Seniors

From Community Narrations

Name of Community

CatStrand Arts Centre – Creative Connections. New Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Socio-Economic Situation

The socio economics of this group is generally that they are all have stable and comfortable incomes. Some of them are retired and get a state and possibly even work or private pensions. Some are still working. All of the members are over 50 years old with the oldest member who is 72. 4 are female and 3 male and they are white, and nationality is British. The members of the group are ‘community champions’ and are all connected to other older members of the community through running local groups, radio, village committees, etc.

They have come together through a project called Connecting in Communities that is run by the local arts centre in New Galloway for older people to get together to combat social isolation and increase well-being. They are all older people and lack opportunities because of the area they live in.


Aim/s

This project is called Creative Connections’ and is specifically aimed at older people who lack digital skills. The project was initiated because of the impact of lockdown on the community and the CatStrand in reaching out and staying in touch with its local audience. During this difficult time the CatStrand streamed arts events throughout lockdown and although this was a good way to show films, exhibitions, etc. it was hard to reach an audience because many of their local audience were not accessing their content. This was mainly because they didn’t have computers, weren’t used to using computers and some don’t trust the internet.

The project aims to train several ‘community champions’ as Community Reporters and explore ways to use Community Reporting in a creative way. Encouraging other older residents by using a ‘peer to peer’ approach, to embrace the use of digital technology and to discover how it can be used in a creative and interesting way. Thus, helping them to stay connected not only to the arts centre but to each other.

Location

The Cat Strand Arts Centre is based in a semi-remote rural area in Southwest Scotland, and it is an essential resource where local people can get together to participate in well-being activities.

Dumfries and Galloway is a large region comprising of 3 counties in the Lowlands of south west Scotland. The main industry is farming, tourism and renewable energy (wind farms). It has an aging population with almost one in five of the region’s residents -18.7 per cent - is aged 70 or over and it is geographically a large region with small villages spread out over a large space and extremely poor public transport links.

Young people tend to leave to live in cities and towns because of a lack of opportunities and low employment.

Because of the disparate nature of the where the villages are it is important to keep people linked in and connected to each other.

Relations between locals is overall pretty good but because of the lack of public transport it is hard to get older people together regularly and people tend to rely on the kindness of neighbors and friends to ferry them around the area.

The statistics on poverty and Dumfries and Galloway are stark. Around one in five Dumfries and Galloway residents live in poverty. On the tighter definition of income deprivation, 11.5% of the population are considered income deprived. The statistics on child poverty are of particular concern: 6,141 children (26.2%) across our region live in households below 60% median income before housing costs. This proportion has increased by 2.8% since 2015, the fifth highest increase amongst Scottish local authorities. 18% of children in the region are reliant on free school meals.

Overall, the image of Dumfries and Galloway as an affluent area, held by many both within and out with the area is not born out by the reality captured in the statistics above. That gap creates challenges in terms of generating support for action locally and accessing external funding support for such action. https://www.dumgal.gov.uk/communityplanning/media/25574/Dumfries-Galloway-Poverty-and-Inequalities-Strategy-2021-2026/pdf/Dumfries-and-Galloway-Poverty-and-Inequalities-Strategy-2021-2026-FINAL.pdf?m=637799343653570000

Title of the path

Creative Connections.

Duration

8 sessions 2.5 hours each

Description of learners/participants

All of the members are over 50 years old with the oldest member who is 72. 4 are female and 3 male and they are white, and nationality is British. The members of the group are ‘community champions’ and are all connected to other older members of the community through running local groups, radio, village committees, etc.

They have come together through a project called Connecting in Communities that is run by the local arts centre in New Galloway for older people to get together to combat social isolation and increase well-being. They are all older people and lack opportunities because of the area they live in.

Implementation

This project is called Creative Connections’ and is specifically aimed at older people who lack digital skills. The project was initiated because of the impact of lockdown on the community and the CatStrand in reaching out and staying in touch with its local audience. During this difficult time the CatStrand streamed arts events throughout lockdown and although this was a good way to show films, exhibitions, etc. it was hard to reach an audience because many of their local audience were not accessing their content. This was mainly because they didn’t have computers, weren’t used to using computers and some don’t trust the internet.

The project aims to train several ‘community champions’ as Community Reporters and explore ways to use Community Reporting in a creative way. Encouraging other older residents by using a ‘peer to peer’ approach, to embrace the use of digital technology and to discover how it can be used in a creative and interesting way. Thus, helping them to stay connected not only to the arts centre but to each other.

PVM are involved because the Community Reporting methodology that they have developed, and deliver is the perfect fit for this project. Encouraging the participants to use Community Reporting to engage with their peers will help to get others involved in digital upskilling. The training took place in a newly renovated blacksmiths in a small village called Balmaclennan. It was a great space with easy access and plenty of room to practice social distancing. Light and airy and good facilities. The place had a positive influence on the learning

Content

The participants learned about digital tools and improved their digital skills. They also used critical thinking to discuss their community and the issues that it faces, which is mainly about isolation and how the impact of the lockdown has intensified isolation in their community.

Specifically, they learned the following –

The Community Reporting methodology which includes • Interviewing people • Using a tablet or mobile phone • Using a laptop • Recognizing and undertaking responsible and safe practice • Critiquing work – reviewing interviews and highlighting key points and common factors. Audio recording and editing. Video recording and editing. Reflection of the learning. Creating an action plan.

The participants were trained as Community Reporters and explored ways to use Community Reporting in a creative way and developed technical and creative skills as well as embracing the ethos of Community Reporting and have been using the methodology in their work. The technical skills they developed were – • Using a tablet to record a video and audio • Using a microphone • Editing audio and video using relevant apps

The personal skills they developed were – • Interviewing a peer using CR methodology • Listening and watching content and identifying key points of interest using critical thinking • Collectively creating a safe practice guide • Using safe practices guide in their work • Creating an action plan to use the CR methodology in their own work.

The practical outcomes are that they will use the skills they learned in their work in the community. Some of the participants have clear plans of how to go forward. Julia runs the local village hall and is making a film about the area. Collecting stories to show in the village hall as part of a heritage celebration. Fiona works as a Volunteer Development officer in the area and as a counsellor for a local drug and alcohol addiction support charity. She will use the CR methodology in her work. Specifically, to help with funding bids but also to encourage ‘peer to peer’ work and people to share stories of lived experience. Anthony will use what he has learned to collect individuals’ stories about ‘life during lockdown’ to put on the local radio station.

The general community narrative is one of ‘isolation’. Being a semi-remote community with an extremely poor public transport network there is always a feeling of isolation. This is compounded by being older and because of the extra issues that old age may bring. Together with Covid and lockdown this isolation has intensified, and some community members are feeling more isolated.

The narrative of isolation is discussed during the sessions and the community champions (the participants) are all keen to combat this with the work they do. They how they aim to combat isolation within their work in their action plans.

Session Plan

The sessions started with an introduction session to get to know each other and so people could find out about the project. Used Digital skills audit to get people to think about how and why they use digital tools. This led to an idea session - ideas or queries about the community champions own projects/venues - any digital elements and need support to do so. And this then led to doing the Needs assessment. I used the sheet as the group were all literate and able to fill out the form. We then discussed and noted any limitations they think they have and what they want to learn.

Session 1 - Intro to CR methodology and practise • Intro to CR methodology - look at examples • Practiced using Snapshot stories • Looked at Responsible storytelling • Practiced Capturing dialogue interviews - • Peer review • Identifying technical needs and digital support • Exploring Responsible Storytelling – looking at safe practice – group agreement and consent forms

The participants go away and collect stories of lived experience ready for the next session.

Session 2 - CR methodology and practice Collectively watch the stories together and reflect on them. Looking at the content and the quality of the recording. • Reflection of practice • Recording audio and video skills recap • Using the CR website • Upload stories to the CR website • Peer review - Watching sharing and sense making • What’s next? Next steps and support needs/plan • Reminder of Responsible and Safe practice – group agreement, Consent forms, etc.

Session 3 Key Findings Creativity and mobilisation • Peer review - Watching sharing and sense making • Key Findings • Upload to website • Using as a creative inspiration – what medium • Action plan for creative production that includes responsible and safe practice.

Session 4 Creative Production • Creating and making • Using ‘Audacity’ to edit sound • Using ‘WeVideo’ to edit video • Using stories of Lived Experience to make creative films, poems, soundscapes.

Session 5 Story mobilization and Action plans - Story mobilization – getting the stories out • What platform? • Where? • When? • How? Action plans The participants create an action plan of how they will use the CR methodology in their work and in the local area that includes responsible and safe practice.