It's All a Balancing Act.

31 July 2017
There's never a straight forward day with dementia. There are landmark moments to pass, diagnosis, changes and decisions to be made. Family and friendship roles can alter. There are obstacles and lows, achievements and highs. Life is a balancing act.

In the third quarter of Butterflies' community project, in partnership with Hull 2017 City of Culture, the group has embraced the challenges, exploring dementia diagnosis through a week of circus skills workshops.

Don't ever try telling them they can't do something!

[Jerome Whittingham @photomoments]
Photos © Jerome Whittingham @photomoments

It’s a Balancing Act - Avago Circus at Butterflies

It’s a Balancing Act is the name of the third strand of Butterflies Memory Loss Group’s year-long programme of events, activities and exhibitions for Hull 2017’s Creative Communities Grant.

It began with a workshop led by Steve and Laura from Avago Circus at Garden Village Community centre on Elm Street in East Hull. During a fun-packed two hour session participants made up of Butterflies regulars, primary age and pre-school children had a go, at unicycling, stilt-walking, juggling and proving very popular, plate-spinning. Some of the mums were extremely adept at keeping the plates up in the air.

The name It’s a Balancing Act, refers to the balancing act people facing memory loss encounter, whether that is balancing care and independence, finding new ways to overcome challenges as memory and motor skills are affected by various conditions, or families planning the best way forward to help someone with a recent diagnosis. You might have to balance care budgets, time to do the shopping, attend healthcare appointments or just get your loved ones to Butterflies.

The sessions delivered at Butterflies are all about distraction, the more energy and imagination we put into the planning and implementing, the better the response is from the participants. Bringing a circus complete with all the trappings, tightropes, three-wheeled bicycles and a dozen more activities and skills to try out, all add to the endeavour to take the Butterflies and their carers out of themselves for a little while. Adding younger ones into the mix, has a remarkable effect and for a while all those aches, pains and problems can be forgotten, as each encourage the other to try out all the different activities.

This is an example of intergenerational working: where different generations take part in an activity or activities, that prompt interaction and problem solving, through observation and participation. It allows the older generation to feel a sense of purpose, to feel a valued member of the group and can benefit mobility and motor skills. This last assertion is borne out by the sight of some of our less agile Butterflies members, suddenly finding the energy and will, to try hula-hooping, stilt-walking and much more.

The dynamic circus skills session ended with all the participants young and older, staff and volunteers, putting on a show, with each performer being given a role, that met their ability and proficiency, during the try-out previously.

The sense of drama and joy as the amazing jugglers took to the floor; the various cycles circling the hall; the slapstick routine on stilts and the drama during the tightrope walking, was clear to see as each act was greeted with cheers and applause. The finale the strongman act gave regular Cyril who had been transformed by the presence of all the children, a starring role as the ogreish strongman.

The circus came to town again the following Saturday, for a second morning workshop and a fun-packed family day enjoyed by all.

‘The sense of community spirit on show was remarkable’

‘I tried the bikes at a different circus and fell off, this time I tried them and I didn’t fall off’

‘I really enjoyed the juggling’

‘It makes such a difference having the children here’

[Michelle Dee]

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Supported by Hull UK City of Culture 2017