The EVOKE Project and Memories Café at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub
It’s hard to believe that the EVOKE project is very nearly at the end of its 2-year span and I delivered the last session this morning. This time I was talking to a group of carers at Gloucestershire Carer’s Hub - just around the corner in Worcester Street. I had mixed feelings as I packed away the iPads for perhaps the last time: a sense of achievement at the completion of a successful project and a slightly heavy heart that it was coming to an end.
EVOKE was designed in response to the recognition that archives can bring benefits to many people who don’t currently use our service or know about us. The power of reminiscence for people living with dementia and the people caring for them is well established, and so a project which takes archive resources out to community places like day care centres and memory cafés was born.
Over the course of 2 years we’ve visited places all over the county (and South Glos.) and shared stories and laughter with around 800 people. Carers told us that they found out things they never knew about the people they are looking after, and some people who we were told ‘didn’t usually join in’ did so with gusto. As with so many of our activities at the archives, much of this was made possible because of the team of magnificent volunteers who gave their time, positivity and energy to making the sessions friendly and fun.
The monthly Memories Café was a spin off from EVOKE and has been a regular feature in our programme on the first Sunday of every month since April 2019. Sunday afternoons can be an empty point in the week for some older people, so we decided to fill that space with companionship, conversation and cake. The café offers free refreshments, live music and activities with a nostalgic flavour. It is open to everyone and we take pride in making sure that all our customers have a good time. People living with dementia and their friends and families are sure of a safe and welcoming experience. We’re having a break over the winter months with plans to emerge from hibernation in the Spring.
Over the past 2 years I’ve collected loads of quotes from people at EVOKE sessions and at the café . Here are a few of my favourites:
‘It was great fun and very relaxing. It was lovely to share my memories with you and to remember all those happy times’.
‘The residents carried on chatting for ages after you had left, and the mood around the residents’ lounge was really happy for the rest of the morning’.
‘We love coming here. Mum really looks forward to it.’
‘Usually when P and I come to this kind of thing he says ‘What am I doing here?’ - but here he just fits in and has a great time. You’re all so good at making people feel relaxed and included’.