Monthly Archives: April 2012

Contrary to a popular belief held by many, I do not in fact spend all my time trawling the backwaters of the old British Empire in search of despots and debauchery. I do sometimes turn my skills to more worthy endeavours. Last week was one such enterprise, when I guided a group from Dementia Adventure around the serene landscapes of the Isle of Man. OK, admittedly it did rain a bit, and we did have to contend with enveloping mist, howling gales and a royal visit, but all that aside, it was, I think, a roaring success!

Simply put, dementia is a decline of the mental abilities that can cause anyone living with it to lose the ability to function in ways that most of us take for granted. Sadly it is also incurable. It can however be controlled and recent evidence suggests that those struggling to cope with dementia can benefit greatly from a little outdoor activity and contact with nature. And this is where I come in…

…A few months ago a friend of mine approached me about putting together a trip on the island for a dementia group. Trying to find a happy balance of activities was quite difficult – not too much walking, not too much intensive culture and just enough interest to keep it fresh. Now, for someone who until a week ago had never even met someone with dementia, this was to prove quite a challenge. In the end we went with seals and steam trains, coastal views, castles and award-winning ice cream. What’s not to like!

Today there are around 800,000 people in the UK alone who live with dementia in one form or another. It is a disease that doesn’t discriminate between sex, class or creed. But people with dementia don’t need to be locked away. They are not a danger. They are parents and grandparents, husbands and wives. They are no different from you and me, they just need a little more patience and a little more consideration.

Two years ago, photographer Phil Kneen and myself set out to work on a project called ‘Harvest’, the story of a doomed Scottish fishing trawler and her 7 man crew, which went down with all hands in a raging storm off the Isle of Man in January 2000.

The idea had been to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the sinking in such a way as to tell the story from a completely different perspective, using the words of those most affected by the tragedy to recount the incredible story of what, is still, the worst maritime disaster to occur in Manx waters. The end project stirred up all sorts of emotions, reducing grown men to tears and testing mine and Phil’s friendship to the limit. It was a journey neither of us were sure if we could make again, but time, as they say, is a great healer……

And so, two years on, the creative juices are flowing again.

‘Life on the ‘Knife’s Edge’:
Tales from the Canadian Hinterland

Lying on the northern shores of the Great Slave Lake, some 500 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, is Yellowknife, a city on the edge. This is frontier country, a land of ice road truckers and diamond miners, where you can enjoy the midnight sun, the AuroraBorealis and, apparently, the best fish and chips in Canada! The capital (and only) city in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories, it is also the subject for our next collaboration.

Follow our adventures on…

Photograph copyright Phil Kneen