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©Alzheimer's Society

Julian Fellowes helps launch dementia-friendly media, arts and drama representation guide

Written by Samantha Lade, Donr

Published on Friday, 14th September 2018

Julian Fellowes helps launch dementia-friendly media, arts and drama guide

Yesterday evening, professionals from across the media and arts industries came together with Oscar-winning screenwriter, author, actor and director Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, for the launch of Alzheimer's Society's new dementia-friendly media, arts and drama guide.

Hosted by Channel 4, and joined by fellow actors such as Hugh Bonneville and Hugh Dennis as well as people affected by dementia, the charity's ambassador Lord Fellowes presided over the launch, which included a panel discussion exploring how dementia is portrayed in the industry.

For the 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK and their families, how dementia is depicted in the media and arts has a huge impact on how they feel about their condition and how others view them.

This is because it informs people's attitudes, beliefs and assumptions, shaping public opinion. 

Sensationalist accounts have, over the years, used language that depicts dementia negatively, portraying it as a frightening and mysterious disease. 

As a result, many people affected by dementia have told the charity that the portrayal of dementia in mainstream media is repeatedly misinformed and negative – leaving them feeling angry, excluded and ashamed.

In a new Alzheimer's Society survey of 180 people affected by dementia, over half (55%) said they felt the media didn't represent people with dementia. However, almost one in three respondents noted that a portrayal of dementia in the media prompted them to start a conversation about the condition with friends, family or colleagues.

Julian Fellowes said: 'I have seen the devastating impact of dementia at close range. I know a mother of young children who has younger onset dementia in her forties; I have witnessed older family members living with the condition.

'The more that we are unafraid of dramatising people with dementia at the heart as opposed to putting them in the backdrop of the story, the more meaningful it will be to our audience.

'The media, from news to dramas and documentaries, arts and popular culture have a critical role in driving a cultural shift.'

‘Dementia-friendly media and broadcast guide: a guide to representing dementia in the arts, culture and popular discourse’ is a groundbreaking new resource available to individuals and organisations from across the industry.

It includes practical advice and information on how to improve practices; such as language to use and avoid, and how to interview someone living with the condition.

Jeremy Hughes (pictured above), Chief Executive Officer at Alzheimer's Society, said: 'We hope that this guide will become an essential resource helping create the much-needed step towards change.'

To find out more about the guide and how to get involved, please visit the Alzheimer's Society website.