The Brilliance of Bewick – how one of Northumberland’s best-known artists has inspired our first dementia-friendly book.

World-famous artist and engraver Thomas Bewick has inspired our first book, designed for and with people living with dementia.

Bewick Tales: Stories from the Life and Work of Thomas Bewick by Sarah Lawrance and designed by Wendy Lewis is the first publication from Open Ended Books, our new publishing initiative.

Like our workshops in care settings and cultural venues, our books focus on living in the moment and what people can achieve rather than relying on reminiscence and memory-based themes.

Equal Arts CEO Douglas Hunter said: “Our work is based on the Dementia & Imagination model and the benefits creativity can bring. There is a significant gap in resources for people receiving a dementia diagnosis. We've created an uplifting, accessible book that provokes curiosity, imagination and conversations between readers, their friends and family. We focus on the here and now and what people can achieve rather than the past and what has gone.”

During the past six months, together with author and curator Sarah Lawrance, our team has consulted people living with dementia to develop the accessible layout, design and narrative for Bewick Tales.

Gill Taylor, from East Durham, received a dementia diagnosis in 2012 and helped us with the process. She said: “With dementia we lose our short-term memory, but you don’t lose your intelligence, that desire to learn and stretch yourself doesn’t go away.
“If reading has become frustrating and you don’t know these books are available to you, there’s the risk people will stop reading, stop doing something they’ve enjoyed. People living with dementia can do so much and books like Bewick Tales can support people to continue reading for pleasure and provide the opportunity to continue learning.”

Inspired by visits to Bewick’s birthplace of Cherryburn and his detailed wood engraved illustrations, the book aims to support communication through creativity and strengthen relationships.

Andrew Newman, Professor of Cultural Gerontology, Newcastle University, said: “We are all part of networks of caring relationships. Just as a family member will care for someone living with dementia, they in turn care for that family member.

“At times relationships can change with the progression of dementia. Bewick Tales provides a way for people to connect and communicate which is hugely beneficial for wellbeing.”

The book was made possible with funding of £30,000 from Innovate UK - Create Growth Fund, the support of National Trust at Cherryburn, The Bewick Society and Newcastle City Library.

Like the David Attenborough of his day, Bewick had a fascination for the world around him, writing and illustrating ground-breaking natural history publications. Known as the Pease Collection, the archive in Newcastle has international significance as the most complete collection of Bewick’s printed materials.

Andrew Scrogham is Service Delivery Specialist: Heritage at Newcastle City Library, which has held the collection, since 1902. He said: “This is the first time we’ve had a partner organisation such as Equal Arts interpret the collection, in the book and an upcoming exhibition. Anything that can breathe new life and raise awareness of this internationally important collection is fantastic to see.”

Bewick Tales will be published on March 21, 2024. For sales or more information please get in touch. 

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