The Story of Henry Bear

I first met Henry Bear in a charity shop, forlorn on the top shelf, a fading ‘REDUCED’ tag pinned on his red tie.  Perhaps it was his plumpness, or that thoughtful, slightly sad look, that had made him so unwanted.

He looked like a bear in need of a friend. So  I brought him and took him to meet my mother, living in a care home for people with dementia.

‘Well, whose a splendid fellow then?’ she said, eyes lighting up and giving Henry a friendly hug.  After that, he often visited and they became firm friends accompanying us on our various trips out.

Other residents also took to Henry. He could often calm and comfort people having a difficult moment, bring back memories, spark conversations,   help tell old stories- and make new ones.

I had studied Creative Arts for People with Dementia at Stirling University and wondered  – could Henry help other people living in care homes create new stories?  I knew from the  US based ‘Timeslips’ programme, new and creative stories could be written by people living with dementia; could we do this using Henry Bear?

Independent Arts arranged for Henry Bear and I to visit a number of residential homes interested in participating in this new endeavour.

For me, it has been such a joy to  meet so many engaging and enthusiastic people, so keen to create a Henry Bear story. For most, it was their first time at trying creative writing but all were undeterred! People  contributed through words, actions, looks or song. The  stories they created are wonderful, often exotic, always imaginative, fun, sometimes sad and with unexpected twists. As the project evolved, we also created poetry, enabling a different form of writing and self expression.

Creative writing is an intensely interdependent act. As Henry would say, it’s like baking a cake; take a handful of the known, stir in some current happenings, sprinkle liberally with imagination, mix well and bake carefully.

We hope you enjoy the results created for you with so much playful imagination by the residents  – and of course, Henry Bear.

Ann Emery

‘Connect through writing’