Make Sense
West Hampstead Memory Cafe

Clay models of food

Driven by Darshan Vora and Right At Home Camden, Hampstead & Golders Green, West Hampstead Memory Cafe is an place for people experiencing dementia or memory loss to take part in art and movement workshops alongside lunch, on a monthly basis from West Hampstead Community Centre.

participant holding up drawing
A range of marbled rice paper from the participants

When we met Darshan at a dementia event at the V&A, he mentioned wanting give back to the area he grew up in. He wanted to setup a location for people living with dementia and their carers to take part in creativity over a lunch. We have now provided the creative stimulation for five of these workshops, with a lunch provided by the popular local bakery Roni’s. So far our workshops have included printing with nature, drawing from sound, paper marbling, clay modelling and silk painting.

Marbled paper
Gill explaining a drawing of Michael’s meal

Alongside the creative activities, the workshops have also been a great opportunity for conversation and even some poetry. During our marbling workshop we had some readings from Karin De Novellis and her publication Closing Time at the Kings Head, whose poems grew out of the shared experience of her husband living with dementia. This was a courageous way to talk about complex emotions and valuable moment for others in the group experiencing similar situations. The book can be bought by emailing Karin directly at or here, with all profits going to charities supporting people living with dementia.

a print of some foliage
A monoprint of some ferns from the printing from nature workshop

It’s always fascinating to see the different creative responses to each of the processes we deliver in our workshops. We deliberately place no pressure on the participant’s output, meaning the appetite for visual abstraction cary vary wildly, from session to session. Drawing to sound is particularly varied in this sense, where following an induction into making little sketchbooks, we draw in reaction to a range of familiar and unfamiliar sounds. It's interesting to get a sense from the participant's carers about whether dementia might have reduced someones inhibitions in a creative sense, or equally make their response far more precise that expected to something so unusual as depicting sounds.

Karin De Novellis addressing a group of people
Karin De Novellis addressing the group

One of the most popular workshops in this series was clay modelling. We vary how we deliver this workshop across our different sites, but with a strong food connection coming from the cafe, we decided to make clay interpretations of dumplings. During this session we had 7 different nationalities including Indian, Turkish and Polish. Whe dumplings offered a thread conversation about food culture and identity, and even encouraged a further set of drawings of other meals. We plan to paint the models we made in one of the coming workshops.

Clay models