Soul Journey – A Poetic exploration of ageing and dementia

“What happens here provides food for my soul …”

Kate, participant of the creative dementia sessions with verd de gris.

Soul Journey is a creative project which builds on over 10 years of working creatively with people living with dementia; to highlight and celebrate aspects of positivity and the beauty within this very complex condition. The project was funded by Arts Council England and Creative Minds, which helps deliver creative activities in healthcare and is part of South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Sharon Marsden and Jeff Turner from verd de gris worked with film maker Geoff Brokate, writer Paula Sutherland and sound artist Nina Perry to create:

a film
an exhibition of still photographs
original writing
an installation including soundscape


The Exhibition
The project led to a touring exhibition programme and a series of workshops, film screenings and talks to audiences across the UK. Exhibition venues included National Media Museum Bradford, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Salford Museum & Art Gallery and Manchester Central Library. Opportunities for talks and screenings included The Bluecoat Art Centre Liverpool, The Albany Deptford and FUSE Arts Space Bradford. Our overriding aim was: “to contribute to a shift in how we consider / present aspects of the dementia condition. As as a community we need to move beyond our own fear in relation to dementia and treat those with the condition as human beings of dignity and worth.”


Soul Journey continues verd de gris’ innovative enquiry into how the creative arts can be used to help people living with dementia, and provide valuable evidence-based methodologies for health and social care providers. Part of the project involved working closely with staff at University of Huddersfield, to see how our approach could help them enhance their work with students and care professionals.

“Soul Journey provides a powerful insight into issues that affect the older person, particularly those living with dementia. The power of its narrative is that it shows “a very powerful journey that I feel very positively runs counter to the normal narrative of being old and of living with dementia” (PH).

Significantly, for us, it has the potential to reduce some of the negative stereotypes that students, including social work students, may have towards working with older people; which has been widely reported upon.

I also strongly believe that this film / talk has the potential to impact on any student who will go on to work with older people / carer’s in their chosen career. It also has the potential to inform us all, in a creative, engaging way, about the impact of dementia. This is something that can affect us all, directly/indirectly, and I believe this film is a powerful vehicle through which its key messages are portrayed.”
Dr Berenice Golding, Senior Lecturer, Health, Community Development and Social Sciences and Paul Hollingdale, Senior Lecturer, Social Work, University of Huddersfield.

We firmly believe the creative arts offer a unique opportunity to develop new forms of dialogue and engagement for people living with dementia.

The Film
There have been many successes over the past 18 months. The main one for us perhaps, was reaching, and connecting with, so many people through the Soul Journey film. Film screenings on BIG Screens (in Bradford and Leeds city centres) and airings on the Community Channel meant we had a potential audience for the film of 250,000+.

The film also proved to be a wonderful medium for us in helping set up local advocacy events – with the added bonus that local families and group participants could attend these sessions and engage in the lively debates directly:

“The film captured the essence of the journey of dementia that we may not embark on willingly as family/carers: witnessing the distress and confusion of our loved ones when the familiar landscape suddenly becomes unfamiliar; but also affirming what is still present, embodied, that we can still share and enjoy with our loved ones if we are prepared to follow them on their journey, wherever it might lead. The film offered me a space to reflect and to feel the intense and varied emotions that dementia stirs up. It understood something that I could never articulate to the ‘world out there’, people who have not been affected by dementia. It can feel a lonely journey at times.

My mum is still my mum and I love her dearly. I speak to her on the phone everyday. Every day we talk about the weather, sometimes several times, and that’s just fine.”
Tricia Stead, CBT Therapist, Bradford

“The film was made one week before my Dad’s stroke and shows we should make the most of the time we have and how people are amazing even when they are close to the end of their lives. Finding people in his twilight years who understood the ‘real’ Jack was amazing, and the film you have made shows the amazing man he was. I see it as his final gift to me, something which I will always cherish.” Andrew Mossman, Jack Mossman’s son


Please have a listen to the soundscape we made with Jack Mossman – part of our exhibition installation “A Walk to Staups Mill”. Features original music by composer Nina Perry and the poetry of Paula Sutherland.