The Hoppiness Project!

Alive recently ran the first session of the latest project to be conjured up from the brains of their gardening team – growing hop plants in care home gardens with which to make a unique green hopped beer.

We’ve been growing hops in our community gardens for several years now. One of the participants at our Lawrence Weston Community Garden initially proposed the idea. The group had been discussing what they’d like to grow in the coming season, and G quipped: “I’d like to grow beer”. Little did he know that one of the team already grew hops alongside the East Bristol Hops Collective – a group of over 100 gardeners and allotment holders across Bristol who supply Dawkins Brewery with freshly picked hops at the end of the growing season. Before he knew it, a hop plant was being grown at Blaise Weston Court, which hosts our Lawrence Weston Community Garden.

A former colleague suggested we take the idea into care homes. This year we’re piloting the proposal with Deerhurst Care Home, and the hops will join those grown by East Bristol Hops Collective. The following year we’re hoping to collaborate with a local brewery to make a beer containing hops solely grown by care home residents.

The first session at Deerhurst Care Home introduced the project via a reminiscence and sensory session. We took photos of hop picking in Kent, the old Courage brewery in Bristol and scenes from inside pubs to stimulate conversation. We also had objects for people to touch and play with – dimple glasses, bottle openers, beer mats – and sang drinking songs together. We smelt and ran our hands through dried hops and sampled locally brewed beer!

There was much laughter during the session, and we discovered many people who had a connection to beer and gardening. One man used to grow hops in his garden, and another spoke enthusiastically about St Austell Brewery. There was lots of engagement throughout, and we can’t wait to return.

Once brewed, the beer will go on sale in local pubs, helping to raise awareness of dementia and to challenge stereotypes around old age, care homes and activity provision for those living with dementia. We’re also excited to be starting a project accessible to male residents who are often under-represented in activity provision. And, of course, the project will also tap into all the benefits of gardening – getting people outdoors, connecting them to nature, providing multisensory stimulation, giving people physical exercise and improving their mental well-being.

Academics from Bristol University will be with us for the journey, exploring some of the above issues. So expect to hear a lot more about The Hoppiness Project very soon!

Guy Manchester, Community Allotment Project Officer

A Trip to the Skies and the Power of Positive Gossiping

Hear from Winsome, our South Gloucestershire Meeting Centre Manager, about the group’s recent trip to Bristol Aerospace.

Last Tuesday, our Thursday group visited Concorde as part of our Cultural & Historical trip. It was a windy, cold day with some light rain showers, but it didn’t matter too much as we were planning to soak up the sights of the museum.

Our itinerary for the day included a peek inside the mighty Concorde and tour of the conservation hanger, but first: coffee! For two of the carers in our party, the trip held a special place in their lives with both having worked for Aerospace before; one in providing parts for the planes, and the other in wing development.

Chatting continued after a much-appreciated and generously-sized lunch, with our discussions turning to other places our members and carers would like to visit in the future, ranging from National Trust gardens and steam rails, to WWT Wetlands Slimbridge and everything else in-between. It was then that Jeff, our Meeting Centre Activity Worker, was asked by a party at a nearby table who we were!

Finding our conversation interesting, the party consisted of two parents and their daughter visiting from Germany, who were looking for a social group for the dad who they explained was living with moderate dementia. Taking their details, I promised to send them some information about attending a taster session at our Dementia Meeting Centres soon.

Three cheers for the power of positive gossiping! Not only did our Thursday group have a great visit, but our lunchtime chatting may even see some new faces join our mix. It was a great chance to really see the importance of getting out and about and you’ll also find me carrying one or two flyers in my bag from now on!

Our Dementia Meeting Centre celebrates its first anniversary

With a momentous birthday comes three days of celebration for our Dementia Meeting Centre!

Marking one year of our Meeting Centres opening in Clevedon, Portishead, and Nailsea, we joined together to celebrate in style – with the festivities chosen by our very own members.

In Clevedon, Elvis entered the building thanks to the European Elvis Tribute Artist Champion, Emilio Santoro. An open house that saw friends and partners from Alzheimer’s Society, Vision North Somerset, Wellspring, and Curo attend, we sang and danced along to all the old classics.

“I can’t believe we’ve been open a whole year,” said Anne Ellis, North Somerset’s Meeting Centre Manager, “it was great to have such a fun party, all the members were up and dancing and thoroughly enjoying themselves. We’re so proud of the centres and how they have grown and supported so many people – Elvis was an amazing way of celebrating our achievements!”.

The next day, we set our sights to the skies with a trip to Aerospace Bristol. With several of our members having worked there in their younger years, we exchanged stories and said hello to Concorde before enjoying lunch and a traipse around the museum. The wonderful trip was a ‘Gift in Kind’ funded by a family who had recently lost their beloved mum, Pat. Her son, John, who came along, said; “It was a fitting tribute to my Mum who had dementia in the last few years of her life and it was wonderful to see the smiles on the faces of members and their carers”.

Finishing our celebrations in Nailsea with some delicious fish and chips from Noggin’s Old Fish Bar, we were also treated to a show from The Deadbeats – a six-person ukulele group. With the members across all three Centres invited to each day of the celebrations, it was a wonderful opportunity to get together.

A huge thank you to Emilio Santoro, Aerospace Bristol, Noggin’s, The Deadbeats, and the folks at Blue Iris for helping us celebrate in such style. And a special shoutout to Clevedon Lions & Clevedon Inner Wheel whose generous donation paid for our lavish buffet and very own Elvis.

As always, we are hugely grateful to our amazing members, team of volunteers and staff, as well as everybody who has contributed to our Dementia Meeting Centre this past year. Here’s to more birthdays to come!

Dr Shirley Evans and Jennifer Bray visit our Dementia Meeting Centres

Last week we welcomed two special visitors to our Dementia Meeting Centre groups – Dr Shirley Evans, Interim Director of the Association for Dementia Studies (ADS), and ADS Research Assistant, Jennifer Bray from the University of Worcester. 

Speaking to our members in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, we heard how the Meeting Centre concept was brought over from The Netherlands; with there now being over 50 Dementia Meeting Centres across the UK! Our members fed back to Jen and Shirley, who is the UK’s leading expert on Meeting Centres, about how the sessions have been great for them and offer a much-needed resource for those living with dementia and their caregivers. 

In Bristol, the theme was 1960s Liverpool and our members enjoyed recalling artists such as Lonnie Donegan, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black and, of course, The Beatles (all of whom performed at the legendary Cavern Club!). It was great to look at some wonderful Beatles memorabilia and talk about our favourite tracks. After lunch, we enjoyed a truly magical performance from Emily at Mini Concerts as she re-created the Merseybeat sound. A lovely rendition of The Beatles song “All You Need Is Love” got everyone singing along at the end of the show – which provided a very fitting finish to a great day!

South Gloucestershire 
Our South Glos members enjoyed puzzles, singing, quizzes and exercises with music – and even had the opportunity to stretch their muscles while dancing with feathers! Our late morning members engaged in an art therapy workshop where artistic talents were ignited and rediscovered. Everyone was sharing a smile and a bounce in their step as we sat down to chat about life over lunch. 

A huge thank you to Shirley and Jen for their visit, and a special shout out to the fabulous folks at Mini Concerts. If you live in Bristol, South Glos., or North Somerset and are interested in joining our Dementia Meeting Centres, please get in touch or find out more here.

Bristol: 07377 199 148 /
South Glos: 07377 197 893 /
North Somerset: 07423 741459 /