Dementia play to be premiered in the dale
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
A PLAY aimed at giving primary school children a better understanding of dementia is set to be premiered in the dale next year.
It is being written by children’s author Jessica Shepherd and is based on her book Grandma, the touching story of a young boy’s encounter with dementia and the effect it has on his family. The play will be performed by members of the Castle Players and toured round the dale’s primary schools.
The idea was first mooted more than two years ago by the Barnard Castle Dementia Friendly Community Group and the £5,000 funding to see the project come to fruition was finally secured from Teesdale Action Partnership in September.
Ms Shepherd, who is originally from Baldersdale but now lives in Somerset, visited the dale recently to meet members of the Castle Players and dementia friendly town group to discuss the play's development.
“I wrote the book in 2012 when I was studying and I was working in a care home at the time as well,” she said.
“It was published in 2014, so it’s been around for five years, and it is over two years since this idea first came about. It’s been nice to have those two years to pull together inspiration for the play – I have already written five different versions – and it’s really exciting to be able to have dates to push myself towards.”
Laurence Sach, from the Castle Players, said casting a play aimed at a younger audience was quite difficult and one idea the theatre group had come up with was to use puppetry as part of the performance.
He said the play would be about 15 minutes long, followed by a 30-minute workshop to explore the issues raised. Ms Shepherd, a dementia champion, agreed this would be a good approach.
“I have done a lot of dementia-based workshops for schools and the Alzheimer’s Society and have spoken at the Alzheimer's Society conference for youth.
“People learn in different ways. An information session does not suit everyone, especially younger people,” she said.
Once the play has been completed and fine-tuned it will be performed for the first time in Teesdale and participating schools will each receive a copy of Grandma for their library.
Both Mr Sach and Ms Shepherd said after this, there was nothing stopping the play being rolled out to schools in other areas.