This project will develop a creative, critical and clinical understanding of dementia and bilingualism as illustrated by the example of Gaelic-speakers in Scotland. The multidisciplinary nature of the project will bring practitioners in the performing arts and academics (established and early career linguists, cognitive scientists, sociologists, cultural historians) into dialogue with care professionals, policy makers and members of the public. The aim of the project is threefold: to facilitate a mutually enriching exchange of creative, scholarly and lived understandings of dementia and bilingualism; to foster the role of creative productions in developing public awareness of the complex relationship between language and memory; to further national and international collaborative projects that will have a meaningful impact on public policy related to language, identity and well-being in Scotland and beyond.
At the heart of the workshop programme is a play by Glasgow-based Theatre Tog-ì which will tour nationally in Scotland in 2020. The play explores the progressive return to Gaelic of a bilingual dementia patient whose monolingual English-speaking husband is locked out from his wife’s thoughts. This ‘small world’ story is also a dramatic exploration of ‘big world’ concepts that the workshop programme will explore in depth. These include ageing and isolation, care provision and family dynamics, language, memory and identity, language and cultural loss/regeneration, intergenerational minority language transmission, translation and minority language. The play also raises neuropsychological issues related to dementia and bilingualism. These, in turn, raise questions about the care and support needs of bilingual individuals with dementia in minority-language, bi-lingual and multilingual contexts in Scotland and beyond.