Good Company

Reimagining Day Care through creating a production company in a theatre

by David Savill
Artistic Director, Age Exchange

Good Company is a major partnership programme with people living with dementia in Brentwood Essex and their carers. “Good Company” seeks to reimagine formal Day Care, inviting people instead to join a creative production process – exploring lived experience/reminiscence through narrative, embodied and sense memory. The programme is a major collaboration between ourselves and national touring symphony orchestra, Orchestras Live with Sinfonia Viva and contemporary dance company Green Candle Dance, as the delivery team – supported by our friends from Brentwood Borough Council and Alzheimer’s UK responsible for co-ordination and managing referrals.

Over a series of eight-week programmes of activity and care, participants will be invited to attend a weekly creative group at Brentwood Theatre, where they can be immersed in an array of stimulating arts activities, from reminiscence theatre, to dance, film, visual arts, song and orchestral music, whilst exploring wellbeing, identities and relationships between family carers and those they care for.

Our involvement in Good Company goes back to our 3 year programme RADIQL for Guys and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, working to evaluate the role and practice of Reminiscence Arts in supporting people living with mid to late stage dementia in South London care. The most important lesson we learned as a charity was the need to go beyond the formal practice of reminiscence work – reminiscence purely as narrative and to extend our approach into growing our work through sensory approaches and embodies approaches to memory – expanding our work in dance movement and live music making.

It is deliberately hosted not in a care setting but a theatre, Brentwood Theatre – with all activity taking place on the main stage.  Members absolutely love this I should add! We believe that the combination of reminiscence arts/supplied by Age Exchange, with live music and dance enables participants at all stage of the dementia journey to engage in the way that best suits them and to share their ‘story’ through reminiscence, making and composing music, and dancing as a company.

We are about to deliver our third programme. What we are all trying to do together as a company is to ensure that everyone is empowered through being creative - not receiving some passive form of creative care, but through taking centre stage and sharing their story through making creative work that reflects the lives they have lived and live today. All company members are equal in the process of creativity, everyone has an equal role to play in leading and following the process. I can give 100s of examples of what this means but I’ll give just a couple here.


Steph who lives with young onset dementia loves music, she often closes her eyes and sways and dances, she loves using percussion and always makes a point of dancing with Hilary, another company member with advanced dementia. Knowing how Steph likes to feel rhythm our brilliant double base player from Sinfonia Viva placed himself next to Steph in the circle – then all singing a song we had composed together based on memories of journeys – he encouraged Steph to place her hands and the side of her body against the double base whilst he played. Anyone who has ever done this will know a base vibrates so powerfully – you feel its vibrations through your whole body. The impact this had on Steph was immediate. She began to sing a song in Swahili, beginning softly then with more confidence as the memory of it took over – she sang then taught the company all the words, everyone joined in, viola, guitar, percussion, all of us. Steph told us she thought the song was something she and her sister learned at school, at primary school and that shed never sung it since. But it along with the fully company performed at led by Steph at the final performance in March.

This is just one experience of many I can share.

A key responsibility of Age Exchange is to use our expertise in reminiscence work to lay the foundations of “Good Company”, exploring week on week reminiscence themes through reminiscence artefacts, sensory material, archive sound, and archive photos and film - to find out who is in the room and ensure everything that develops through reminiscence, music and dance is entirely made with and by the people who were referred as individuals, but through taking part become the heart of “Good Company”. Members also bring to the sessions family photos from across the generations of their own families, and memorabilia which they use to share their story, inspired by the reminiscence themes we explore each week developed through learning about the company members and their lives. This approach is the very definition of person centred creative care.

Read more about the project

View the brochure

We are grateful to Brentwood Borough Council for making “Good Company” possible and to all our partner organisations, along with key funders including Essex County Council, the NHS and Department for Levelling Up. Film of Good Company and interviews with company members will be available on the Age Exchange website soon, along with evaluation of the programme by the University of Essex.