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the allotment of time chapbook

Published on 02 November 2017 11:37 AM

The Allotment of Time

The Budding Friends project is a great place for people with dementia and their carers to come together regularly for mutual support.  Set up in April 2015 by Age UK Exeter's Carers Support coordinator, Penny Unitt, and with a wonderful team of volunteers it's a continuing source of life affirming companionship. At the beginning of 2016 Budding Friends took part in the 'A Life More Ordinary' project.

Well-known artists - photographer Ian Beesley, cartoonist Tony Husband and poet Ian McMillan - ran a series of creative workshops with Budding Friends. They talked, and laughed over what the allotment meant to them, what it means to have made new friends who were in the same situation, and what living with dementia was like for both the person with the diagnosis and their partners. It has culminated in a powerful, humorous, heart-warming Chap book entitled 'The Allotment of Time'.

Have a look at the online version. We do have physical copies to sell - the money goes to the Budding Friends project - phone 01392 202092 to ask for your copy!


laugh lines

Grin grew to chortle grew to chuckle
Grew to guffaw grew to hoot
Grew to cackle grew to giggle;
In the allotment that year
We had a really healthy crop
Of laughter: planted, tended
Picked and distributed to us all
Free of charge to use right now.

Or keep for later
When we needed it.

To see the whole book, click here


Richard Arthurs, who features in the book, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease three years ago. Now 67, he said:

'The diagnosis means that one person now becomes the carer and therefore there will be a change in the relationship. This can be quite a shock for couples. This book could raise awareness of the diagnosis and perhaps reduce the feeling of isolation. Budding friends has helped people feel less alone after diagnosis.'

Janet Williams, 87, regularly helps out on the allotment after her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease three years ago. She said:

'I sometimes feel a bit isolated, so it's really useful to meet people in a similar situation. It's helped tremendously.'

Martyn Rogers, Age UK Exeter's chief executive, said

'This has been a fantastic partnership with the University of Exeter, enabling people with dementia who attend our Budding Friends group to have the chance to work with three brilliant artists and create a wonderful booklet that has humour and insight.'

'We are incredibly proud of Budding Friends, which is a regular source of support and joy to the people who attend.  The group (and the allotment!) have been nurtured by our Carers' Support Co-ordinator, Penny Unitt and her team of dedicated and green-fingered volunteers, and what they achieve together is a great example of the kind of creative, flexible support Age UK Exeter provides week in, week out across the City'

The artists ran their first set of workshops within the 'Budding Friends' group's usual weekly gathering, both on their allotment and indoors. Together with the artists, they created the photos, poems and drawings featured in the book.

The allotment of time chapbook cover

Photographer Ian Beesley said:

'This has been one of the most satisfying and enjoyable projects I have worked on. Unfortunately the usual representation of people with dementia concentrates mainly on the negative aspects of the condition and very rarely offers a balanced or positive portrayal. Working with 'Budding friends' we soon realised that they as a group concentrate on turning the negative to the positive with fun, laughter, friendship and support. Our interaction with them has given us, as artists, a greater understanding of dementia and by collaborating with this articulate and enthusiastic group hopefully we have been able to  translate and represent their feelings and thoughts in a sensitive and positive way.'

'A Life More Ordinary is a project led by Professor Linda Clare at the University of Exeter, in collaboration with Innovations in Dementia and funded by the  Economic and Social Research Council and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). It is part of the wider IDEAL study' which stands for Improving the Experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life.

She said 'One of our key goals at Exeter is to support people to live well with dementia. Often, the public perception of dementia is a downward spiral from diagnosis, but we know that people can continue to live fulfilling lives with the right support. Collaborating with people with dementia using drawings, photographs and writing provides a real insight into the experiences of those living with dementia. We hope people will read the booklet and ask themselves whether they can understand the needs of people with dementia better, and support them in their needs.'

Further workshops are also under way in Kent and Oldham. The photos, poetry and drawings from each group will be used for booklets and a touring exhibition, and to form a royalty-free archive of artwork.

The images in the book will eventually contribute to an archive that can be used to illustrate dementia, royalty free.