The Inspire Fund provides funding for projects that engage the public with dementia and the life-changing research going on into the condition. These projects are often collaborative, seeing researchers, communities, creatives and people with dementia come together to develop innovative projects.
In 2021, we funded eight projects through the scheme, totalling £149,375. The criteria for the projects were:
- Engage with under-served audiences on the topic of dementia, including minority ethnic communities, and those who are marginalised or socioeconomically disadvantaged.
- Build knowledge and engage the public with the topic of brain health.
- Engage and create dialogue with people about the progress being made in dementia research.
Improving knowledge and increasing understanding of brain health in order to prevent dementia across five major Chinese communities in the UK
This project is led by Dr Jennifer Lim, a Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Wolverhampton. She will work with five Chinese community organisations from across the UK to create resources and deliver activities to build knowledge and understanding of brain health. Using existing Think Brain Health information and resources, they will adapt them to be culturally appropriate and translate them into Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese). They will give training and support to key leaders within each of the Chinese community organisations around brain health. These leaders will then be able to run workshops in their own communities to improve understanding around brain health. The project will also help create a network of Chinese community groups, allowing them to share ongoing activity they are doing around dementia and key challenges or successes.
Whiteboard animations for improved understanding of dementia and brain health in minoritised ethnic groups
Knowledge of dementia and attitudes towards the condition can vary across different communities, as highlighted in our Dementia Attitudes Monitor. This project sets out to create a series of animations to build understanding in key areas such as brain health and taking part in research studies. Dr Charles Marshall, a neurologist at Queen Mary, University of London is leading the project, working with several community groups, including Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation, Meri Yaadain and the Sangam Centre, as well as Tower Hamlets Diagnostic Memory Clinic. They will input into the project throughout, highlighting key aspects to be covered in the videos and translating the scripts. The groups will invite community members to record voiceovers, so the videos are available in a number of languages, including Hindi, Urdu and Bangla (Sylheti). The community partners will also hold events to share the videos, with the chance for questions and discussion. The videos will be shared widely as an information resource, through memory clinics, community partners and other channels. The goal is to provide culturally appropriate information about dementia to build knowledge and help increase the diversity of people taking place in dementia research studies and trials.
Project Clear Mind
Working with afterschool clubs in London, a team of researchers led by Dr Iryna Benilova will introduce children and young people to the topic of brain health and dementia, with the goal of sparking an interest in science. Through creative activities and interactive sessions, students will learn how the brain works, and how they can look after their own to reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s. They will also explore what it’s like to have dementia or to have a family member with the condition, and can take part in a pen-pal scheme with residents in a local care home. Sessions for secondary school aged students will focus on neuroscience and dementia research, with opportunity for discussion around different careers related to science. The goal is to introduce children and young people to the brain and how it works, and build understanding of dementia.
Your Beautiful Brain: Empowering Afro-Caribbean communities to support dementia research
There is an underrepresentation of people from minority ethnic backgrounds in research studies in the UK, and this project sets out to improve that. The aim is to establish dialogue between researchers and people from Black, African and Caribbean backgrounds, to understand barriers to taking part in research. The project is led by Dr Sarah Bauermeister from Dementias Platform UK at University of Oxford. Working in collaboration with The Black Dementia Company and Sutton African Caribbean Cultural Organisation, they will hold creative workshops to explore the topic of dementia and research participation. The workshops will also result in the production of resources such as posters and leaflets that can help to create interest in taking part in dementia research studies in these communities.
Healthy Brain, Healthy Life
This project sets out to co-create interactive workshops about dementia and brain health, tailored for ethnic minority communities. Dr Sophia Amenyah will lead the project, with support from Dr Michelle Heward from University of Bournemouth, and they will collaborate with Healthwatch Dorset, Dr Dorothy Tse from Edgehill University and a range of community partners. Initial discussions with Indian and Ghanaian communities in the Dorset area highlighted particular stigmas and challenges around dementia and the need for projects such as this. The project team will use traditional food, music, storytelling and other creative approaches in a series of workshops exploring brain health. Through the workshops they will also create digital stories and culturally tailored resources such as recipes to share with the wider communities. Their goal is to increase knowledge around brain health and the positive steps people can take to reduce their risk of dementia.
Sussex Brain Bus
This project will result in the creation of a bus that will serve as a moving exhibition all about dementia and research into the condition. Dr Sarah King and Dr Claire Lancaster from University of Sussex will collaborate with artist Daniel Locke on the project. Working with local older adults, they will run workshops with discussions and creative activities to produce the messages and artwork to go on the bus. The bus will be decorated inside and out, with QR codes displayed inside to take people to more information about dementia, brain health and taking part in research studies.
Voyage Inside the Brain
This collaboration between Explorer Dome and Dr Lindsey Sinclar from Bristol University will lead to the creation of an immersive journey into the brain. Explorer Dome provides interactive outreach activities to schools and communities, using an inflatable planetarium dome. Working with Dr Sinclair, they will create a new immersive experience to use in the dome, along with additional hands-on resources about the brain. The experience will showcase how the brain works, and what happens in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Paired with hands-on activities, students will learn about dementia and brain health, with the opportunity to discuss their own experiences of the condition. The project team will take the dome and resources to a range of schools and community events, focusing on areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.
In this project, artist Charlie Murphy will work with researchers to develop a science and art exhibition for the Cooper Gallery in Barnsley. Prof Selina Wray from UCL is collaborating on the project, having grown up in Barnsley. Along with Dr Eric Hill (Aston University) and engineer Robin Bussell, the group will run workshops to develop the exhibition. Workshops will be held for a local dementia support group, a social group for neurodiverse adults, and art and design students from Barnsley College. The workshops will help develop the artworks and interactive activities about brain health and the impact of dementia to be showcased at the exhibition. The team will also create a character to lead visitors through the exhibition, ensuring information is accessible. The exhibition will be open for 4 months, with tours for local schools, and events and workshops planned.
In 2019, we funded eight projects through the scheme, totalling £98,974. The criteria for projects were to:
- Inform the public about dementia, including challenging misconceptions.
- Build awareness of dementia and ignite action for change.
- Engage and inspire the public with the progress being made in dementia research.
Beautiful Brains: An Insight into our Inner World
Dr Lizzie Burns set out to engage young people through creative classroom sessions in which they would explore the brain and how it is affected by dementia. She created three different sessions tailored to different age groups, and worked with schools in and around Oxford to schedule her sessions.
She held the first session in February 2020 with Year 5 students, giving them the chance to learn about the brain and what different areas do. They created artworks capturing what they learned and took information and activities home with them to share with their families. With the subsequent closure of schools and the switch to online learning, Lizzie adapted her project to make her resources available for teachers to use in the classroom, whether in person or online. She has also established links with teachers and is working with them to promote and disseminate these resources to teachers.
You can find the resources she made on our Beautiful Brains page.
Visualising dementia research through colouring pages and zines
As an artist and science communicator, Hana Ayoob’s project is all about using art and creativity to bring dementia research to life. She spoke with a range of dementia researchers, finding out about their research and motivations for it. From this she created colouring pages and profiles of the researchers, making them available as individual pages or as a booklet. She also developed training materials for researchers to learn about zines (self-published magazines) and use this format to communicate about their own research. Due to the pandemic, she adapted this training to be delivered online in a self-paced format, providing guidance and support to those taking the training.
You can find her colouring pages and books on our Visualising dementia research page.
This project is a collaboration between Dr Sarah Naomi James, a dementia researcher at UCL, and Rachel Briscoe from creative studio Fast Familiar. They created The Window, an immersive audio experience that weaves personal experience of dementia with themes of hope in research. Using binaural sound, the story explores family relationships, asking questions about what we inherit from the past and what control we have over the future. They adapted their plans for in person performances to an online format, and received positive feedback from listeners. With restrictions easing, they are looking to take the experience to festivals and share it with a wider audience and spark conversations.
“A beautiful piece of audio narrative that gave me space to gently explore something more than half of us experience but don’t discuss” – No Proscenium
Using social media and machine learning to identify and change dementia misconceptions
In his project, Dr Sagar Jilka has been examining attitudes towards dementia on Twitter, designing a machine learning algorithm to analyse posts and identify themes of stigma and misunderstanding. He has been working with people affected by dementia to pinpoint which misconceptions to tackle, and was able to move these meetings online and continue their work despite lockdowns. Together, they have identified common dementia misconceptions, and co-produced a targeted awareness campaign to build people’s understanding of dementia and point them towards trustworthy sources of information about the condition. The campaign ran online at the end of 2020, and the group are now analysing their results.
Little Red Door
“My father, who has Alzheimer’s, turned to me once and said, “Can you see that little red door?”. There was no red door, but rather than correct him I asked, “What’s beyond the little red door, Dad?”. He animatedly told me all that he could see - in that moment my dad was still very much alive and present. I realised that, rather than continue to deny his perception of reality, maybe I should take some time to enjoy and understand it? After all, reality is personal to each and every one of us.”
Sondertide productions have been writing and developing a play exploring the theme of imagination and reality in dementia. Drawing on their own personal experiences of dementia, they’ve been asking the question “what’s real and what really matters?” While the pandemic has disrupted and delayed plans for rehearsing and developing the play, they have worked with a dramaturg (a theatre literary editor) to further develop their draft script. They’ve also produced a series of podcasts called The Dementia Adventure, in which they spoke to people with a variety of dementia expertise, including people with dementia, scientists, therapists, and carer support services. The podcasts have been well received, with over 2,000 downloads, positive reviews and a rating of 4.5/5 stars on Apple Podcasts. With theatres opening back up, the team are reigniting plans to show their play to theatre makers and experts, with the aim of it being commissioned for wider public performances.
Dementia awareness and prevention in the Chinese community
In their original plan, Bristol & Avon Chinese Women’s Group were to deliver a series of 10 events with the aim of increasing the knowledge of the Chinese community around dementia and helping people establish lifestyle habits to look after their brain health. The event series began in November 2019, and four sessions were delivered, each with between 20-40 attendees from the community. The sessions were a combination of talks and workshops, including healthy cooking and tai chi. Due to the pandemic, in person sessions were initially postponed, before being delivered online to community members. The Group supported people to get familiar with the technology, and helped to keep the community connected during the lockdowns.
Dementia with Lewy bodies animation
Simon Ball is an animator who has been creating a short film to shed light on the vivid hallucinations experienced by people with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). He began by interviewing people with DLB and their loved ones, recording their stories about their experience of hallucinations, what they see and how they make them feel. Loved ones and carers involved with the interviews report that being involved has helped to build their understanding and empathy for their loved one with DLB and the symptoms and challenges they face.
At each stage of his development process, Simon consulted with doctors and people living with DLB to gather feedback about the animation and shape what he creates.
Brain Banks, Expand Minds
Founder of MindTorch, Dr Elizabeth Adelodun, used a hands-on approach to inspire and inform students and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds about neuroscience and the important role of dementia research. She planned workshops to take place in Brain Bank facilities across the UK (London, Newcastle, Oxford and Bristol) in which students would have the opportunity to visit the brain banks and hear from researchers at the cutting-edge of dementia research, learning about research progress and how to develop a career in science. Some workshops were delivered before the UK entered lockdown, but the remainder couldn’t take place due to restrictions in place. Students who took part had a greater interest in pursuing scientific studies and careers, and also reported an improved understanding of the biology of dementia.