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.
Since then we have conducted many residencies: in care and nursing homes, community settings, arts centres, day centres, libraries, theatres and hospitals. 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.
The main part of our work is 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, as well as other isolated and disempowered people. We then enable participants’ 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; and we run staff workshops to support creative expression and embed use of the Living Words books.
Our writers also work in an ongoing fashion with privately funded individuals, often over many years. 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.
Living Words collaborate with other artists and organisations and are one of the founding and lead organisations behind Normal? Festival of the Brain working closely with Creative Folkestone and Folkestone Fringe.