Watch powerful new film, YODA Strikes Back!

YODAs show off some of their artwork at the YODA Strikes Back! premier

Our Young Onset Dementia Activists (YODAs) tell their stories in Director Katy Milner’s powerful short film, YODA Strikes Back! 

Run by South East London Mind’s Dementia Services Manager, Saira Addison, who also produced the film, YODA supports people who have developed dementia before the age of 65 and their family and friends. 

Providing an emotional snapshot of the YODAs’ experiences of being diagnosed with dementia at a young age, the film also showcases the joy, strength and camaraderie YODA brings to its members. 

SEL Mind Director of Services Dominic Parkinson, Chief Executive Ben Taylor, Bromley Dementia Services Manager Saira Addison, and Mayor of Bromley Mike Botting

A celebratory screening

Fittingly, the film had a glamourous premiere on November 30, transforming the YODAs into stars on a red carpet, graciously hosted by 75 Dean Street at their iconic cinema. The YODAs travelled to and from the screening in style in their own private London double-decker bus, generously provided for free by Stagecoach Depot Manager Alex Campbell and his team. 

As well as Mayor of Bromley Mike Botting, who described the event as marvellous, the premiere was attended by Integrated Strategic Commissioner Bola Bakare, BLG Mind Trustees Donald Burford and Melissa King, and EastEnders star Clay Milner Russell. 

YODA Strikes Back! Director Katy Milner and her son Clay Milner Russell, who currently plays Bobby Beale in BBC soap opera EastEnders

Kicking off the evening, SEL Mind CEO Ben Taylor shared his thoughts on documentary before the eager audience were treated to the film: “There was so much emotion but also music and dancing and laughter. It was a real, honest exploration of people’s experiences but also a real tribute to the power of people coming together and sharing with each other.”  

“This YODA thing, it’s saved my life” – YODA member 

YODA Strikes Back! gives YODA members a platform to reflect on their lives before their diagnosis, and the unique ways each person can be impacted. As dementia is considered ‘young onset’ when it affects people before the age of 65, many YODAs were at the height of their careers or parents to young children when they first began experiencing symptoms.  

As active members of society, people diagnosed with early onset dementia can often experience a great sense of loss, isolation and fear that they won’t be able to lead the life they had planned. Saira Addison, the driving force behind YODA, explains how the activities and community provided by the group helps people regain a sense of purpose and belonging: “YODA makes them feel like, ‘actually I’m still important, I still have a contribution to make.'” 

“This is much better than any medicine in a bottle” – YODA member 

Showcasing the power of the service, Katy Milner’s film skilfully captures the joy, strength, and unbreakable bonds forged by a truly diverse group of people who otherwise wouldn’t have met.  

We watch the YODAs enthusiastically coming together to participate in a range of activities, including an acrobatic skills workshop, while they stress how crucial their newfound friendships and opportunities to keep active are to their wellbeing.  

“I don’t know how people who get a young onset dementia diagnosis in other parts of the country where this isn’t available – I have no idea how awful that must be. And it must be.” – YODA member 

Thoughts and reflections

After the screening, CEO Ben Taylor reflected, “it’s a great example of the type of service we can provide that’s really meeting a need that we can see beyond commissioning – that’s absolutely what we should be doing as a local charity.” 

Saira Addison leads attendees in a singalong at the YODA Strikes Back! screening reception

The poignant evening was concluded with a message from Esther, carer of her husband Matthew, who spoke on behalf of the YODAs. She stressed that those with young onset dementia often find themselves shunned by society as their lives turned upside down, and how a lack of funding means many do not receive vital support. 

The encouragement and community offered by groups like this, she explained, allow those with dementia and their carers to feel safe, included, and to experience joy and fun again. “I would like to extend tremendous thanks to my fellow YODAs for the love, support, friendship and caring through extremely difficult emotions – as well as happy ones.” 

Watch the YODAs tell their stories here: 

Accompanying artwork

Complementing the premiere was an evocative exhibition, facilitated by the multi-talented Katy Milner. Showcasing collaborative artworks made by the YODAs, the display expresses their journey from first developing dementia to finding support through YODA.

“What do you see? Do you see ‘dementia’, or do you see the creativity, thoughtful minds, talent and dignity that lie behind the work” – Esther, YODA member 

Explore their creations in the gallery below – hover your mouse over the image to read the captions.

YODA is run entirely on donations. If you would like to help the group continue to provide vital support, please donate and let us know the donation is for YODA.

YODA Strikes Back! is funded by Tony Crowder of LPC Law, Dekel Yehezkel, Paul Wheeler and Ravensmead Masonic Provincial Grand Lodge.  

Thank you to Philip Pound from Beckenham Photographic Society for volunteering to take pictures at the screening.

For more YODA creations, see this short film featuring their own animations.