Just do it

Something that has been a recurring theme over the past week or so is the question of how, in a world of risk assessment and long winded processes, how did this project ever get off the ground?

In Perth, at the Life ChangesTrust  gathering, I highlighted my terror at the sheer scale and breadth of the remit of this project and my wonder of how and where on earth I was going to begin.

And when the An Talla Solais team came over, they asked similar questions of how did we navigate risk assessments and lengthy processes and meetings?

Because of the skills of the team and because of the care and management experience, it was possible to negotiate risk assessments and turn them into a more enablement focused approach.

I also found that making a start on stand-alone events inspired and enabled NHS teams, for example,  to see potential benefits in real conversations while doing ordinary things offering feedback far more openly than on a form. Also benefits to staff feeling valued and involved, supported with time and experience to reach people on a more personal level. 

We are really hoping for additional benefits to become apparent in time, maybe reduced medication, hopefully benefits from feeding voices back to policy and decision makers.

Playlist for Life

I really want to explain some things about Playlist for Life and why it is so important.

It can (cynically) be perceived as a quietening device – can you imagine someone being left in a corner with headphones on and maybe one artist’s album on repeat because a care plan stated that he or she likes traditional pipe music? If I had a penny for each time I’ve seen a care plan with ‘ACDC’ or ‘Carpenters’ on it as though a person’s entire musical taste can be distilled into one artist.

I’ll list ten of mine. You will see that these aren’t songs I would listen to now, particularly. These are songs that take me back to a place and time in my life. These are memories that could be shared with my friends and family later. Shared, with headphone splitters. Shared, with conversation and the sound down low enough to talk about that time in my life. To unlock that sense of self, that emotional connection.

That’s what Playlist for Life is about.

1: Row the boat – this nursery rhyme reminds me of a Fisher Price toy tv I had. It wound up with a yellow winder and played this song with a moving picture. And the song, I sang it to my children and now grandson.

2: Echo & the Bunnymen, The Cutter. I still have no idea what this song was about but it reminds me of walking home from school as a teenager with a Walkman.

3: The Prodigy, Firestarter – my youngest daughter, age 2, copying the dance moves and having me in fits of giggles.

4: Iron Maiden, Bring your daughter to the slaughter – my son, age 2, asking his Grandad if he could sing him a song and coming out with that…. I can still picture the look on Dad’s face now.

5:  Grandad, Clive Dunn – cheesy but It does clearly bring back that image of my so much loved Grandad.

6: Cliff Richard – Devil Woman. Now, relations between my Gran and Mum were never that great but the low point was certainly when my mum called a radio station to request ‘anything by Cliff Richard’ for my Gran. Naughty DJ!

7: Moby, We Are All Made of Stars – one of our wedding songs

8: Perfect Day – Lou Reed. This has a special memory of a particular day in Leicestershire in 1997.

9: Dr & the Medics, Spirit in the Sky – I know Clive. This takes me back to a night out in  Poole.

10: Florence & the Machine – The Girl With One Eye – my youngest daughter’s version of this with her guitar floating downstairs, quite magical.

An Talla Solais team visit


 An Talla Solais 
The Team from Ullapool Visual Arts came to An Lanntair yesterday to see how we run our project to scope out how to do something for people living with dementia in Ullapool.

I didn’t embarrass everyone by taking pictures but we had a lovely chat over coffee in our cafe bar and then moved on to meet more formally in the round meeting room.

It was brilliant to see NHS staff and Alzheimer Scotland staff teaming up with An Talla Solais on this project. 

Opera Highlights at Harris House

I’ve just returned (over the icy Clisham and through a snowstorm!) from Harris House, Tarbert, where Scottish Opera brought their Opera Highlights tour for a mini preview before the main show in the evening.

They sang four songs for our captivated audience of fifteen residents and 6 staff.
Beginning with a rousing English version of Brindisi from La Traviata, finishing with the hilarious Flanders & Swann ‘Song of the Weather’. In between, we enjoyed the Barber of Seville and the Mikado in bite-sized form.

Afterwards, the cast/singers had a chat with the residents, talking about island life as well as their own influences. Conversation flowed about memories, music, wartime, all kinds of thoughts and emotions were opened up by the music and everyone commented on the quality of the programme, the power of the voices and the entertainment value of something so different.

Thank you so much, Scottish Opera. That was an unforgettable afternoon!


Scottish Opera 1Scottish Opera 7Scottish Opera 2Scottish Opera 5Scottish Opera 3


Opera Highlights…..Highlights!

Opera Highlights from the Scottish Opera is coming to Tarbert tomorrow (20th Feb 2016). You can book your tickets on that link.

Generously, the singers and pianist have kindly agreed to offer highlights of that show to the residents of Harris House, being so close to the ferry and venue.

Naturally, we are grateful and excited to hear that the ferry is running fine and that the performers are on their way! There will be pictures tomorrow evening.

Wee Studio Podcast Recording

We had a massively industrious recording session today at Wee Studio – three podcasts in one session.
One is for the forthcoming memory box relating to moorland. It has a song about the shielings  by Maggie and the words read as a poem by Donald Saunders.
The next podcast is about the Herring Girls and Maggie explains the story of the song and then sings it (magically).
The final podcast is the second of our Gaelic Without Trying series, designed to support carers to learn Gaelic by absorption.
They will appear shortly for downloading.
Because of the detail about how songs were learned and remembered, this will be a useful resource for academics researching bilingualism and oral traditions across the islands as well.