Creative Ageing: The Luminate Festival is back for 2019

Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation, delivers a diverse programme of creative events and activities throughout the year. Their projects bring together older people and those from across the generations to explore our creativity as we age and share stories and ideas about what growing older means to all of us.

The biennial Luminate Festival is back for 2019, running from 1–31 May. Ahead of the festival, we spoke with Luminate Director Anne Gallacher

Anne Gallacher, Director of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation © Eoin Carey

Anne Gallacher, Director of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation © Eoin Carey

Why do we need a creative ageing festival?

Older people are very active in Scotland’s vibrant cultural life, and there are some wonderful arts projects and groups all over the country.  The Festival was set up to showcase this inspiring creative work – you can attend performances and exhibitions of work by older people, or take part in a workshop where you can try your hand at something new.  We also have a growing strand of dementia friendly events.  The Festival celebrates older people’s creativity in its many forms across the country, and we hope it will inspire more older people to take part in arts activities not only during May but also at other times of year.

What can we expect to see in 2019’s Festival?

Every year the programme is really diverse.  This year you can try clog dancing in Edinburgh; visit an exhibition by older artists in Easterhouse; join our massed community singing event in Aberdeen; take part in dementia friendly art workshop in Ullapool; or attend a social dance event for older LGBTI people in Glasgow or Inverness.  There’s also a film tour featuring some great films with ageing themes.  This is just a flavour of what’s on offer, and we hope there’s something for everyone!

Page 11 - Craft Cafe Govan

A Craft Café workshop in Govan

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Festival? 

The Festival month is a real privilege for me.  I am lucky enough to travel around Scotland attending lots of Festival events, and meeting the people who organise them as well as those who attend as audiences or participants.  I am really looking forward to my travels and to the activities I will have the chance to take part in. Particular achievements in past years have been learning to crochet and learning to do a quickstep, neither of which I could do till I started in this job!  I don’t know yet what my new skills from the 2019 Festival will be, but I’m looking forward to finding out!

What creative thing do you love to do?

I have sung in choirs since I was in my teens, and it’s still something I love doing.  There’s something very uplifting about singing in a group of people, and I have made many good friends along the way. For the last five years I have sung in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus, and we have a busy concert programme across the year.


You can browse the full festival line up on Luminate’s website

The Art of Intelligent Ageing: Portraits of the Lothian Birth Cohort

In June 1932 and 1947, almost all 11-year-olds across Scotland undertook a test of their thinking skills, giving us a comprehensive account of the intelligence of Scotland’s children born in 1921 and 1936. Decades later, researchers at the University of Aberdeen and Edinburgh rediscovered these tests and spotted a rare chance to study the factors that influence lifetime cognitive ageing. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, led by Professor Ian Deary, contacted those who had sat the tests and still lived in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and in doing so formed the Lothian Birth Cohorts (LBCs), which are now among the most important studies of ageing anywhere in the world. Members of the LBCs have been followed up since 1999; they have been assessed on many cognitive tests, they have taken part in brain scans, they have undergone many blood-based tests including genetic tests, and have carried out questionnaires on their social and family lives.

A Lothian Birth Cohort reunion in 2017

A Lothian Birth Cohort reunion in 2017

The Art of Intelligent Ageing: Portraits of the Lothian Birth Cohorts by Fionna Carlisle is a unique art exhibition set to honour this remarkable group of people who have contributed so much to health research.JohnScott Exhibit logo

Fionna Carlisle is a renowned portrait artist and a former student of the Edinburgh College of Art. She has painted many of Scotland’s famous faces, including Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party and the late MP Robin Cook. Fionna, who hails from Caithness, is an internationally recognised artist and splits her time between Crete and Edinburgh. She spent over four years painstakingly detailing some of the LBCs’ participants and researchers using her signature style of colourful, bold brushstrokes.

Alongside the paintings are scientific treasures from the LBCs, including a 3D-printed brain and laser-etched crystal block of the brain of one LBC member, John Scott. A special portrait of Nobel-prize winning physicist Peter Higgs – who also took part in an Edinburgh study of ageing – will also be on display. He took part in a cognitive ageing study that was a forerunner of the LBCs.

Fionna Carlisle said, “The camera is instant whereas the artist listens and studies the sitters to gradually build a human picture. With these paintings I wanted to filter age and show the youth and spirit of the older sitters as people who have real bodies and limbs, spirit and life.”

Professor Ian Deary said, “The Lothian Birth Cohorts have encouraged my scientific team to scour their minds, bodies, and histories to build rich and valuable accounts of their negotiating the whips and scorns of time.”

The exhibition is curated by Duncan Thomson, former Director at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and is free to visit. It will run on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 27 October to 24 November at the Fire Station, Edinburgh College of Art.

Autumn Voices: exploring creativity in later life

Age Scotland are grateful to be receiving proceeds from the sales of a new book, Autumn Voices. The book has been published as part of a project exploring how ageing relates to writing and other forms of creativity. We hear from the book’s editor; author, dramatist and lecturer Robin Lloyd-Jones.


Three years ago, for the first time in our history, there were more people over the age of 60 in Scotland than under 18. This trend is increasing. The percentage of elderly people in the population of Scotland becomes greater each year. robinOur economy will not survive unless we stop regarding our elderly citizens as a burden and start seeing them as potentially productive and useful people whose maturity, greater life experience and insights are valuable assets. A society that is better for older people is better for people of all ages. To address the problems and the opportunities of the elderly is to benefit the welfare of our society as a whole.

This was my motivation for undertaking the Autumn Voices Project (funded by Creative Scotland). When I began the project, in 2015, I was 80, and 83 when it ended.  During this time I interviewed twenty Scottish writers ranging in age from 70 to 92 about their later lives and their continuing creativity. The majority of these men and women had made for themselves a benign circle. That is to say their creativity contributed to their health and wellbeing, and their health and wellbeing, particularly their mental health, was an important factor in maintaining their creativity.

It has certainly been my own experience that to forget self in a worthwhile project is like a tonic. Being completely immersed in what you are doing, having the mind fully engaged, having a purpose in life, waking up with something to look forward to, and knowing that you are still doing something useful to, and valued by, society – these things contribute massively to a happy, healthy and fulfilled old age.

These twenty autumn voices represent a total of over 150 years of varied, fascinating and colourful life experience since passing the age of 70. They are certainly proof of the saying: ‘You don’t grow old, you become old when you stop growing.’ I learned a great deal from them – not only about creativity in later life, but also about successful ageing.

Many of those to whom I spoke thought they had become more accepting and more tolerant not only of self, but of others. This, they reported, had opened the way to being able to forgive. Instead of huge amounts of mental energy being tied up in feelings of hatred, annoyance, suspicion and other negative feelings, it became available to channel in creative directions.  They spoke, too, about having a new relationship with time and about a heightened appreciation of everything around them. As hunger sharpens the appetite, so age had intensified their awareness of the beauty and wonder of the world, of love and of blessings.

One thing they definitely did not accept was the negative stereotype of the elderly – the self-fulfilling prophecy of old folk as people whose useful life is over and who no longer have the physical or mental capacity to be productive or creative. We live in a culture that is still learning how to age. Through their writing and their example, the remarkable men and women I was privileged to meet are at the frontier of this learning process.

Autumn Voices (Edited by Robin Lloyd-Jones, PlaySpace Publications, June 2018) can be ordered through the project website: www.autumnvoices.co.uk

Quality Matters – Our 2016 National Conference

On Wednesday 16th March invited guests and representatives from over 300 Age Scotland member groups came together for our 2016 National Conference.

Attendees travelled from across Scotland to take part in the conference held at Perth Concert Hall. It was a fantastic day with much discussion about what we mean by quality of life in later life. Read on for a round up of the day. 


 

Morning Session: Care Homes, Creativity and Urban Planning

Our conference chair, award-winning journalist Pennie Taylor, kicked off the day by posing two questions to the room: When is life good? When is it not so good?MMB_1377

Answers ranged from thought-provoking to funny to poignant and it was clear that quality of life means different things to different people.

Here’s just some examples of the hundreds of responses we received:

goodnotsogood

We were then joined by our guest speakers. First up we had Fiona Cook, Facilitator at my Home Life Scotland discussing quality of life in care homes. Fiona introduced My Home Life Scotland and its’ work to improve quality of life in care homes for those who live in, work in and visit care homes.

We were then joined by Andrew Crummy – Community Artist and Designer of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Andrew argued that regardless of age, everyone is creative and has something to say, and went on to describe how art can bring communities together and improve quality of life for everyone.

MMB_1396

(L-R) Professor Greg Lloyd, Fiona Cook and Andrew Crummy take questions from the audience

Lastly Greg Lloyd – Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning joined us from Ulster University. Professor Lloyd provided a fascinating overview of how urban planning and our environment can directly impact our quality of life. He went on to consider how we may be able to play a more active role in planning in the future to ensure a better quality of life in later life.

Our speakers got the room thinking and we had many attendees posing further questions and ideas to the speakers and wider floor. You can watch footage from the live stream of the guest speakers and subsequent discussion here.

Afternoon Session: Workshops, Award Winners and Eddi Reader

MMB_1768

An attendee laughs taking part in the “Looking after you” workshop

After some lunch and further opportunity to visit our information stalls, many attendees headed into one of our interactive workshops. We had five in total on a range of topics
related to quality of life, including Men’s’ learning and well being, spirituality and looking after you.

 

 

Attendees then came back together to commence the Age Scotland awards. The awards celebrate individuals and groups that are doing great work for older people in their local community. It was certainly a tough year for the judges, with many quality entries. As our chief executive Brian Sloan said, we would love to have given everyone an award, but there can only be one winner!

MMB_1880

Eddi Reader presents Lynn Benge with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Our winners are listed below. Click on the links to watch a 2-3 minute video about the great work they did that earned them the award.

MMB_1978

Award-winning singer and songwriter Eddi Reader joined us to present the awards and rounded off the conference with a fantastic performance that had the whole concert hall singing along.

It was a great day full of discussion and debate about what we can do collectively to improve quality of life for those in later life.

What do you think has the biggest impact on quality of life? What could be done to improve quality of life in Scotland? Tell us in the comments below!

All images featured in this post by Mihaela Bodlovic

To Absent Friends, a people’s festival of storytelling and remembrance

Guest blogger Mark Hazelwood, CEO of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, introduces a new festival.


I’ve some great memories of my friend Helen, who I knew for 30 years and who died earlier this year.  I remember her giggle, her passion for improving the probation service and the time we did an overnight bus trip from Mysore to Bangalore.

To Absent Friends

All of us, except the very young, have memories of people who have died and who remain important to us.  For many people there comes a time when the relationships we have with those who have died outnumber those we have with the living.

People often have their own private ways of remembering people who have died, but in general in Scottish culture, public acknowledgement of the importance of the relationships we have with the dead is very limited.  The exception is Remembrance Day, but of course most people don’t die as a result of military service.

In Mexico every year in November they mark El Dia Los Muertos – Mexican day of the dead.  These two days are dedicated to remembering family and friends who have died.  Graves are tidied and decorated, special meals are prepared, and people remember, respect and celebrate those who have died.

Historically Scotland used to have equivalent traditions.  In pre-Christian times we had Samhain, a November festival during which places were laid at the meal table, to remember and honour dead ancestors.  There are elements of Samhain in the subsequent Christian festivals of All Souls and All Saints, as well as in Halloween.  But with the decline of organized religion and the explosion of hyper-commercialised trick or treating something important and valuable has surely been lost.

Our current culture of silence contributes to the isolation which many people who are recently bereaved say they experience. It is part of a wider silence about death, which can be a barrier to planning and preparing for the inevitable and a barrier to supporting each other.

So if are old ways of doing things are in decline, but there is still a deep human need to remember the dead, what is to be done?

A new festival will take place in Scotland this year from 1st -7th  November – a people’s festival of storytelling and remembrance, called To Absent Friends.  The festival will be an opportunity for people to remember dead loved ones and tell stories about people who’ve died.  It will provide an excuse to build upon the emergent creativity which can already be witnessed in phenomena such as sponsored events in memory of dead loved ones, Facebook and twitter tributes when someone dies, and the growth in personalised and individualised funerals.

To Absent Friends is unprescriptive and completely open to individual interpretation.   It is not an awareness week. It is not a fundraiser.  It is not corporately owned.  It will happen among friends, families and communities – people can mark the occasion – or not – in whatever way works for them.  Participation might be private and individual, for example lighting a candle at home.  It may be private but collective, for example attending a themed concert and thinking private memories.  It may be individual and public, for example posting on an online wall of remembrance or it might be public and collective, for example cooking together with friends and family what was granny’s favourite recipe.

Peacock Tree

The signs are that the festival has struck a chord and we are aware of numerous and varied events being enthusiastically planned.  For example, on the Isle of Lewis, over 60s groups are getting together to do artwork, sing songs, eat traditional food and tell stories of people in the community who have died over the years.  Residents, family and staff at the Peacock Nursing home in Livingston are creating a Remembrance Tree. Wigtown cake

Glasgow University is holding a “remembrance café” for their student nurses. A 20 foot Memorial Wall will be fixed on the famous town railings of the broadest town square in Scotland in Wigtown and there will be free tea and cake afterwards.

As well as grass roots activities such as these the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care has teamed up with arts organisations to deliver some bigger events which will help to raise the national profile of the festival.  The Royal Scottish National Orchestra are playing a concert in Glasgow. In Edinburgh there will be a lunchtime organ recital in the Usher Hall.

Usher Hall

Together with the Luminate Festival To Absent Friends brings an exhibition by photographer Colin Gray.  And story teller Margot Henderson will be telling tales of Absent Friends as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Heaven and Hull from "The Parents" by Colin Gray www.colingray.net

Heaven and Hull from “The Parents” by Colin Gray http://www.colingray.net

It is not too late to be in right at the start of something!  Please have a look round the To Absent Friends website.    Have a look at the events, at the ideas and suggestions.  See if anything strikes a chord.  Tell us your own ideas.  www.toabsentfriends.org.uk