Chard Memory Café creates art exhibition inspired by the local landscape

 In Art & culture, Heritage & history, Nature & wellbeing

Members of Chard Memory Café have created an exhibition of autumnal art inspired by the Blackdown Hills countryside, which is now on display at Ferne Animal Sanctuary’s new visitor centre until 6 December.

Chard Memory Café, run by Alzheimer’s Society, is a meeting place for people living with dementia and their carers. Living with memory loss can be challenging, severing social connections at a time when they are needed most. So the Memory Café offers a friendly, relaxed environment in which to talk, share tea and cake and seek information and support.

The exhibition is the result of a partnership between Alzheimer’s Society, Ferne Animal Sanctuary and Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

With help from Blackdown Hills AONB’s Nature and Wellbeing volunteer, Sue, Memory Café members have created some beautiful seasonal artwork in the form of stained-glass window displays. Sue has started to lead seasonal art sessions which inspire conversations and reminiscing using photographs, maps and information to trigger memories and ideas. Many of the members grew up in the Blackdown Hills and enjoy sharing stories of cycling and picking apples from local orchards during their childhood.

“It was so lovely to talk about the Blackdown Hills with people whilst creating their artwork inspired by this much-loved natural environment.”

said Nature and Wellbeing officer, Kristen Lambert.

“The group are excited about regular visits to Ferne where they can not only see their artwork on display but also get outside in the fresh air together and once again enjoy and feel better by connecting with nature.”

Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia support worker, Rhea Cousins, added:

“It didn’t take long for people to get really stuck in with creating their Blackdown scenes. The activity was a great talking point among the group, and there was a clear enthusiasm for people to involve themselves. The finished products were lovely, and really capture the colours of The Blackdown Hills in the autumn. It will be lovely to see the pieces displayed, and we’re grateful to Ferne Animal Sanctuary, Kristen, and Sue, for this exciting opportunity.”

For the past year, Blackdown Hills AONB’s Nature and Wellbeing project and the Memory Café have been working together to help people connect with others by accessing local landscapes in ways that interest them. More recently they have collaborated with Ferne Animal Sanctuary. Staff members at Ferne have become ‘dementia friends’ – Alzheimer’s Society’s initiative to encourage people to increase their knowledge and understanding of dementia, The team at Ferne now supports regular visits from the Memory Café members and offers volunteering opportunities where members can get stuck in to gardening and maintenance tasks.

Chard Memory Café meets fortnightly on Wednesdays between 10.30am and 12.30pm at English Martyrs Church Hall, Chard. Their artwork will be exhibited in the Ferne Animal Sanctuary’s new conference room until 6 December.

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