From the Vice-Chancellor’s desk: ‘Inside Out of Mind’
One of the biggest challenges we face is our ageing population.
Modern medicine and general improvements in health have resulted in many more of us living longer. There are now 1.7 million more people over the age of 65 than 25 years ago, and the number of people over the age of 85 has doubled in the same period.
One consequence of increasing longevity is increased prevalence of chronic disease, not least dementia in its many forms. Currently it is estimated that some 800,000 people in the UK have dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society predicts this could be a million by 2021, more than 1.5 per cent of our total population.
Summary statistics like this mask the human side of a condition that is not well understood and which has devastating consequences for those affected by dementia and those who care for them. In 2006, in partnership with the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, we established The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to promote interdisciplinary research and pioneering educational activities in this key area.
As well as conducting fundamental and translational research, the IMH promotes truly innovative outreach programmes. Inside Out of Mind, which is now being performed at Lakeside, our public arts centre, is a remarkable example of genuine innovation.
This original theatrical production is based on findings from research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research, and led by Professor Justine Schneider. She and her team of ethnographers provided the raw material from intensive evaluation of carers and the cared for on three dementia wards, and playwright Tanya Myers “…humanised their data into drama…” Tanya also directed Inside Out of Mind.
The outcome is a strikingly powerful production: sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous, but always sensitive and sharp in its insights on the lives of carers and cared for. It is educational, thought provoking and bursting with emotion. Unsurprisingly it is receiving a lot of attention, and in the process promoting open and welcome debate.
The production is underpinned by practical and financial support of more than a dozen organisations from the public and voluntary sectors. Each has played an indispensable part in bringing this performance to the stage, enabling 1,500 health-care staff to come and see how their working lives have been dramatized by Tanya Myers and her team.
The development and production of Inside Out of Mind has been an exciting journey of knowledge exchange between the arts, social sciences and health-care providers. It is our University at its very best: delivering innovation and excellence in research, working in partnership across different sectors, and building bridges between health, education, research and the wider public through the arts.
For many, this project would have been just too risky: not so for Lakeside, and Shona Powell and her colleagues are to be congratulated for taking it on.
Professor David Greenaway