Dementia Love Stories

Dementia Love Stories

This project conducted by Emma Wolverson and Michael Gratzke started off with a training session for Hull City of Culture volunteers and Hull PhD poets on the morning before the conference on ‘The cultural legacy of ageing well with dementia in Hull’ on 29 November 2017. John Killick of Dementia Positive delivered the training which volunteers will put to good use at an event in January 2018 at the memory loss support group Butterflies in Hull.

The basic premise is that people with dementia have a creative voice which should be heard. The training will equip volunteers to co-write poetry with people who have dementia. To poets as to people with dementia, every single word is precious. Words are carefully arranged in way which may divert from everyday language use in terms of meaning, form and connections (semantics, morphology and syntax).

The Butterfly collaboration is a pilot project which will be carefully evaluated. Possible follow-on initiatives may include the provision of poetry tool-kit online for carers to download, and further workshops on prose and visual arts such as photography.

Inspired by a similar initiative in Australia, we maintain a focus on love in all its forms such as love between spouses, love within the family and the love of care professionals. Memory loss does not mean that people stop experiencing or giving love. Each voice of love is rich and deserves to be heard.


Matt York – Love & Alter-Globalisation

Please welcome our newest member

Matt York is a PhD student in the Department of Government and Politics, University College Cork, Ireland.

He is a development practitioner/researcher with an MRes in Development Practice from the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK.  His current PhD focus is a scholar-activist research project ‘Love and Alter-Globalisation: Towards a New Development Ethic’ which explores a political concept of love as an ethical resource for the alter-globalisation movement and international development, in pursuit of principled and non-violent revolutionary social change.  His work places a particular emphasis on love as a key concept in political theory/philosophy and its potential application in the revolutionary transformation (alter-globalisation) of contemporary global capitalism, and in developing a new theory of social order.

You can follow his PhD research at

JPRS Special issue on Critical Love Studies

Newest member Martin Purcell (Huddersfield)

Martin Purcell is a Senior Lecturer / Course Leader (Youth & Community Work) in the School of Education at the University of Huddersfield, and a member of HudCRES (the Centre for Research in Education & Society).


Martin worked for over twenty years in community development and youth work, employed in both the voluntary and statutory sectors to support various initiatives in diverse communities in Wales, Scotland and England.  For the past twelve years, Martin has worked in higher education, initially as a contract researcher (conducting evaluations of government-funded programmes, including the New Deal for Communities, the Children’s Fund and the Youth Contract), and more recently as a lecturer in Youth & Community Work studies.  His involvement in community work continues: as a Trustee of a local charity promoting the mental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people; and volunteering with a number of local groups, including the Scouts and an organisation welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into the community.


Martin’s research into the translation of professional (community development) values into practice raised more questions than in answered, particularly in relation to ‘how’ practitioners enact some of the more ethereal aspirations of the profession.  The work of Paulo Freire underpins much of the teaching of community work practice (including youth work), and Martin is keen to explore with practitioners working in a range of contexts how they view Freire’s assertion that ‘education’ in all its forms is an ‘act of love’.  He is currently engaged in conversations with people supporting children and young people – in schools, youth work settings and offering mental health services – exploring their perception of the importance of ‘love’ as an element of their professional relationships with the young people with whom they work.  This work draws on Jools Page’s concept of ‘professional love’ in the early years, exploring the extent to which it can be applied in work with older children and young people.

Peter Oakes, What’s love got to do with it? Long-term support and love by paid staff in psychological health and wellbeing services.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Psychotherapy Section of the British Psychological Society back in 1995, David Smail drew on his earlier publications and suggested that:
“One of the principal things, and sometimes the only thing, psychotherapy – even good psychotherapy – offers its clients is a commodity which is not widely or plentifully available elsewhere: that is, love.” (Smail, 1995, p 1)
In this presentation, we seek to consider whether an acknowledgement of the primacy of relationship and specifically, love, might enhance our understanding and delivery of services for people – especially people who, as a result of old age, long term mental health need or disability, require the long term support and love of paid staff.


Jo Britton (Sheffield) on The Lives of Muslim Men in Rotherham

Jo Britton, Exploring the lives of Muslim Men: Family, Community and Generation.

Despite a sustained research focus on Muslims, relatively little is known about the emotional lives of Muslim men. Evidence shows that the recent child sexual exploitation crisis in Rotherham has had a detrimental effect on community relations and a distinct impact on local Muslim men. My current research is exploring how Muslim men have been affected by the crisis in gender- and generationally- specific ways and how it has impacted on gender and generational relations within both their family and local community.  In-depth qualitative interviews with Muslim men and women provide a unique opportunity to explore Muslim men’s emotional lives and intimate, affective relationships.  This involves paying close attention to discursive, performative and relational aspects of love that preliminary fieldwork indicates are likely to feature in my research participants’ accounts of their everyday lived experiences in the wake of the crisis. My paper raises the question of how a critical research focus on love can help to challenge the persistent problem-centred focus on Muslim men and related dominant representations of Muslim men as key repositories of violence.

The presentation can be downloaded here: