Willow: Artsworkers Dougal Mclauchlan and Autumn Skuthorpe roll out workshops twice a week at the memory unit "Willow". They have created close friendships with the residents and work collaboratively to engage, stimulate and connect. 



willow painting




Dougal Mclauchlan is a local Mackay man; as local as they come, he has either grown up with most of the resident's family or knows their heritage and the land that they come from. This immediately gives access to the direction of the workshop as he is familiar with where they are from and what symbols of their upbringing may provide greater cognitive connection/relationship.


Autumn Skuthorpe and Dougal Mclauchlan work on imaginative story telling and use the following techniques to engage the residents:


One Word: "One Word" is a game where all participants sit in a circle, generally outside in the sunshine, and the aim is to offer "One Word" to the table. As you go around the circle, the pace generally increases as participants connect with the task and it often ends in hilarious results. Laughter is key to robust health. This game has shifted Dougal and Autumn's perception of "memory" as there are pockets of magic that happen in such a simple exercise. Some one who has previously only used non-verbal to communicate, suddenly is able to construct a Word. And this word then ends up inspiring another word and so forth. 


Pass the Feather: This game works on cognitive connection, physical use of space and reconnecting with others. A feather is blown from hand to hand. This beautiful activity has often revealed a strength of character and ability in residents. Our elder's are determined people and welcome a challenge. 


Where do You Want to Go?: A simple question, yet invokes so many stories. Where you Want to Go will eventually translate into "How will we get there."/"What will we bring"/"We are here." It is Dougal and Autumn's goal to find a way to actually take the residents to the places they desire.  


Movement: Dougal Mclauchlan comes from a circus and physical movement background, he is able to work with the residents in dance, mirroring techniques and physical theatre elements to respond in the moment. After engaging the residents in exercise, there are greater moments of lucidity and these techniques certainly set the mood and focus of the workshop.


Music: Dougal Mclauchlan and Autumn Skuthorpe use live music; ukulele, melodica and percussion, to raise the atmosphere of the environment. The lyrics of song responding to residents own story - "I am going Home..."/"I remember when..." 

Music is a universal language to communicate; it allows residents and artsworkers to meet in the middle for an exchange of human connection, eye contact and trust. The first time Autumn Skuthorpe visited Willow and improvised music throughout the hallways; resident Robyn immediately began to sing harmony with her. This went on for around five minutes and in that time, Autumn and Robyn were able to connect and communicate without the barriers of language. This has become a motif during the workshops and has shown increased lucidity amongst residents and allows Autumn and Dougal to have an engaging conversation to deduce what the needs, dreams and wishes are of the residents. 


Timeslips: Timeslips are a creative method used to reinterpret the focus of memory into story telling. This method has been employed extensively in the US and Europe and has shown wonderful results for residents and staff alike. A photograph is presented to the workshop group and open ended questions are used to prompt a dialogue about the image. There are no right or wrong answers. And the dialogue is documented verbatim. This document is taken then and typed up alongside the photograph and reads like a poem or creative story. Printing this out and providing it to the residents illustrates their highly imaginative abilities. The stories are beautiful and complete pieces; they also allow family and staff to recognise the ability of the residents, particularly those experiencing Dementia or Alzheimer's. 





willow 1


Don't Seem to Know

There’s a Sheila, Pushin a fella. She’s not satisfied with the result.

Being in her own area. Come on! I am. But I wouldn't have a clue!

Don’t know seem to know.

Finn, Martin, Robyn, Audrey




willow 2



She looks as though she is lost. So is she. It’s a JUMBO sale. They don’t have a clue; they’re packing up and leaving. You can come in the back door where we are.

Or you.

They seem to be vague.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

She is there.

Finn, Martin, Audrey, Robyn