When her own life hit a rough patch and she was brought very low, actor, writer and television producer Susanna Howard quite literally wrote her way out of it. She let her words flow onto paper, never letting her pen stop and not allowing herself to think too much.
The results surprised her. “I was reconnecting to myself,” she says. Realising she was onto something, she decided to share the idea and help others who, like her, had found themselves in a dark place, for whatever reason. Susanna believes, wonderfully, that “If you believe in people they can achieve anything.”
From a pilot project in the elderly care unit of Guys and St Thomas’s in 2006 her work has grown into the charity Living Words. Now Susanna and her team of trained artists run three month long care home residencies, working one to one with people in the late stages of dementia who would normally be considered unable to communicate, carefully and skilfully enabling them to do so through their own words.
The charity’s work has been showcased at prestigious venues throughout the world and in 2014 Living Words published its first anthology of words and poems of people experiencing dementia. Called “The Things Between Us”, it was acclaimed by no less a person than former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion. Last year Susanna was named on The Independent’s Happy List celebrating the 50 most inspirational people in the UK, whose kindness, ingenuity and bravery have made Britain a better place to live.
This week’s podcast is played out with Funny Old World, lyrics by John Offen who is living with advanced dementia and Susanna Howard, founder of the Living Words charity. John's words were set to the music of Marit Rokeberg and sung by London Contemporary Voices.
You can find out more about Living Words (and listen to Funny Old World) on their Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/livingwords.org.uk
Their website is: http://livingwords.org.uk/
And more support for those with dementia and their families can be found athttps://www.alzheimers.org.uk/
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