National Memory Day celebrates the power of poetry

Thursday 18th May marks the first National Memory Day, a new initiative celebrating the power of poetry and the positive impact of creative engagement with those affected by memory loss.

Created by Literature Works, in partnership with Plymouth University, The Poetry Archive and Alzheimer’s Society, National Memory Day raises much-needed funds for further research into dementia and memory loss as well as providing opportunities for interaction and engagement for those affected. The resulting creative works will be a record of the memories and lives of all involved and raise awareness of living with memory loss in the UK.

Ian Sherriff, Plymouth University’s Academic Partnership Lead For Dementia and Chair of the Prime Minister’s Rural Dementia Task Force, says “There are 800,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, and it has been proven in the past that the arts can have a positive impact on their experiences. National Memory Day has the potential to expand on that previous work, and reach more people with the condition, their families and carers.”

National Memory Day was founded by The Poetry Archive’s Director, Tracey Guiry, after she discovered that her mother, who suffers from dementia, ‘lit up’ when Tracey read her Walter de la Mare’s poem ‘The Listeners‘. “The simple act of reciting a poem gave us Mum back for a while, gave her new stories to tell us and a voice full of confidence to tell them. It brought friends to the house with conversation to share, it gave me new insights into my own family history and it has given Mum’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren a priceless hoard of stories to discover. They’ll know that, once upon a time, their great-granny used to lead working horses on a farm.

Poet Karen Hayes has written a special poem for the project, using lines contributed by people whose lives have been touched by dementia. The first line was contributed by Sir Andrew Motion, President of National Memory Day and former Poet Laureate. The video features lines being read by researchers, poets and supporters of the National Memory Day Project, including Angela Rippon, Vice President of NPD.

A dedicated National Memory Day collection on The Poetry Archive website has also been released, containing poems about memory, poems about individual memories and poems that are fun to remember. Poets featured include Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Charles Causley, Seamus Heaney and Emily Bronte.

Judy O’Kane, from County Antrim, was also announced as the winner for Best Poem in NPD’s National Writing Competition, judged by Andrew Motion. The winning and commended entries can be downloaded from the NPD website.

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