Living Words is an arts and literature organisation, created by Susanna Howard in 2007.
It started in a hospital ward at St Thomas’, London: as Susanna talked and listened to the people she met who were patients there, it felt that while those around them were doing such a great job of caring and supporting, more support could be provided specifically for the patients themselves.
It became clear that communicating in the moment - using silence, sounds and words both spoken and written - would be central to the process of improving and expanding support for those patients and others like them. So, with help from The Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity, the Living Words work started its journey.
What emerged from the original exploratory process at St.Thomas’ has been honed over the years into our Listen Out Loud methodology, a person-centred approach and programme that we want to see taking place throughout the UK and beyond.
Since then we have conducted many residencies and projects: in care and nursing homes, community settings, arts centres, day centres, libraries, theatres and hospitals.
Our participatory work is now delivered in 2 strands:
A) Living Experience:
Our work began and continues with care home residencies, taking place over 8 - 15 weeks. Our writers and artists work one-to-one in creative partnership with people experiencing a dementia. We then enable their experience in the moment to be heard by others: at the end of our projects, participants have their own book of their ‘Living Words’ that express how they feel about life. We also run staff workshops to support carers and their creative expression and to embed use of the Living Words books.
We also run projects with people affected by dementias and living at home. In partnership with local authorities, town councils, libraries and arts organisations, and using our unique methodology, we work with people living with a dementia, and their friends, partners or carers.
In addition our writers work with privately funded individuals, often over many years.
B) Living Warriors:
In 2019 we began transferring our Listen Out Loud methodology to work with people who had experienced suicide ideation and mental health issues. This work has continued to receive repeat funding and has expanded into other specific mental health projects.
Projects take place in our specially-built library hub, bringing small groups together, to then work one-to-one with artists to co-create individual word books.
Inspired by all this participatory work we create anthologies, performances, films, artworks, songs, podcasts and events.
We believe that if a person is believed in, valued and given a non-judgmental space in which to express themselves, everyone benefits.
We have continued guidance from our team of individuals living with dementia, as well as senior professionals within the field of dementia care and research.
We’re always looking to work with and represent an even bigger world. We are committed to diversify our organisation in all ways possible. If you feel you might like to get involved - as a Trustee, a member of our Doing Group, Volunteer, Artist, Contributor or Collaborator - drop us an email: email@example.com
I believe this is really important work that is taking place out of sight and unrecognised for the value of its contribution to challenging perceptions, raising awareness and improving quality of life for people with dementia. …The unique blend of person-centred working and using the creative arts to empower and re-enable is truly inspirational.
Des Kelly OBE
former executive director, National Care Forum