“Why are we walking around in circles?”
The Happy Wanderers are a group of people living with dementia who meet for a weekly walk somewhere in Cornwall. It is run by the Sensory Trust to encourage people living with dementia to go outside, explore places, encounter new stimulus, engage in their senses, whilst being part of a supportive and familiar group. This project features in a wider context of my research about the role illustration plays in creating new channels of communication, methods of engagement and illumination of narrative for people with dementia.
As an authorial illustrator I instil a new dimension to the walks, enhancing their experiences and creating new channels of communication. Each week there is a theme and the group pass around a disposable camera, taking photographs of their walks. The themes provide a focus, another form of cognitive stimulation and a shared topic of conversation. They span a variety of ideas, such as senses, personal experiences and times of year. I have created 15 books and their titles include: Texture at Treverbyn, Sound at Gossmoor and Green at Luxylyan. Some have little books inside of them, which expand further on the theme: for example, in Shadows at Wheal Martyn I depict the movement of the sun and in The First Signs of Spring at Lostwithiel I present a collection of their drawings.
This project is a fantastic example of mind and landscape coming together: it is a psycho- geographical project which allows the people to document their experiences in the landscape, whilst nurturing and sharing their inner landscapes. It also creates visual prompts which can allow them to revisit their shared memories, and is extremely important in providing the people with self-evidence that living with dementia can still mean they can form new connections, both with people and landscape.
Ellie is an illustrator, academic and socially engaged practitioner based in Falmouth. She studied a BA in English/Philosophy at York University before undertaking the MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University. Ellie now works for The Sensory Trust on their ‘Creative Spaces in the Community’ project across Cornwall.