‘What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness,” says Wendy Mitchell in People With Dementia Can…Be Inspired show at Pocklington Arts Centre

Dr Wendy Mitchell takes to the skies in a photograph in the People With Dementia Can…Be Inspired exhibition at Pocklington Arts Centre

DR Wendy Mitchell and Bob Long, who both live with dementia, are presenting an inspiring exhibition of photography and poetry at Pocklington Arts Centre until June 16.

Their People With Dementia Can…Be Inspired display combines photographs taken by Sunday Times best-selling author Wendy with poems composed by retired head teacher, pantomime provider, tennis lover and ping-pong player Bob.

The exhibition began its tour at Market Weighton Town Hall, where it was attended by dignitaries, people living with dementia, researchers and other sector experts. Post-Pocklington, further venues will follow.

Wendy says:  “My message is always to see the person, not the disease. Dementia is so misunderstood by society. I hope our work helps more people appreciate that people living with dementia are all different and can still achieve remarkable things.”

Beneath a photograph of Wendy taking to the air, her exhibition statement reads: “On the 31st July 2014 I was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia. My brain was overwhelmed with images of the last stages of the disease – those familiar tropes, shortcuts and cliches that we are fed by the media, or even our own health professionals.

“But my diagnosis far from represented the end of my life. Instead, it was the start of a very different one. I may not have much of a short term, but in this exhibition I’m hoping to convey that, although we’ve been diagnosed, people like me still have a substantial contribution to make; we still have a sense of humour; we still have feelings.

Bob Long, who wrote the poems on display at the exhibition, with his wife Sue, centre, and exhibition coordinator Sandra Burley, from Dementia Friendly Market Weighton

“I’m hoping to show the reality of trying to cope on a day-to-day basis with the ever-changing environmnt that dementia throws at those diagnosed with the condition. What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.”

Alongside a photograph of Bob on the tennis court is his message: Parting Shot. Adventure. Achievement. Ambition.

He had moved to Market Weighton from Cambridge with his young family in 1980 to take up a school headship at North Cave. “We never thought we’d still be here 43 years later but we are and we love it!” his exhibition statement reads.

“After I retired there were some signs that I was getting forgetful, so I was referred to the Memory Clinic in 2015.” Later he would be diagnosed with dementia.

“There was then a period of time that caused us to be anxious about our future. However, it wasn’t long before we recognised that we could deal with this change and that we could and would enjoy our togetherness positively.

The People With Dementia Can…Be Inspired exhibition on show at Pocklington Arts Centre

“We are keen that, having found our ‘road’, we would like to assure others that dementia is not our ‘story end’ and that together we are able to enjoy life.”

Damian Murphy, from York dementia support group Minds and Voices says: “First and foremost, this is a joyful exhibition of outstanding photography and talented poetry. Projects like this are helping us to improve our understanding of how best to support people living with dementia. Celebrating and showcasing the talent and stories of Wendy and Bob will serve as an inspiration to others.”

PAC director Angela Stone says: “We’re delighted to be welcoming this exhibition to Pocklington Arts Centre. The essence of breaking the old views of dementia, bringing rights, hope, creativity and potential into light underpins our commitment to create safe and inclusive opportunities for everyone in our community to express themselves in our supportive and welcoming space.

“We are grateful to our friends at Dementia Forward for delivering dementia awareness training to our staff and volunteers to help us better understand how to create engaging, inclusive activities, including our weekly Singing For Fun sessions, held every Thursday morning.

“We also have the forthcoming Smashing Mirrors production of Mike & Millie Go To The Seaside, an interactive workshop for those living with dementia on Thursday, June 8. We are inspired and honoured to share such an important body of work.”

People With Dementia Can…Be Inspired can be viewed during Pocklington Arts Centre’s opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10am to 4pm; Thursday, 10am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 1pm.

Long shot: The photograph of Bob Long playing tennis and his accompanying message entitled Parting Shot