“All of These Things”, written by Stella Feehily, was commissioned by International Arts Partnership for the 2018 International Radio Drama Festival with the specific needs of an audience of people with early stage dementia in mind.
The concept came out of our experience taking the radio drama festival to audiences in care homes in Herne Bay. We discovered there an enthusiasm for radio drama and an enjoyment of it – but subject to some specific requirements.
We subsequently undertook research with the residents of Forrester Court care home in West London who helped us understand the soundscapes which resonated with them.
The play is made up of a series of connected episodes. Each can be enjoyed on its own and offers a complete story – but they link together to make a longer drama. Each episode involves no more than three distinct characters, and each episode is set in a clearly defined and familiar environment. The episodes are fully supported by a soundscape which reinforces the dialogue to help the listener follow the story. Music is an important element throughout. The play is structured so that the listener can pause or stop after each episode. There is space within episodes for additional pauses or to stop and return to the beginning. The characters’ experiences and environments are likely to be familiar and the listener may enjoy joining in with them.
We would welcome hearing from audiences about their response to this play.
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In 2018 I went with International Arts Partnership to meet a group of people who were living with dementia at Forrester Court care home in Paddington. The aim of our visit was to find a way to write a radio play that would be both stimulating and entertaining for this group. We brought a selection of classical and popular music, sound clips of birdsong, a television clip of an early episode of Coronation Street to play them to the group. The most extraordinary and touching moment occurred with the a capella version of the English folk song, Early One Morning. Not only did the entire group sing along but also they were word perfect.
It was clear to me from the group response that certain music had a soothing effect and other music irritated them - that sounds and songs which touched childhood and teenage years had remained in their cognitive recollection and, in most cases, dementia had not diminished their sense of humour. The group were formidable critics and were quick to tell us what they liked and didn’t like. What became apparent was that a mixture of clear conversation, soothing and dramatic sound and song was what I should be creating. I got an idea about a couple in their sixties, David and Dorothy and their trip to the sea side. Out of this came All of These Things, a play about lost love, found love and secrets - I wanted to include a sense of joy in little things.
When I finished the play we went back to Forrester Court with actors to perform it to the residents. I got my favourite ever review from one of the residents who, after the performance said: "That was alright - not bad at all".
I do hope you enjoy listening to All Of These Things.Stella Feehily (September 2019)