Luke McTaggart - a young artist reflects

Over the past several months I have been student intern at the Dry Water Arts Centre, also known as Amble’s Make. Move and Meeting place. Visitors  may have noticed me working away quietly (sometimes loudly!) in the studio or helping to facilitate the various groups and activities.

I approached  the Dry Water Arts team this summer with a view to doing a week long work placement there .I am a young artist  with a particular interest in watercolours and a growing interest in the role of creativity within community settings.

On my first day of work placement I came to a session of our dementia positive programme ‘Curiosity Cafe’.I was introduced to a wonderful new way of supporting both those living with dementia and the carers. Rather than adopting the ‘have another slice of cake’ method Frances and Paula have developed a person-centered method that focuses on allowing individuals to choose for themselves what to do rather than imposing an activity.

I have also observed that language can make a huge difference and help to make people feel included and empowered. The Dry Water team have a strong focus on living with dementia rather than suffering from dementia and are skilled at using inclusive language and methods of engagement.

Dementia is clearly a taboo that most people would rather not talk about, I had never really thought about it much myself and as a result had few preconceptions. What I learned from my time working with Dry Water and the members of  ‘Curiosity Cafe’ is that in fact dementia takes many forms and affects those living with it in very diverse ways.

I remember joining in with what, at the time, seemed like a  bizarre activity, moving around the community room , balancing a stick with a  partner. However over the past few months I have come to learn and understand that each of the activities are carefully thought about and  help to break down barriers by a focus on what is possible and by embracing the creative potential of those living with dementia and their carers. People who attend Curiosity Cafe  relax, feel accepted and welcomed and need not worry about being judged. Indeed if I take the example of the balancing stick activity and reflect upon it I can see that it was an activity about building a connection with the person at the end of the stick and about feeling that connection.  At Curiosity Cafe no one is divided up into those living with dementia, and those caring for them, we all equal and more importantly we are all treated as individuals. Since that first session I have been to Curiosity Cafe each week , being part of this inclusive community gives me a fantastic feeling. I have also discovered new ways in which to share my  painting and drawing skills and have led small workshops. The experience of observing the methods used by Paula and Frances means that I understand the importance of listening , giving time and space and the acceptance of suggestions. The main skill is to be willing to accept what arises and to be fully with the person in their creative process. As a consequence I  learned to let go of focusing on an end product and enjoyed being in an open ended process myself . I have shared my skills with the group whilst learning from them, it has been a reciprocal exchange of learning and friendship whilst making art together. Nowadays I no longer feel like an outsider coming into the group I have come to feel a part of it, indeed I am  referred to as the baby of the group!

Even my dog Alfie is much loved member of the Curiosity community


Amble has been lacking a place where people can creatively express themselves and Dry Water has filled that gap perfectly. Anyone that came to the open day may have done a printing activity with me. In truth I expected that we would have a small trickle of people throughout the day where in fact the place was buzzing with over 250 people visiting. The energy and enthusiasm of that day was amazing and honestly quite surprising as whilst I knew that there was a creative community in Amble I never imagined that it would be that big or draw so much interest.

There are fantastic courses going on at Dry Water Arts Centre for the whole community, everything from printing to jewellry making from yoga to dance and meditation . Frances and Paula  are always open to suggestions of new classes and the lovely studio spaces are available to hire so that everyone can feel welcome.

I can honestly say that I have enjoyed my time with Dry Water and have found it immensely fulfilling.  Frances and Paula have changed my perception of what it means to have dementia and what can be done to help people to live well . I have also gained insights into what it means to be a carer in what is effectively a  24 hour a day responsibility. I am always amazed by the carers who attend Curiosity Cafe, their sense of humour, their honesty, their generosity of spirit and their ability to keep going . I have become acutely aware of just how exhausting and challenging caring can be and that Curiosity Cafe offers a much needed community resource for carers, enabling them to have some precious “me” time.

Having this experience has made me consider my methods of creating art, analysing and evaluating it. Spending time at Dry Water Arts Centre means that I get to see the impact of creativity on members of our community. The need for people to come together to share ideas, to nurture their talents, to try something new or  to take some time to simply be. I know that Dry Water will continue to evolve and to become increasingly integrated into the local community giving Amble a creative outlet that it has sorely needed for so long. I can only end this by saying it has been my absolute pleasure to have worked with Frances and Paula and I hope I can continue to develop the relationship for many more years helping to sustain and grow our creative community in Amble

A monthly musing on Making, Moving and Meeting

Paula and I keep reminding each other that Dry Water Arts Centre has only been open a month and what a month it has been.

We have hosted an array of arts workshops, established a programme of regular yoga classes, increased the number of people attending our dementia positive programme, launched a falls prevention dance programme in collaboration with Helix Arts, been interviewed by radio Newcastle but most importantly….

We have MADE new connections, MOVED with our community and MET with so many interesting and creative people.

On the theme of alliterative M’s…we may be small but like Amble, we are Mighty…..not just as in strong and determined but also we like to think we are a mighty sort of art centre….might this work, might that be worth a go?

Nothing ventured nothing gained… in the coming month there are opportunities to:

Soothe and ease your aching back on the Back to Back workshop

Make original beautiful Christmas Wreaths and cards

Personalise your Christmas tree with a Copper Decorations workshop

Light up the dark with with our fairy lights or outdoor lanterns workshops

Come to our Christmas Fair on 18th November for Christmas presents with a difference from local artists and makers.

We would like to thank everyone who has and is supporting our vision of making a vibrant, creative community space for Amble.

Thank you for donations of plants and pots to the community garden, for doing the weeding, planting and watering when we forget! Thank you for the donated biscuits for Curiosity Cafe, thank you for the subscriptions to Dry Water Friends which enable the dementia programme to continue. Thank you for volunteering and for making us cake. Thank for the knitted comforters, thank you for taking our rubbish to the tip, thank you for sharing stories and photos……and for so many more gestures of good will but above all thank you for telling us that the arts Centre “is just what Amble needs”

Curious about our Cafe?

Paula Turner shares some thoughts on Curiosity Cafe.

Curisoisty Smorgasbord.JPEG

Curiosity Cafe is a dementia positive programme for people living with dementia, their families and friends. It is facilitated by myself and Frances Anderson at The Dry Water Arts Centre in Amble Northumberland.

It is less of a cafe (although we do all enjoy a fantastic shared lunch each week) and more about the art of curating a space collectively. What is it that you need NOW and HOW might we make that a possibility.

Much is made of person centred care and yet the majority of creative programmes/services for people living with dementia offer a one size fits all programme. An example of this would be an approach whereby everyone is encouraged to do one activity altogether with little regard for individual preferences and often with no viable alternative on offer.

Person centred care should be characterised by an approach that genuinely places the person at the centre of their own care enabling them to express their wants, needs and opinions. Individuals can be supported and enabled via inclusive decision making, equality of communication and mutual respect to shape their activity programme.

It does take time; smaller groups are therefore essential. Spend just a moment thinking about the phrase person centred and it is as clear as clear can be that small and personal is where we need to have our focus and our resources.

The Dementia Friends training programme emphasizes that if you meet one person living with dementia have met one person living with dementia. In other words they are still a person with a unique set of beliefs , ideals, passions, aspirations likes and dislikes. 

If we are serious about being an inclusive and dementia friendly society then the services on offer have to change along with attitudes.

The carers at Curiosity Cafe are very clear that they too are living with dementia every waking moment. Becoming a full time carer vastly reduces individual freedom and spontaneity. For this reason Curiosity Cafe has always been offered to the people who directly experience the day to day challenges of living with dementia whether this be living with the  diagnosis or as a carer.

For this reason at at Curiosity Cafe you will find the following on our menu;


  • Consultation

  • Listening

  • Suggestion

Main Course

  • Choice - including the choice not to participate

  • Self selection of resources and equipment

  • Body time not clock time

  • Flux and Flow

Afters (pudding if you’re posh!)

  • Creativity

  • Joy

  • Spontaneity

  • Unexpected outcomes

  • Synchronicity

"We are are so pleased to be part of the Curiosity Cafe. It allows us to take part in a fully inclusive group, together, yet gives us the opportunity to individually express ourselves. Nothing we do is ever incorrect, I cannot thank you enough as it allows me time to myself within the group enjoying activities I could not have imagined."
Curiosity Cafe Participant

A Moving Community

What a life affirming treat to welcome dance improvisation North East (dine) to Dry Water Arts Centre

We hope to offer more mixed movement and body practices along with our yoga programme. People who know Paula know that she is a dedicated and passionate encourager of movement in all of its many manifestations. Paula playfully draws on dance, martial arts , yoga and improvisation techniques to get body and mind enlivened and enthused

Upcoming MOVING events

We look forward to moving with you
— Paula & frances
Come to our Grand Opening 8th September

Saturday 8th September from 12 to 4pm.

Paula & Frances of Dry Water invite you to come and look around our lovely new building, have a chat and tell us what sorts of things you would like to see happening in our community. 

There will be some live music, poetry and opportunities to try your hand at printmaking.

Everyone is welcome and light refreshments will be served.

dry water arts centre.jpg

Come and help us celebrate, we'd love to see you!

Emma George
Women Made Flying High 

Women and girls flying high - doing what we like and liking what we do.

As part of our Women Made project we put out an open invitation for women and girls of Amble to participate in a creative kite making workshop in August. We used the traditional Japanese dying technique Shibori and simple construction techniques to create some beautiful handmade kites.

 We all went down towards the harbour at Amble and together created a colourful show on The Braid - much appreciated by locals and visitors . It was an morning of stories shared and relationships built - the gentle power of sitting together and learning new skills.

Making together, sharing together.
Make Move Meet
Emma Georgewoman made
Meet Luke - Our Wonderful Student Intern

Luke has impressed everyone with his artistic flair and eye for detail. He has shared his love of painting with members of Curiosity Café by facilitating a watercolour workshop.

Artistic director Frances Anderson commented:

"Luke clearly is a talented young artist but it’s rare to find someone who is such a natural communicator. He has been a huge hit with everyone who has visited the Dry Water Arts Centre and he already feels like one of the team"

"Luke has such a great way of simplifying things and including everyone" member of Curiosity Café.