Join us for pop-up 'Barbara' theatre experience inspired by artist's own relationship with their grandmother

Categories: School of Health and Society

Stockport artist Mark Croasdale brings their immersive, warm and joyful theatre experience to Salford at Eccles Library on 10th November 2023 at 11-12:30pm and 3-4:30pm, as part of the Festival of Social Science. 

This is a pop-up experience based on a live theatre show 'Barbara' and gives audiences the chance to interact with characters and be treated to a moment of joy.

‘Barbara’ is an immersive theatrical experience that sensitively explores the subject of dementia through the lens of how we care for those we love when they lose their way, and how we care for ourselves. The show’s concept was inspired by Mark’s own shifting relationship with their grandmother (the real-life Barbara) as she experienced dementia, and through hindsight of how things may have been different had Mark understood and felt equipped to navigate what she was going through.

More than 920,000 people in the UK are living with dementia with around 700,000 providing informal, unpaid care for a family member or close friend living with dementia. Whether directly or indirectly, it is a condition that is likely to, at some point, affect all of us. And yet our experiences and interactions with this illness can feel incredibly isolating. 

Whilst the subject matter may seem heavy, Mark is determined that the experience be uplifting and joyful. Characters will be sharing songs, games, conversations and inviting people to chat to about how they show care. The work generates positive conversations about care and dementia related conditions. By evoking the hospitality of a bygone era, Mark creates a space where audiences enjoy an intimate, warm and joyful experience where they can share their own experiences in a safe, friendly and supported way.

Mark Croasdale explains a little more of what to expect from the work: "Barbara and her friends Babs and Bea will be out at Eccles Library in Salford, setting up a cosy space for a spot of conversation and music. If you pop along the ladies will take care of you, helping you escape the hustle and bustle of modern society for five or ten minutes. Expect frolics into correct etiquette, quiz experiences where you can beat out the competition and a few gentle sweet serenades. 

“The ladies will be performing a spot of market research, helping us to have some conversations about care, and if you’re happy to share then your suggestions may make it into their latest musical endeavour. Do come along and let the ladies take care of you."

This version of the show will respond to the interactions of the audience and encourage conversations about care. The work has been developed with volunteer Dementia Associates from the University of Salford’s Institute for Dementia. 

Professor Andrew Clark, from the University of Greenwich, who led on this project in his previous role as a Professor (with expertise in ageing and dementia) at the University of Salford, said: “The University of Salford is proud of its record working alongside people affected by dementia in research teaching and engagement activities. Research undertaken at the university has shown how important keeping active, socially engaged and connected to others is for people living with a diagnosis, as well as for their family and friends, and all of us have a part to play in ensuring people living with dementia feel supported and a part of our communities. We are delighted that our Dementia Associates and staff associated with the Dementia Hub are a part of this important performance."      

To support Mark and musical artist Tom Guest in creating the show they are working with engagement artist Jenny Gaskell who specialises in using conversation as an artform for bringing people together. Mark and the team are also working in partnership with the University of Salford’s Institute for Dementia.

Through the power of art, community and research, Barbara aims to show how we can ‘talk well about dementia.’ The event is free and open to all - no ticket is required. 

Barbara is being hosted as part of the national Festival of Social Science, which aims to explore the world of social science, giving researchers the opportunity to share their research with non-academic audiences. The festival includes wide-ranging topics, from how society has shaped our local areas to behaviours that help fight climate change. 

The festival runs from Saturday 21 October to Friday 17 November with events across the UK, both virtually and in person, for all ages and tastes.

The University of Salford is hosting 17 events as part of the festival, with a mix of in person, online and hybrid events taking place on campus, within the Salford community and across Greater Manchester. 

A full list of events can be found here

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.