On Friday the 14th December the now traditional Dementia Friendly Carol Service was held by Faithfully Ageing Better at St Mary’s Cathedral, Coulby Newham, for people living with dementia, their friends, family and carers. The Dementia Friendly Carol Service took place for the first time in Middlesbrough in 2015 as part of Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough, and each year it just grows in popularity! This year a large team of Dementia Friends welcomed around 150 people to an interactive, informal service with lots of opportunities for reminiscing, singing familiar carols and watching a live retelling of the Christmas story. Rev Jen Croft, of St Cuthbert’s Church, Ormesby, designed and led the service which was themed around angels, and a team of Dementia Friends helped make sure everyone was welcomed and supported to be part of the service. A British Sign Language interpreter relayed everything, even the words of the carols, to make sure it was inclusive for those with hearing loss, and readings were done by people living with dementia and carers.

After the service there was a wonderful festive afternoon tea. There wasn’t a spare seat in the room, and chat, laughter, and piano music accompanied sandwiches, mince pies and beautiful home-made cakes, courtesy of the team of volunteers at St Mary’s. The team of Dementia Friends whizzed around making sure every cup and plate was topped up, whilst everyone had a wonderful time, pulling crackers and sharing memories of Christmases past. Everyone went home with a gift of a box of biscuits, and a knitted angel as a keepsake of the occasion.

We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to the service – the team of welcoming volunteers, Middlesbrough businesses who donated to the festive tea, the Open the Book team, musicians, and everyone who came along and joined in the service. We are already looking forward to next year, when we hope it will be even bigger and better!