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Exhibition information – Ordinary Lives, Inspirational Voices

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Ordinary Lives, Inspirational Voices Exhibition 
Southampton Central Library, Civic Centre, SO147LW
24th July – 29th August 2017

Turner Sims Gallery, University of Southampton Highfield Campus, S0171BJ.
9th September – 14th October 2017

Ordinary Lives,¬†Inspirational Voices presents biographical¬†portraits of people living¬†with dementia and people¬†who care for them. Artwork created¬†by Cathy Garner.¬†¬†This arts project was led by¬†Tula Brannelly, funded by the¬†University of¬†Southampton Public¬†Engagement in Research Unit, and the Alzheimer’s Society.


Interviewing for biographical portraits – a relaxed and happy time.

Once the participants agreed to be involved, we arranged interviews at home. Cathy was accompanied by Tula, Pippa or Amelia; we brought cake, drank tea and listened to the experiences of people with dementia and their families.


The participants knew that the project was about ‘living with dementia’, and our opening questions were very broad, such as ‘tell us about yourself/yourselves’. We wanted to know how much in the foreground the dementia featured, and how it was discussed.

The people who were interviewed did talk about dementia, but often late in the conversation with reference to how they reacted to their diagnosis, for example. So the impact of dementia was seen as a biographical moment, a time where something changed, but in the context of a rich and valued life that they had enjoyed.

nature-mountain-volcano-asiaThe majority of time in the interviews were spent recalling happy times, when the family were together for family Christmases, and adventures. Interviewees almost completely focused on the things they
felt were important in life and, even when asked completely open
questions about what else they would like to talk about, they emphasised
all that was positive, funny, or what they had learned from the challenges.

It was a very enjoyable time. We heard about family holidays, travels and adventures, living overseas, losing loved ones, aspirations and dreams that had eventuated and others that had not.


The interviews were video recorded and portrait photographs were taken, and we talked for about two hours. All of the participants reflected on this as a very relaxed and happy time, which they cherished.


Meet the team – Living with Dementia: Ordinary Lives, Inspirational Voices


Tula Brannelly

Tula is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. Tula has a longstanding interest in the experiences of living with dementia, and how services help people with their everyday lives.

One day in the summer of 2016, Cathy and Tula were enjoying afternoon sun and Cathy explained biographical portraits. This immediately struck a chord, in how people with dementia may be assisted to produce an account of their lives and have this created as a portrait. When the University’s Public Engagement Unit released its call for funding, Tula was compelled to apply so that the portraits could be come a reality.


Cathy Garner

Cathy has been using biographical portraits with people to help them tell a variety of stories about themselves.  This may be to leave a legacy, create a vision, celebrate a life or tell a story. Cathy can be contacted directly for a portrait.


Amelia Abbott

Amelia is a PhD student at the University of Southampton Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre with focuses on risk and dementia. Amelia’s PhD is examining the experiences of adult children managing risk with their parents with dementia. Amelia also volunteers t the Romsey Music Group, and is active in the Dementia Action Alliance.

Pippa Collins

pippa head and shoulders

Pippa is a PhD student at the University of Southampton Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre with focuses on risk and dementia. Pippa is examining the experiences of people with dementia when on acute hospital wards, and as a clinician is hoping to have direct impact to improve practices.

Liz Whale


Liz is Information, Skills and Area Manager Libraries Southampton City Council, and has helped the exhibition become a reality by supporting our use of the library space.

Southampton City Libraries are very pleased to host the Ordinary Lives, Inspirational Voices Exhibition.
This exhibition is a fantastic exploration of the personal lives and memories of people living with dementia in a media mixed of drawing and words. It is a new form of biography so fits perfectly in a library!
Working with the¬† Alzheimer’s Society Doctoral Training Centre in Dementia Care has meant that we can explore new ways of supporting local people living with dementia and keep informed of the latest research and good practice.
Libraries have long supported people with their health, and this is the case with dementia . Our libraries provide access to reputable sources of information, such as the Reading Well Books on prescription scheme, they hosting leisure activities such as singing groups, reminiscence sessions and most importantly they are a place where everyone is welcome.
We hope you enjoy this exhibition which we see as being key to work supporting health and wellbeing in the Southampton.


Romsey Music Group

The participants for this project are all members of the Romsey Music Group, and were approached at the group to volunteer to be part of an advisory group for the University of Southampton Alzheimer’s Society funded Doctoral Training Centre. The advisory group talk to PhD students about their projects and offer insights based on their experiences of living with dementia.

When forming an advisory group, it is helpful to offer something novel and unusual to the new recruits, something that perhaps they would not be offered elsewhere.  At the first introductory meeting for the advisory group, we asked if people might like to be involved with the exhibition and have their portraits done. We were met with considerable enthusiasm, and those who volunteered have had their portraits done.

Thanks to Amelia Abbott (PhD student at the University of Southampton Doctoral Training Centre and Romsey Music Group volunteer) for putting us in touch with our participants. They are Denis and Dorothy Leggett, Eddy and Janet Roberts,  Roy Browting, Ian Hill and Andrew Knight.

Andrew Knight is the facilitator (extraordinaire)  at Romsey Music Group, who we asked to be involved because of his passion and dedication to bring joy and light to the lives of people living with dementia though the music groups.

Romsey Music Group meets at Crosfield Hall, Broadwater Road, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 8GL on 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month, at 10 am for tea and coffee before 10.30 start – 12 noon.


Living with Dementia: Ordinary Lives, Inspirational Voices



Tula Brannelly welcomesTulaBrannelly1 you to our blog site for Living with Dementia: Ordinary Lives and Inspirational Voices.

This public engagement project is supported by the University of Southampton Public Engagement with Research unit.

Living with dementia: Ordinary Lives, Inspirational Voices presents the ordinary lives and inspirational voices of people with dementia, through the media of biographical portraits and film. Bringing together people with dementia, advocates, researchers and doctoral students from the University’s Alzheimer’s Society funded Doctoral Training Centre, the stories of ordinary men and women with dementia tell a tale that helps others grasp the impact of dementia on everyday life and on a person’s biography. Exhibitions are scheduled for Southampton Central Library from 22nd July 2017, and the Hansard Gallery at the University of Southampton from September. We will also show the portraits at Demfest, Hillier Gardens on 10th September.