Top class music at dementia cafe helps rekindle memories

Opera North, a leading arts group based in our diocese, is working with church members to spark musical memories for people with dementia. 
The world-renowned opera company is working with the Tea Cosy Dementia café in Leeds, founded by Christians including people from St Edmund’s, Roundhay, on a three week project engaging people with dementia using the music, visuals and smells of their past. 
Guests and volunteers at the café have been joined by members of Opera North, and have enjoyed performances of pieces from various operas including La Bohème, one of Opera North’s autumn productions that will include dementia-friendly performances later this year.  
The innovative project has proved to be very popular with both guests and volunteers. 
Brian, a guest at the café, said: “It’s a nice change, and it lets us sing songs from our past, which is good for you and keeps you active.”   
Gillian Matthie, a founder of the ecumenically-run café, said: “We notice some quite remarkable things; people living with dementia who are no longer very communicative, but when they’re singing you see their feet tapping, and then they starting smiling and laughing and talking- it’s wonderful!”  
Alex Bradshaw, Lifelong Learning Manager at Opera North, said: “We decided the Tea Cosy Café would be a really good place to do the three week project because there’s a lot of support available; they’re all really fantastic, and have a really vibrant group going.” 
The café itself has been running for four years, and has grown from the humble beginnings of four guests and their carers to over 40 regular attendees. 
It was started after worshippers at St Edmund’s, a diocesan Resource Church, decided more could be done for local people living with dementia, and is run in partnership with the nearby Methodist and United Reform churches. 

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