The idea for the Gaelic language lesson podcasts came from a local care home, initially, where carers without Gaelic were struggling to understand people with dementia, in particular, who had reverted to using Gaelic through the progress of the dementia.
Carers tend to be busy people and island life often dictates that people have several part time posts, leaving little time for language lessons yet it remains vitally important to understand people’s needs and language preference in care settings. The Dementia Friendly Communities Project team at An Lanntair, funded by Life Changes Trust offers creative engagement and creative problem solving to people living with dementia across the Western Isles.
I remembered hearing Italian lessons, motivational speeches and poetry in toilets in England and across Europe and I thought that it might be a fun idea to record language lessons on care and conversation themes with Maggie Smith to offer to carers to listen to in the car, on headphones and to be played in care centre toilets, to offer ‘Gaelic without trying’. So far, Maggie Smith and myself have recorded two of these podcasts and this will continue to grow.
The idea progressed to Gaelic Culture podcasts, which was based around our developing Box Scheme project, to offer boxes of culturally specific memory tools, which will be distributed through the Mobile Library system across the islands. The oral tradition of the island culture is heavily steeped in storytelling, songs and poetry learned by memory, rather than written down and it was important for us as a project to share it orally, somehow, to a wide audience.
Maggie Smith and Donald Saunders have recorded a series of Gaelic Culture podcasts at Wee Studio, relating to island life and culture, in Gaelic and English, to be downloaded and shared by people across the islands. These can reach people in their homes, in groups, care centres and day centres and offer Gaelic language and cultural celebration, which has been highlighted as being particularly important and meaningful to people living with dementia. “Oh the Gaelic singing was wonderful, it meant so much to me, I had tears in my eyes. My culture, my language…” (from a lady attending Cobhair Bharraigh centre in Barra, on hearing Maggie Smith sing). “Oh I love the Gaelic, it’s who I am. It wasn’t fashionable when I first went to school but I’m so glad it is now.” (from a lady living at Blar Buidhe Care Centre in Stornoway during a project Gaelic chat and singing session with wool spinning).
The Dementia Friendly Communities Project is also working on a collaborative project with the NHS and Alzheimer Scotland to reach people in hospital with podcasts, Playlist for Life, personal digital libraries, project popups and dementia cafe sessions.
Forthcoming podcasts will include personal stories from people living on the islands, project news (in particular the Woven Communities project work with Dawn Susan, the Museum and Dr Stephanie Bunn) and the development into some local radio work.
Life Changes Trust www.lifechangestrust.org.uk
Project Blog https://dfclanntair.wordpress.com
An Lanntair www.lanntair.com