We know a great deal about the generic skills, knowledge and understanding needed for working as an artist in participatory settings, as well as the values to be applied, and the learning pathways for such artists, but there are still gaps in our knowledge concerning practice differences. Are there enough commonalities between the different axes (art form; values; intents and purposes; settings) around which participatory work revolve that participatory work can share common training, qualifications or standards? Or are the differences so great that we need different pathways?
To explore these issues, we decided to focus on the axis of art form and take a specific example, that of working with people with dementia. Working with leading arts and dementia writer John Killick, we held two roundtables in October and November 2012, the first with seven experienced writers in dementia from a range of genres and the second with ten leading practitioners in the field drawn from the visual/applied arts, dance, music and drama.
These have allowed us to investigate the range of skills, specific and generic, needed to work successfully in this area and the different purposes of the work, and then explore the commonalities and differences and the implications for training, qualifications and standards. They also offered the participants a rare and greatly appreciated opportunity to meet others working in the field.
A final report making recommendations for training, qualifications and standards, which includes a brief survey of arts and dementia activity and research in the UK, has been written by John Killick. This is now available here as a pdf to download. Amongst the key findings emerging is a common call for more opportunities to learn from others working in the field through shadowing, mentoring, skill share sessions and networking events. Already planned by NAWE is an issue of its magazine Writing in Education devoted to writing in dementia, copies of which will be made available at the annual NAWE Conference and the Dementia Congress with linked presentations.