posted on February 7th, 2024

Art Exhibition That Challenges Misconceptions About Dementia Opens In Newtownards

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Jennifer Gilmour, officially opened Dementia NI’s unique art exhibition at Ards Art Centre.

The Real Lives: The Art Of Living With Dementia exhibition is free to visit and runs until 24 February. It explores what it is like living with dementia in Northern Ireland while challenging widespread stigma about the condition.

The exhibition features pieces created by members of the Dementia NI charity, all of whom live with a diagnosis of dementia, and showcases captivating photography and striking patchwork quilts.

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Jennifer Gilmour, said:

“There are over 20,000 people living with dementia across Northern Ireland, many of whom live in our Borough, and Age UK’s statistics suggest this could rise to 60,000 by 2050. Years of stigma and misunderstanding have led to common misconceptions about what it means to live with dementia but this exhibition sets out to challenge these misconceptions, transforming how people view the condition and starting conversations through the medium of art.”

The exhibition features patchwork quilts created during an online project organised by Dementia NI and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, to help local people with dementia stay active during lockdown. Working with Arts Council art tutors, Dementia NI members were encouraged to make their own heirloom quilts which tell the story of their lives.

Dementia NI member, Allison Batchelor, is exhibiting her patchwork quilt which she created to represent what is important in her life. She said:

“When you receive a diagnosis of dementia you believe your life is over and that it’s impossible to learn new skills. However, this isn’t the case. During lockdown, Dementia NI developed this amazing art project which was run via Zoom. Through this we learnt many new skills and produced first class artwork. We are challenging the public’s perception of what dementia looks like and are constantly endeavouring to break down stigma and barriers. This art project was so enjoyable, and I am very glad to have been involved.”

Claire-Rose Canavan, Dementia NI Empowerment Facilitator, said:

“This exhibition is really special to our members, and we are so thrilled they permitted us share it with the public. It shares a message of hope that many people with dementia are still able to enjoy life in the same way as before their diagnosis and live well with dementia. We warmly invite everyone to come along and view it for themselves.”

The free-to-attend exhibition is open Tuesdays to Fridays (10am – 4pm) and Saturdays (10am – 1pm) until 24 February. For more information, visit

Mayor Jennifer Gilmour with exhibitor and Dementia NI member, Allison Batchelor.Image: Graham Baalham-Curry
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Jennifer Gilmour, with Allison Batchelor (Dementia NI Member) and Ashleigh Davis (Empowerment Lead for Dementia NI). Image: Graham Baalham-Curry