The Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson CBE, has officially opened the latest dementia-friendly care village development by charity Belong, unveiling a plaque to commemorate the occasion. The pioneering care facility, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, is the first in the country to incorporate a unique local heritage gallery and centre for world-leading dementia care at its heart – the Belong Heritage Gallery – created with the help of a £1.8m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
On the afternoon of the official opening, Belong Newcastle general manager Alison Peake led special guests, including the Mayor of Newcastle, Gill Heesom, and representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund, on a tour of the development. There was also a final chance to see ‘Lost & Found at Maxims’ – an innovative stage production, produced by Newcastle’s New Vic Theatre, bringing to life people’s memories of the historic building, performed by the people whose memories inspired it.
Commenting on the day’s events, Alison said: “It was a great honour to have the Lord-Lieutenant present. He his own memories of the heritage gallery building when it was Maxims to share. Also, it’s been a fitting way to mark a significant event in the history of the local area, by looking back at the history of one of its iconic landmarks. The village has become a hub for the local community since we welcomed our first residents, and it’s great to bring together everyone who’s been involved in its development.”
Ian Dudson CBE said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be invited here today to officially open this Belong village and to see the wonderful work that has been done. All those years ago, I never dreamt I’d return in a Lord Lieutenant’s uniform one day. I wish everyone here my very best wishes and look forward to returning to see it develop to its full potential.”
Open to the public, the Belong Heritage Gallery serves as a living time capsule, with spaces such as Samuel Bell’s Tea Room, a recreation of the Old Pomona Inn, a Maxims memories installation, a library and an arts and crafts room.
Apart from being a cultural attraction, the heritage gallery is integral to the village’s world-leading dementia care provision. It serves as a centre for residents and members of the local community to engage in heritage-themed activities, as well as a catalyst for reminiscence activities – proven to be beneficial for those living with dementia.