St Paul’s Court tenants, a supported living service for individuals living with dementia in Lisburn, were treated to a unique art performance when famed artist Neil Shawcross set up his easel for a masterclass last week.

The artist had taken up an invitation by his friend who now lives in St Paul’s Court, which is a partnership between Praxis Care, Choice Housing and the South Eastern HSC Trust.

“I used to do regular lunches on a Thursday at my studio on Donegall Pass for my friends,” says Neil. “A good friend of mine, Brian Green, attended these with his wife Patricia. When Brian and Pat came to St. Paul’s Court, they stayed in touch.”

Brian contacted him to conduct a talk but Neil decided to take it a step further and replied: “Why just do a talk when I can come and paint for you all?”

Press Eye – Belfast – Northern Ireland – 27th August 2021
Picture: Philip Magowan / Press Eye

Karen Ford, service manager for St Paul’s Court, says tenants work with staff to create new ideas for activities.

“We hold sessions with the tenants and some of these involve both our staff and them coming up with ideas and suggestions for activities for us to do,” says Karen.

“Some of the tenants are avid painters and lovers of art, Brian Green included, and he mentioned he was friends with Neil Shawcross, so we asked him to get in touch with Neil to see if he might be interested in getting involved. Sure enough, Brian reached out to Neil and organised for him to attend today without assistance from ourselves. We followed up with Neil and he was delighted to be asked and be involved. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the tenants as it promotes independence. It was great for Brian to organise this, gives others the confidence to participate in similar opportunities.

Activities like this invoke memories of creating art for all the tenants and for Brian very specific memories of being with his friend Neil and all the memories that come along with that.”

Neil Shawcross painted two still lifes, one of a teacup and one of a teapot, talking through his technique with those in attendance.

Karen says: “Neil was kind enough to stay to chat with tenants and accompanied us to Brian’s house where Brian has several of Neil’s paintings including a bespoke one that Neil painted exclusively for  Brian that included all of the buildings that he worked on as a civil engineer before his retirement.”

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