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Sharing Shorelines

A book of poetry written with the help of people with dementia has been published by Lymington's St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery.

The Sharing Shorelines anthology was created as part of the Sharing Shorelines community engagement project, which was sponsored by care home provider Colten Care. The project ran alongside the art exhibition Shorelines: Artists of the South Coast.

This major exhibition took place at St. Barbe gallery between September 2015 and January 2016 and featured artists from the 18th century to the present day who have drawn inspiration from the cliffs, harbours and beaches of southern England.

St. Barbe invited local people affected by dementia, including Colten Care home residents, to visit the exhibition and take part in a series of 'conversations' about some of the paintings with poet and storyteller Chris Bennett.

Chris then recorded their observations, interpretations and feelings about the artwork. He said: "At the beginning of this project we had no idea how people with dementia would respond to the paintings.

"But people from throughout the community, with varying stages of dementia came along, and we just took things slowly, looked at the art and chatted about what we saw."

He continued: "The participants' reactions and observations were very interesting, sometimes giving glimpses of their memories, including holidays they'd spent by the sea.

"I then simply took those memories and observations and moulded them into poems."

Laura Bullivant, community engagement and learning officer for Hampshire Cultural Trust and co-ordinator of the Sharing Shorelines project said: "We gave people the chance to share their ideas, opinions and responses to major artwork and develop their own creativity through language.

"This has given people with dementia an opportunity to socialise and keep mind active, as well as the chance to enjoy a new learning experience."

Residents from Colten Care's Linden House in Lymington and Kingfishers Care Home in New Milton attended some of the gallery conversations and contributed ideas which inspired poems.

Linden House resident Frances Evans helped to write two of the poems in the Sharing Shorelines anthology.

Her daughter Sara Shelton said: "When I heard my mother was going to be involved in writing poetry I was intrigued.

"When a loved one has dementia you often feel that who they once were is now lost.

"But just from looking at the paintings with Chris, Mum talked about what she saw and linked them to her own memories - of her love of the sea - even her passion for spring cleaning!

"The resulting poems have the very essence of mum within them, which is wonderful to see."

Tim Wookey, Colten Care's Marketing Director, said: "The Sharing Shorelines project has been a huge success across the community and we were very proud to sponsor it as part of our overall commitment to community initiatives around our homes.

"I attended some of the sessions at the gallery and saw for myself the inspiring way in which local people with dementia responded to the paintings.

"We were also very pleased to host the St. Barbe team at Linden House, for a celebration to mark the finale of the project."

Exceprts from the gallery sessions can be viewed here, and copies of the Sharing Shorelines poetry anthology are available from St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery and Linden House. An online version can also be seen at http://www.coltencare.co.uk/ and http://sharingshorelines.org/.