The Magic Doors Project:

Creative writing is a highly versatile and expressive medium particularly suited to those in long term residential settings where opportunities to engage with the outside world may be limited by physical or medical constraints. To date the Magic Doors creative writing project has run in three residential care homes on the Isle of Wight, Solent Grange, Orchard House, and Vecta, with a fourth planned in the New Year at St. Vincent’s.

The project typically involves supported sessions with qualified practitioners who mediate ideas and imaginative expression through shared discussion to create beautiful written pieces of poetry and prose. Participation does not need to rely on written skills, and nonverbal residents can also take part frequently demonstrating nuanced choice and preference when helped with appropriate visual and tactile prompts. Whilst material from these projects often draws from the past demonstrating vivid visual and imaginative recollection, participants will also frequently describe highly evocative scenes and sensations from experiences rooted in the present, which is particularly important for those living with dementia.

Practitioners use a range of visual and tactile prompts to resonate with participants. Keys are particularly poignant for many, sparking fascinating discussions. Music also forms part of the Magic Doors tool box providing a different kind of immersive imaginative stimulus, and again, this can be particularly helpful for nonverbal participants or for those with diminished cognitive ability.

Poetry and rhyme also play a strong role and care staff are encouraged beyond the project to continue using poetry as far as possible in their every day routines. In this way creative writing has the potential to actively inform and improve the culture of residential settings, augmenting stronger and potentially more meaningful relationships between carers and residents.

At the end of each project the body of produced work is interpreted through a small exhibition blending text and visual imagery so that residents can have the opportunity to recall and enjoy their experience. Our practitioners work alongside Activities Coordinators and Homes Managers to facilitate the smooth running of the project and we have received some wonderful testimonials from the homes that have participated so far.

“Doors, an access point to somewhere else. Is that why I so rarely noticed them until, recently, when I have spent hours sitting in Care Homes?  The people, the pets, the packages, coming and going and those who stay, living in the spaces between the in-doors and the out-doors.

So, I wondered, as I sat with those doors, what if one was a Magic Door, that could take people anywhere? Where would residents, staff, visitors go? What would they do? What adventures could be written?

The Magic Door  project explores those questions, enabling new ways of self expression through creative writing, story telling and poetry making. It is not reminiscence although it involves the past, it is not about the present, although that too has a say. It is about imagination and creativity, playfulness and insight, giving all the opportunity to take part, to value and be valued through shared creative endeavours.

Magic Doors are being opened by residents, staff  and visitors at Residential Homes across the Isle of Wight. Already poems have been written, mountains climbed, families visited, loss acknowledged and new creative moments born.

The project concludes  with the creation of a visual artistic display  weaving together the stories,  adventures and poems  written by those who enter through doors, live between doors, and together, discover our Magic Door.”

Ann Emery

 If you could join us and go through our Magic Door, where would you go? What would you do? What adventures would you write?