A woman who wrote a moving play about dementia has won an award

Karin Diamond, from Cardiff, was presented with a bronze at the prestigious Wales Care Awards – dubbed the Oscars of social care – at City Hall in Cardiff.

Karin, the artistic director of the Cardiff-based Arts in Health charity Re-Livewon was recognised by Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation for Promoting the Arts in Social Care, with the award being sponsored by the Pendine Arts and Community Trust.

The host for the evening was  the popular tenor, Wynne Evans, best known for playing Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

The bilingual play, called Belonging/Perthyn, follows the lives of two families as they discover that love and laughter don’t have to stop because of dementia. It provides a moving and inspirational insight into the hidden lives of families affected by dementia.

Karin, who has worked in theatre, film and television for two decades and co-founded Re-Live 16 years ago, said: “Re-Live runs a creative group in Cardiff for people living with dementia and their families. It’s the stories of our group members that inspired me to write Belonging, and the play is a testament to their courage and determination.

“Belonging also addressed the needs of Welsh language speakers living with dementia by dramatising their need to communicate in the language of their choice. It is so important for us as a Welsh community to be considerate and inclusive of all people living with dementia”

Belonging/Perthyn won two Wales Theatre Awards for Best Director (Peter Doran) and Best Actor (Llion Williams). The play toured theatres and arts venues around Wales in 2016 & 2018 and was performed at the Bealtaine Festival in Ireland.

Karin was nominated for the Wales Care Awards by the Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly Workforce Development Service which supports the social care sector to train, develop, and qualify staff and volunteers.

Belonging/Perthyn was written for both general theatre audiences, and as dementia training for health and social care professionals.

She said: “Over the years, as I’ve had the privilege of meeting and training social care workers and heard their experiences of working with people living with dementia and the huge challenges they face every day. Their stories informed and inspired Belonging.

“To be able to present the play to social care workers and share with them not only best practice in dementia care, but also to show that they are heard, celebrated and valued was really special”

Karin has trained over 5,000 social care workers in Wales using the arts as a tool to explore best practice and feels this dynamic and practical way of learning allows trainees to hold on to new information, new skills and build confidence.

Karin said: “I believe that learning through the arts supports a deeper change in attitudes and greater compassion for people living with dementia than more traditional training methods.”

Re-Live’s training is cited as an example of best practice in the Good Work: A Dementia Learning and Development Framework for Wales: Social Care Wales, NHS Wales, Public Health Wales, Welsh Government, 2016 A Dementia Learning and Development Framework for Wales.

Re-Live, in partnership with The Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly Workforce Development Service have received a grant from the Arts Council of Wales to support a new bilingual project which develops self-care strategies for social care workers through the arts.

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.

He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after the rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.

“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to  have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.

“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.

“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights and in the months and years to come.

“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.

”We take our hats off to them.”