Suitcase Stories was a reminiscence, storytelling and music project for people living with dementia and their carers

The aim was to improve the health and wellbeing of participants by using real objects to evoke memories, allowing them to share their stories of the past with their friends, relatives and carers as well as with a professional storyteller.

Learning staff from Museums Worcestershire ran fun and interactive workshops where participants could look at and handle objects from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. These objects evoked a range of fascinating, humorous and at times emotional memories from those who participated. These recollections were then turned into magical stories by professional storyteller Gavin Young and musician Gemma Young.

Between October 2016 and May 2017, a programme of 36 storytelling & reminiscence activity sessions was delivered in 6 museums, libraries and community centres across Worcestershire (Kidderminster, Worcester, Malvern, Bromsgrove, Redditch and Evesham). Six performances of the new stories that were created from the memories gathered then took place at the Alzheimer Society’s dementia cafes, also in Worcestershire.

“Gavin the storyteller has such imagination! Such delivery to completely absorb our concentration” Evesham participant

“It’s the highlight of the week. *** is not interested in anything else, his voice lights up when he is told he is going” Worcester participant

“We are now collecting and making memories instead of throwing them away” Evesham participant

During this project, Project Manager Jenny Davis evaluated the impact of Suitcase Stories on the participants in the workshops. Some of the overall findings were;

  • There were some clear improvements of the participant’s mood from the beginning to the end of the sessions. This indicates the combination of reminiscence and storytelling can increase a person’s well-being.
  • Everyone that participated in the workshops met some new people and connected to these people. This contributes to an increase in the participants well-being
  • 78% of people contributed to the project in the workshops by sharing their stories so giving something of themselves. This contributes to an increase of the participants well-being
  • Through the feedback questionnaires, observations and anecdotal responses the project proved to be just as beneficial for the carers as it was for the people living with dementia

Museums Worcestershire has been proud to run this project and work with our partners across Worcestershire, our dedicated volunteers and the Alzheimers Society who helped make this happen.

To see what we did in Suitcase Stories, please view our short film (for the whole playlist, click here):

To read the full project evaluation, please visit the Arts Uplift website here

Listen to the full recorded stories here

This project was kindly funded by Museums Worcestershire, Worcestershire County Council, Arts Council England, The Elmley Foundation, Worcestershire Arts Partnership, Wychavon District Council, Wyre Forest District Council, Bromsgrove and Redditch District Council, Worcester City Council and Malvern District Council