Immersive audio play explores dementia and the hope in research


By Alex Smith | Friday 26 March 2021

The Window is a thought-provoking immersive audio experience about love and grief, memory and science, and a story about the things families don’t talk about. The play premiers to the public on 31 March. It weaves personal experience of dementia alongside insight into research, charting the emotional personal journey family members often experience when a loved one develops the condition. The Window is the latest artwork from digital story studio Fast Familiar and is funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Inspire Fund.

Dementia is caused by diseases and it affects nearly one million people across the UK. Yet years of stigma and misunderstanding have led to widespread misconceptions about what it means to have dementia, and what we can all do to help improve the lives of those affected.

The 45-minute-long audio drama is an immersive experience blending story, music and spatial sound to explore questions about what we inherit from the past and what control we have over the future.

The Window uses binaural sound, famously used by Complicité in The Encounter. It places the listener at the centre of the story. This adds to the feeling of immersion – and is another way that the arts are pivoting to create new experiences while COVID-19 makes traditional performance unviable.

Unlike many lockdown digital performances, The Window is not screen-based. In fact, audiences are asked to listen wearing a blindfold or in the dark to allow them to become aware of complexities in the audio and fully engage their imaginations.

The Window is the recipient of one of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s inaugural Inspire Fund grants. The Inspire Fund is Alzheimer’s Research UK’s public engagement funding scheme to tackle misconceptions around dementia and promote the importance of dementia research. This creative experience tying in science and art is from designers at Fast Familiar and is their second collaboration with dementia researcher, Dr Sarah-Naomi James.

Project collaborator Dr Sarah-Naomi James from UCL, said:

“Over the past year, I think we’ve seen growing awareness of the benefits that medical research can deliver. As a dementia researcher, I want to share our work and spread hope about the progress being made in the field. Research has revealed a window of opportunity in Alzheimer’s and other dementias – that there is decade or two before symptoms appear in which we could act to change the course of these diseases. Working with Rachel Briscoe on The Window was a fantastic opportunity to place listeners in a story exploring dementia, and the hope created by research.

Rachel Briscoe, Producer of The Window at Fast Familiar, said:

“With The Window we wanted to invite people to take a break from staring at a screen. In these times, scrolling social media or the news can be addictive, so The Window really is the opposite to that – a chance to spend 45 minutes with yourself, just listening.
“Using binaural sound allows us to place the listener at the heart of the story, helping them imagine what the characters are thinking and feeling. It has been great to learn about developments in dementia research from Sarah and find ways of informing the story with that.”

Tim Parry, Director of Communications, Brand and Engagement at Alzheimer’s Research UK who funded the project said:

“This thought-provoking play explores some of the attitudes towards dementia that stand in the way of progress. It offers listeners the opportunity to explore the impact of dementia, placing them at the heart of one family’s story. Dementia affects millions of families across the UK, and this fictional story draws on the experiences and conversations had by many, creating space for reflection.

“The Inspire Fund is part of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s work to build understanding around dementia and promote the importance of research, and we are delighted to have supported the creation of The Window.”

The audio play is to be released in two public showings on Wednesday 31 March and Sunday 11 April. Online discussion panels and Q&A with experts will take place Weds 31 March 19.30 – 20.30 and Sunday 11 April 15.00 – 16.00.

Tickets are available on Fast Familiar’s website. All tickets are ‘pay what you decide’ with prices £5/ £8/ £12.


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Alex Smith