Inspiring Older Readers
The launch of ‘One Hundred Memories’ at Stafford Library
When the call went out for contributions for what would be a new publication bringing together peoples experiences of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimers Disease, I was eager to try submitting something. I was thrilled when one of my pieces was selected and equally excited to be heading for the launch of the resulting book, One Hundred Memories.
Walking from Stafford station towards the library for the launch, winter seemed to be coming early and it was a very cold and rather bleak experience. The town appeared to be almost deserted - which seemed odd for a Saturday morning. But once we saw the imposing library with its colourful Children’s section welcoming us through the front windows, our mood began to shift.
We had arrived early because, as one of the hundred contributors, I had been asked to read my piece ‘A Special Sleepover’ which described an unusual evening and night spent with my late dad who had Alzheimers. The editor, Mel Wardle Woodend greeted us enthusiastically and the room quickly started to fill up with other people who were glad to come out of the cold into the warm, friendly place. The atmosphere was welcoming with free hot drinks and wonderful cakes ( home-made by Mel’s proud mum). We had expected a modest turn out for this book launch with mostly local supporters of the project but, with fifteen minutes to go before the scheduled start, all the seats were taken and people of all ages were still pouring in. We estimated well over a hundred people were there to enjoy the occasion and we discovered that some had travelled from distant parts of the UK to be there. Indeed, contributions to the book had come in from across the world.
The book, printed in a dyslexia friendly format and illustrated by Anneka Reay, was the result of a call out for contributions of stories, essays, flash fiction and poems on the theme of memory, with a particular emphasis on the subject of dementia. Mel is the current Staffordshire Poet Laureate and also the driving force behind Dream Well Publishers which has already published various anthologies to support charities and organisations. Money raised from the sale of this one was to go to the Alzheimers Society and it was good to see that the charity had set up an information stall at the event.
As contributors came forward to read their pieces, the audience leaned in to listen and share. Every piece was very different but all of them were so powerful. Like others, I felt a mixture of comfort and sorrow as I listened to the ways in which readers described varying elements of frustration, bewilderment, concern, respect and love.
Just a few examples relating to the effects of dementia were ‘Forget me Not’ by Leanne Cooper, a tender poem written for her nan that captured the familiar sadness of watching a dearly loved relative slowly change almost beyond recognition; ‘Made of Stories’ by Ade Couper which was written from the perspective of a carer who had listened to varied stories of patients over many years and wanted to emphasise just how important it was to listen: ‘Dignity in Dementia Care: Remember those who forget’ by Adam Probert and written in the voice of someone with dementia who asked for patience and sensitivity. There were many readers who described how writing about a personal experience had helped to articulate grief.
The contributors also included several young people who had written about memory and shown that they were able to imagine themselves into the minds of people who had died too soon in World War One.
I have rarely experienced such a strong feeling of palpable solidarity and compassion. I daresay that most people in the audience were affected by dementia in some way and recognised the way in which sharing the experience can be cathartic.
Readings at this moving event gave only a glimpse of the rest of the book’s content which I started to read later that evening. It is not an easy read because it is packed with poignant memories and each piece deserves time and attention. I think that I will probably dip into it from time to time for comfort and inspiration. I am sure that members of my family will do the same and would strongly recommend it to others, particularly as it helps to raise money for Alzheimers Society.
Copies can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org
(Click on any image to view them in a slide show format)