Early in this creative venture, Clive Parkinson, Director of MMU Arts for Health, alerted me to the research of American cultural critic Anne Davis Basting. Speaking at the North West Arts and Health Network Event on Dementia and Imagination, he states ‘[She] has produced a book Forget Memory about dementia, a wonderful piece of work, thinking less about memory, reminiscence and all the work about the past. It is more concerned about living in the present because no matter how much the cognition [of those experiencing dementia] has gone, you’re there and sentient at that moment, and it is about building that imaginative capacity and tap into that living, vibrant human being regardless of the state of their condition’.
Basting invites us to value the present moment and highlights a number of programmes that find ways to suspend Western culture’s high-speed churning of the future into the past. She eloquently illustrates that you do not need to be a certified therapist to create moments of meaningful engagement and offers ‘The arts provide a way to open those avenues for meaning-making between people who cannot communicate through traditional, rational language. Music and song-writing, dance, non-linear storytelling, poetry, open conversation, painting, sculpting, responding to art: all of these give us ways to connect with each other, express who we are and what we believe. They can help put meaning back into what we fear are meaningless lives’. It was with a sincere hope that I wished to add ‘responding to design’ to that list.