Inclusivity award for Cap Theatres

Oct 9 2023 | By More

Capital Theatres heads Scottish winners at UK Theatre Awards

Capital Theatres’ “pioneering and ambitious” dementia-friendly programme, started in 2015, has won the Excellence in Inclusivity award at this year’s UK Theatre awards, held in London’s Guildhall on Sunday, 8 October 2023.

Other Scottish winners were playwright May Sumbwanyambe, who won Best New Play for Enough Of Him – the story of a slave who made Scottish legal history in 1778 produced by the NTS and Pitlochry Festival Theatre, and Scottish Ballet, who won the Achievement in Dance prize for their contemporary reworking of the comedic ballet Coppélia.

Charlotte Gross, Director of Audiences, and Lucie Jeffrey, Creative Engagement Coordinator for the dementia friendly Programme of Capital Theatres, with the UK Theatre Award for “Excellence in Inclusivity”. Pic Ewa Ferdynus.

Capital Theatres took its first steps into a dementia-friendly programme in 2015, when staff noticed that some audience members who had been avid Friends of the theatre for many years had stopped attending events and shows.

When they were contacted it was discovered that one of them had been diagnosed with dementia and no longer felt confident to see shows. This led staff to ask what the organisation could do to enable people living with dementia to continue seeing shows and remain an active and valued part of the theatre community.

The ensuing three year Forget Me Not programme, overseen by the company’s then learning and participation manager Cerin Richardson, encompassed work within and outwith the theatres. It included tea dances, art exhibitions, dance workshops, drop in cafes for carers, storytelling in care homes and theatre and dance shows on the company’s stages.

Other early initiatives included the first dementia friendly performance of a major touring musical in Scotland, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the UK’s first dementia friendly opera, The Marriage of Figaro, produced by Scottish Opera.

changes in-house

All told, there were 380 events and performances over that first three year project, attracting over 7,830 participations.

The company also made changes in-house to the way it interacted with the public to ensure that the needs of those living with dementia were taken into account. As Richardson said at the time: “There are eight and a half thousand people living with dementia in Edinburgh and we believe that their theatregoing experience should not stop when they are diagnosed.”

Intergenerational Tea and Jam. Pic: Greg Macvean

Creative Engagement is now a six strong team, working around the belief in everyone’s right to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts.

Capital Theatres continues to run an extensive and popular programme of activities and events for the dementia community. The aim remains to empower people living with dementia to carry on engaging with theatre for as long as they are able. It celebrates their creativity and potential, as well as that of their carers.

In May this year, a Danish delegation of politicians and government officials visited Capital Theatres to widen their perspective on what support for people living with dementia might look like when it includes the creative activities, consultation and resources a theatre can provide.


Claire Swanson, Head of Creative Engagement says: “Our programme is driven by the dementia friendly community and their voices sit at the heart of everything. With their guidance we offer opportunities to embrace theatre, meet new people, try new things and celebrate what people living with dementia can do.

“We are grateful to everyone who has been a part of this journey so far and look forward to continuing this vitally important work for people living with dementia and their carers”.

Actors Tim Licata and Ian Cameron from Plutot la Vie share tea and scones with Christine Macleod at the Festival Theatre after a 2015 performance of their two man show A Clean Sweep staged for  people living with dementia. Pic: Greg Macvean.

In their citation, the UK Theatre Awards described the dementia friendly programme as “pioneering and ambitious.” It continues to be a core part of Capital Theatres’ offering.

Activities include access performances, free participatory events such as Tea and Jam, Songwriting Sprint, Intergenerational Storytelling and Interview skills sessions; to the Christmas Show in care homes and the Creative Contributors groups.

Besides these central activities, the in-house DementiArts Magazine lists every dementia-friendly event in Edinburgh & the Lothians for the coming quarter, as well as reviews, stories, creative work, and features, all supplied by the dementia community.

All the World’s a Stage

Finally, journalist Willy Gilder, who is living with dementia himself, presents the All the World’s a Stage podcast which showcases a different interest from a member of the dementia-friendly community alongside the various different departments of Capital Theatres.

Gilder says: “It gives me enormous pleasure to learn of Capital Theatres winning the UK Theatre Award for Excellence in Inclusivity. It’s no exaggeration to say that getting involved with these folk helped save my life.”

Fiona Gibson, Capital Theatres’ chief executive, adds: “It’s tremendous that the brilliant work delivered by everyone involved in this groundbreaking programme has been recognised and celebrated by the UK Theatre Awards, from the creative engagement team who build such strong relationships with our participants to our wonderful technical and front of house staff.

“It is as important to know that our work is having a real and important impact with the communities we serve and our participants’ feedback highlights that.

“Capital Theatres will continue to work hard, innovate and make a difference to our community, ensuring that all audiences, participants and visitors feel included at our theatres.”

UK Theatre is the UK-wide membership organisation for theatre producers, managers, owners and operators. The UK Theatre Awards are the only nationwide awards to celebrate outstanding achievements in theatre across the UK.


Further details of Capital Theatres’ dementia friendly programme, including links to pdf copies of DementiArts Magazine and streaming links for the All the World’ s a Stage podcast, is available here.

The current listing of dementia-friendly events at Capital Theatres is here:

Tea Dance in The Studio Pic: Greg Macvean.


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