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Wednesday, 02 November 2016

Alzheimer’s 'Champion' launches dementia-inspired art exhibition at Sheffield Hallam

Written by The Editorial Team

National Champion for Alzheimer’s Research UK, Lee Pearse, is holding an art exhibition at Sheffield Hallam University in November, revolving around the theme of dementia.

‘All Our Brains’ is a free exhibition that will be running as part of the University’s Catalyst: Festival of Creativity. The five-week exhibition, which opens on 18 November, has been organised by Lee, an associate lecturer at the University, and his brother Andrew, with help from Heeley City Farm and The Valerie Foundation.

The event follows a symposium which took place in May, in which people were invited to find out more about dementia to inspire and inform their artwork. Each piece of work in the exhibition is an interpretation of dementia, exploring what it can be like to live with it or to be a carer, as well as the science and symptoms behind the condition.

Rachel Doole, project officer of the Catalyst Festival at Hallam University, said: “This exhibition is truly inspiring, exploring themes of caring, loss, love, family, and everything in between, all within the overarching subject of dementia. It is an event that will be truly remembered within the Catalyst Festival experience.”

Lee, 43, has been committed to raising awareness about dementia since his mum was diagnosed with a rare form of the condition called frontotemporal dementia in 2009. She was just 59, and sadly died six years later.

He said: “Although Mum was only 59 when she got the diagnosis, in hindsight, the symptoms had been creeping on for a number of years. The realisation that Mum was ill was a gradual one. She was always very loving and family-focused but became increasingly uninvolved and emotionless. Then on one terrifying day she stopped the car on the motorway and began to reverse – it was all so out of character.

“Over the years, we learnt a great deal about Mum’s illness and how the frontal lobes, which were primarily affected in her form of dementia, regulate things like personality, emotions, reasoning and decision-making. It’s helped us understand the huge changes in her behaviour.

“There are still a lot of misconceptions about dementia amongst the public. My brother and I feel so honoured to be able to do an event like this which raises awareness about dementia and shows the reality of the condition.”

Lee opened a dementia department at Sheffield’s Heeley City Farm with his brother in 2014. Together they run support groups, provide information and help people with dementia in the community through animal-assisted therapy.

Rachel Allen, communications manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, presented at the symposium in May about dementia and the work the charity is doing. She said: “This exhibition is a fantastic way to raise awareness about dementia, a condition which is often misunderstood. Many people just think of memory loss when they think of dementia, but it’s much more than that. It can affect a person’s ability to walk, talk and carry out everyday tasks like eating, washing and dressing. We’d like to say a big thank you to Lee and everyone else involved in this event for working so hard to change public perceptions of dementia.”

The ‘All Our Brains’ exhibition opens on Friday 18 November and is free to attend.

You can find out more about Catalyst at: www.shu.ac.uk/catalyst