Yesterday was the first day of December and I spent the afternoon with a group of lovely people. We were very lucky because we got to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, one of the top classic Christmas films.
But this wasn’t just any audience. This was a group of people with dementia and their carers. They came to the cinema at Derby QUAD to a special Dementia Friendly Screening of the film. My job was to make copious amounts of tea and coffee. There were two other volunteers, Margaret and Sally, who were in charge of getting everyone up and down in the lifts, making sure people were comfortable in the cinema and ensuring drinks and biscuits were distributed. We three, the volunteers and all QUAD Advocates, were asked if we could spare a few hours for the first screening in October through the advocates scheme. It was such a good experience, we came back for the second. And the third one on 23 February 2016 showing ‘Oliver’ is already inked into my diary.
The afternoon was arranged by Charlotte Convey, the QUAD Arts and Health Development Worker. Matinee Dementia Friendly Cinema screenings are supported by Arts Derbyshire in partnership with QUAD, Public Health Amber Valley, Made in Derbyshire and the Alzheimer’s Society. It’s a joined up initiative that really works.
It’s a bit different to a public screening. The lights are left up until the film starts, and there are no trailers or adverts. To make it more comfortable for visitors the film is shown in two halves. This means there’s a useful break in the middle, used for topping up tea cups and popping to the loo. During the interval QUAD’s Debbie Varley got everyone singing Christmas songs. Today there were some strong singers, a gentleman by the name of Norman has a beautiful voice, and led us in a great rendition of Silent Night.
It’s the second time the Dementia Friendly Screening has been held at QUAD and it’s obviously a much needed service. We had almost double the numbers for this screening compared to the first time. I recognised a few of the audience, and it’s lovely to see them coming back.
I got to watch the film and the reaction of the audience was great. We shared the laughter and the tears. It’s a very powerful story, and a bit bleak at times, but the formula of a happy ending worked brilliantly for today’s audience.
In the cinema we are all the same. We might have different needs, but I think we watch films in the same way. We get caught up in the story, the emotions and there’s a feeling of togetherness and companionship when we watch a film in the cinema.
I have the utmost respect for those who choose to or find themselves looking after people with dementia. It’s an indiscriminate, unforgiving illness and any respite we can give, has to be good. I think it’s a fantastic reason for me to take an afternoon away from the office.