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Images by Lee Baxter



Barbara is an immersive project exploring living alongside dementia through performance, music, conversation and togetherness. Consisting of a full immersive theatrical production and unique pop-up public interventions each of which encourages audiences & participants to ‘talk well’ about dementia.

Originally scratched as part of Hope Mill's TurnOnFest in 2020 (pictured) the short sharing gained spectacular audience feedback and 5* reviews proving a hunger for work which explores dementia in a new, gentle and engaging way.

Over 920k people are living with dementia in the UK. Directly or indirectly it is a condition that is likely to at some point affect all of us and yet it remains an isolating experience. Through this work we aim to create conversations and awareness around dementia - a word we're using to describe a variety of complex, distinct conditions relating to the brain and the body. We hope to create safe spaces for the public to gently explore and reflect on these conditions, are empowered to share, without the pressure of disclosing, connect with each other and begin to celebrate the new ways people are 'living well with dementia'. 


Lead artist Mark Croasdale collaborates with engagement artist Jenny Gaskell & musician Tom Guest under the producing guidance of Dan Jarvis, growing this project and creating safe & creative public spaces where people can talk about their own experiences around care, culminating in an entertaining performance that brings together our learnings and tells a story of dementia that we know everyone will be able to relate with. 


"It was an emotional rollercoaster in the most extraordinarily wonderful way."


The inspiration behind Barbara (both the character and the project) is based on Mark Croasdale’s own complex relationship with dementia in his family, specifically his grandmother. Through sing-along, conversation starters and crumpets, Mark shared his own story, playing Barbara herself, whilst allowing people a safe and warm space to share their own experiences and address the isolation that many people supporting those with dementia face.


Within the performance, audiences are invited into a warm, welcoming and safe space hosted by Barbara and her husband Barnard. Throughout the performance, the audience are taken on a series of ‘dinner courses’, consisting of various musical numbers sung together around the piano, structured lessons in polite conversation and elocution, and of course, crumpets. As the performance progresses, the audience realise they are in fact there to support Barbara, rather than the other way round. In doing so they are able to share their own experiences and build new connections.

Turn On Fest 2020 - Interview with Your MCR, Belinda Scandal all about Barbara the show

Alongside the performance we will create an accompanying programme of public engagement which will continually shape Barbara whilst creating a series of public creative communities alongside the project.
Working with community engagement artist and celebrant Jenny Gaskell, we will co- design a series of pop-up public interventions which will use space, music and facilitated conversation to allow non-arts engaged audiences to engage with Barbara whilst making safe and creative public spaces where people can share their own experiences. Barbara will inhabit these spaces transforming them into cozy, musical parlours and invite visitors into conversation lessons, or for a sing-a-long. Interacting with visitors Barbara will place them at ease whilst gently inviting them to think on and discuss ideas around care, health and dementia. 

Our mission is to enable sharing without the expectation or pressure of disclosure. To empower people to “speak well about dementia”, combatting isolation and fostering connection.


"Full marks to Mark and Tom for lifting the lid on the Pandora’s box that is dementia, where just when everything seems to be lost, one thing remains: Hope." - Paul Schofield, Canal St Online
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