DEMENTIA Action Week got off to a great start in Burley-in-Wharfedale on Sunday when the Methodist church was packed to hear two exceptional speakers at an event organised by Burley Dementia Action Group.

Wendy Mitchell, author of the Sunday Times Best Seller ‘Somebody I Used to Know’, spoke about the challenges she faces living with dementia. She was diagnosed at the age of 58 with young-onset dementia. So shocked by the lack of awareness about the disease, both in the community and in hospitals, she vowed to spend her time raising awareness about dementia and encouraging others to see that there is life after diagnosis.

She said “I used to be a very private person but I was so appalled at the lack of understanding about dementia that now I shout from the rooftops at every opportunity, simply to get people talking about dementia”.

Wendy emphasised the value of modern technology. She joked that she had never blogged, tweeted or used Facebook before dementia and didn’t know what an iPad was. Demonstrating that dementia affects individuals in different ways, she explained that although she can no longer write much more than her name and finds using a telephone impossible, her typing skills remain intact and she exploits social media to the full.

A spokesperson for Burley-in-Wharfedale Action Group said: "Wendy’s talk was riveting, honest, and full of good humour as she eloquently described how she continues to adapt her life and how she needs to keep doing things for herself so that she still feels in control, and doesn’t forget how to do them! What she has mastered since diagnosis is beyond astonishing. You could hear a pin drop."

The next speaker was Nicky Taylor, Theatre and Dementia Research Associate at Leeds Playhouse and Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Dementia Research, who spoke passionately about the potential of arts and creativity to support people to live a more fulfilled life with dementia.

She drew on her international arts and dementia research as a Churchill Fellow ( and her work in leading Leeds Playhouse’s programmes for people living with dementia, including dementia friendly theatre performances and the recent Every Third Minute festival curated by people living with dementia.

She said “It feels we are at a crucial time for creativity and dementia, not just in the stories we tell about dementia and who is involved in telling them, but in the wider recognition of music, art and drama as therapeutic tools for people with dementia. The arts create opportunities for people living with dementia to shine, to take the lead, and to be recognised as creative beings.”

The spokesperson added: "Two really inspiring talks oozed positivity and hope. The audience was captivated, the applause tremendous.

"Inevitably a diagnosis of dementia does mean that there will have to be adjustment to a new, different phase of life but seize opportunities, do what you can, keep busy, try new things. Both speakers emphasised that there is a lot more life to live, with that glass half full!

"If you are interested in trying to change and challenge people’s perceptions of dementia please go to , or email or phone 01943 864424 for more about Burley Dementia Action Group."