottery funding, Sarah set up the LITAS project bringing together older people with dementia, their carers and adolescents at risk of school exclusion with an artist, writer, photographer and film maker to work to work towards making a film about the experience of dementia.

This intergenerational group came together for several months. Younger people encouraged older people to explore personal and collective memories of family, school, war, work, and marriage through activities, maps objects, artefacts, music, exhibitions at MAO and the Pitt Rivers Museum and crucially over tea and cakes. However older people encouraged and empathised with younger people to share their histories, ambitions, hopes and future plans. The group, who were all new to film making, learnt scene setting, directing, backgrounds, interviewing, shooting film and camera angles, demonstrating a powerful sense of reciprocity in helping each other, laughing at their efforts and praising the pioneers amongst them in what was very much a mutual enterprise.

The project was evaluated using qualitative methodology, mainly ethnographic research, through participant observation and visual recording (photographs and video) of all participants. Surveys and attitudinal scales measured impact and changes. Participation in the project had a number of beneficial effects for older people, one of the most important of which involved ‘finding a voice and telling it like it is’. Although initially understandably quite withdrawn when talking abut memory difficulties, by session 2 all of those affected were able to talk to other older peers and younger people. By session 3 this began to occur in the large group as individuals located on large maps, villages and towns where they had lived and shared memories.

June told her wonderful tale of learning to drive milk float on several occasions. Given that her driving license, an important symbol of independence was in the process of being revoked, the group ‘bore witness’ for her giving her time and space to recall her younger self as knowledgeable, competent and masterful. The younger people shifted their views about dementia from disease to disability – becoming aware of how older group members could compensate for cognitive impairment. Despite the project ending the group continue to meet at MAO to have tea and cakes and visit exhibitions together. Having secured additional funding for a Time and Space Continuum project, the Lost in Time and Space group is currently involved in planning and presenting the film in communities and schools around the county as part of Oxfordshire’s Dementia Awareness Campaign in 2012. An evaluation report will be available on the website soon.

The LITAS intergenerational group went to see a range of modern art exhibitions which can be found here

  • Kerry Tribe Dead Star Light
  • Graham Sutherland- An Unfinished World
  • Shezad Dawood Piercing Brightness
  • Jenny Saville