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A forest of memories

The opening scenes of last night’s new BBC drama series, Sherwood, evoked a whirlwind of memories from 1984. Wherever you stood, or still stand, on the question of mid-eighties industrial relations, the equally strident tones of Arthur Scargill and Margaret Thatcher recalled a highly divisive era that provides the context for Sherwood’s plotline, set thirty years or so after the miners’ strike. I guess now you have to be at least 50 years old to remember the violence and despair shown in contemporary news reports. If you ever travelled by car through Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire at the time, you may also remember canyons of police vans parked near major road junctions on the A1, creating quite an unsettling atmosphere.

Sherwood’s premise is that memories run deep in a community scarred by division and, in this case, have current consequences. But evoking memories can also be a positive and powerful tool enabling more elderly people in particular to recall the good times (and possibly the bad ones too) as part of a spectrum of approaches that can support them to feel and keep safe.

Over the last year, the Connexional Safeguarding Team has launched a short series of webinars designed to encourage and support churches to develop initiatives that demonstrate that they are dementia friendly, as part of an overall preventive safeguarding plan. The webinars also described where to get advice and information from more specialist organisations that can help churches with this. Some of the suggested measures are very practical and relate to building safety whilst others are linked to making worship accessible and relevant. Some churches have also developed memory cafes, that offer a variety of activities that stimulate discussion and socialisation. Collective, community or individual memories are often stirred through active participation in, for example, craft projects, supported by displaying objects, playing age-relevant popular music or story-telling. This is a very helpful and supportive approach, that also provides an informal setting to share information, advice and guidance to carers and families.

It’s a bit noticeable just now that in conversation we often recall what we were doing, or planned to do, in mid-March 2020 before Covid really struck and confined us to a lockdown experience we probably won’t forget in our lifetimes. So it’s worth noting that on 24th March 2020, at a really challenging time, the national charity Action on Elder Abuse changed its name to ‘Hourglass’. The metaphor of time running out or conversely filling with opportunity can be taken either way, but if you want to find out more about what Hourglass does, here’s a link;

Tonight I’ll be catching up with part 2 of Sherwood. My sense is that it will be difficult to put a lid on the community memories.

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