‘GIVE us the right to a grand day out…’

These words make up the opening line of a poem penned by Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan, which delivers a message that will strike a chord with people across the UK.

‘Give us a trip we can all go on, Give us a day that’ll make us grin, Give us a toilet close to hand, Not a mile down the train by a smelly bin.

‘Give us some signs that are crystal clear, Give us a guard who knows their stuff, Give us a trip we can file away, When the world seems harsh and life gets rough…’

Ian wrote the four verse poem as part of Yorkshire Dementia Engagement & Empowerment Project (DEEP), which is made up of three groups - Bradford-based Face It Together, Minds and Voices from York and DEEP Vibes from Scarborough - who have joined forces to campaign for better public transport services for people with dementia.

Train and bus timetables, platform layout in stations, rail announcements and other areas of the transport system can be baffling to everyone. To those living with dementia, it can be frightening and well as confusing.

The Yorkshire group is part of the national DEEP network, which is working on the project with a number of partners including the University of Exeter.

As well as Ian McMillan, photographer Ian Beesley and cartoonist Tony Husband are lending their creative talents to the cause. In partnership with DEEP, and as part of the ‘A Life More Ordinary’ project, they have produced a 36-page booklet showing the positive and negative sides of travel for people with dementia.

In it, people talk about their experiences of using public transport and of how frightening it can be. Eddie tells of how traumatised he was after no one told him he was sitting in the wrong part of a train, and missed his connection, while Liz recounts how she was helped by a kind woman who saw how disorientated she was after coming out of the toilets.

In May Ian, Tony and Ian joined the groups at an event York station to unfurl colourful banners to put their message across.

Face It Together has been influencing, with some success, bus operators to make their bus stop information and maps more dementia-friendly. The group helped to make a film about bus timetables which was presented to a regional travel company. They have also worked with Northern Rail.

The group praised Keighley Bus Company for introducing screens displaying arrival times.

“Timetables can be very confusing,” says Face It Together coordinator Judith Baron. “And when they change it can be very difficult.”

Group member Derek Clegg - who attended the event with members Kevin Scanlan, Mark Malek and Tony Oates - explained how platform numbers can also lead to confusion. “It is not always clear - I read one number on the noticeboard as 108, which was puzzling - but it was 10B,” he says. “And often, in Leeds station, there are two trains on one platform, so it is hard to know which one to board.”

Scanning tickets on buses is not always straightforward, either, he adds. ”Some are on top of the machine and some are in the slot. It can be very confusing.”

Colour-coded bus routes “Like the London Underground” are a step in the right direction, he adds.

Becky Woledge, support worker with Face It Together, says: “In this day and age we should be further on in terms of accessibility. It is so hard, especially in larger stations where there are so many signs, boards and ticket machines, and you have to battle to find the right train. We are working hard to make a difference, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Philly Hare, director of Innovations in Dementia - a community interest company that works to make approaches to dementia care and support more creative, positive and enabling - says: “It is fantastic. This is the first time ever that people with dementia have come together to raise banners to show they have rights to get out and about.”

Ian Beesley says: “This is a collaboration project so a lot of the ideas come from the groups themselves. It is empowerment that they are able to put forward the problems they face, and also the solutions they have worked out themselves.”

Ian McMillan says the project will raise awareness both among the travelling public and decision makers.

“We are putting across quite profound ideas in a simple way, to raise awareness and also a smile. I hope it will cause people to think about what would make things easier on public transport, whether living with dementia or not.

*Face It Together meets on the first Wednesday of each month at the Alzheimer’s Society Bradford office, Unit 16, Parkview Court, St. Paul's Road, Shipley. Tel: 01274 586008.