Directed by North Merchiston

As part of 2016’s Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival, and with support from Scottish Care, Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer Duncan Cowles worked at North Merchiston Care Home in Edinburgh to create a collection of short films directed by residents. From this coming Monday 20th March a film a week will be released to the public. We spoke to Duncan to find out more about this fascinating project.


Can you tell us a bit about Directed by North Merchiston?

Directed by North Merchiston is a project that was inspired by one of my previous films Directed by Tweedie where I attempted to get my Granddad to make a film, and I helped him to do it. With this new project I wanted to try and take that idea into a care home and work with the residents on making some short films.

One of the biggest issues for older generations today is loneliness. I wanted to give the residents of North Merchiston Care Home a voice, and ultimately provide them with both an audience and platform so that they could say whatever they wanted and create memories for their families. So instead of me coming in with my camera and making films about the people living there, I wanted the residents to think of themselves as the filmmakers and what story they’d personally like to tell.

The result is a series of five short films. I think each one of the residents has really enjoyed the process. Some were slightly reluctant initially, but once we got started admitted that they were having a laugh, and were glad they’d agreed to take part.

Some of them have spoken about how they’ve appreciated me simply coming in and spending time with them, and taking an interest in their lives. I think this will ultimately be one of the most valuable outcome of the project; the enjoyment that they’ve all had taking part. Hopefully that comes across in the films.

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The five residents that Duncan worked with to produce the short films.

Any favourite moments from the project?

Watching the footage back with the participants, and asking them about what bits they liked the most, and the things they would like to be focused on in their films, was really touching for me. For example; Edith who’s 90 years old, talked about how her Grandmother used to say to her when she was a wee girl, that the best thing in life was that: “It was nice to be needed”, particularly as an older person. Then deciding with Edith that the film could focus on that and be a little tribute to her Grandmother, I could see meant a lot.

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Edith’s film “It’s Always Nice To Be Needed” is released on the 3rd of April

Definitely on a personal level, having the honour to get to know these people as they’re in their later years, has been amazing. As a 26 year old I, like many others, still have a lot to learn about life and all of its ups and downs. These people have experienced it, they’ve been through so much, and listening to them talk about it, how they’ve coped and what they think and feel looking back over it all, is just staggering. It’s an education going into a care home, and it really makes you reflect a lot upon your own life, circumstances and future.

Why are creative outreach projects like Directed by North Merchiston important?

Everyone is creative, whatever our ages, and the chance for care home residents to take part in a project like this can offer all sorts of benefits. I’ve been going in and out of the care home for the past two months and seeing a positive change happen immediately in front of my eyes. Something like this isn’t necessarily a very public facing activity, but is equally as important as it’s making a difference to people directly.

Initially we did a really small screening of the films for friends and family in the care home. The hope is that the films will take on a life of their own, as we share them to a wider audience. It’s really important that older people’s voices are heard by other generations, and often that doesn’t happen.


You can catch the first film May: This is Your Life here.

Find out more about Luminate by visiting their website

 

Food for Life Scotland – Bringing Generations Together

Good food is at the heart of happy, healthy communities, bringing people of all ages together. Soil Association Scotland’s Food for Life Scotland (FFLS) programme works to transform food culture and put good food on the menu, in the curriculum, and in all the places people live their daily lives.


In late 2015, FFLS set up an intergenerational project in Edinburgh which focuses on two settings – Inch View Care Home and Liberton High School. Both venues come under the management of the City of Edinburgh Council and both already have a commitment to good food through the Food for Life Catering Mark award.

When the idea of an intergenerational project was introduced, the school and the care home were enthusiastic. Both were keen to use the journey of their food –‘from soil to plate’ – as a basis for learning, sharing, and celebrating together.

Inch View polytunnel

Building a wheelchair-accessible polytunnel at Inch View has been one of the key projects. Volunteers helped with the construction and pupils from Liberton built its doors as part of their Craft Design & Technology work. Produce will be used in the home’s kitchen as ingredients for residents’ meals and scraps will also go to feed the home’s chickens.

Inch View chickens

As part of a dementia prevention project, Inch View decided to create a recipe book which involved residents reminiscing about childhood memories of food. The school’s art department ran a competition with S2 to design the cover, and pupils are now planning to produce the whole book, including illustrations.

In March 2016, a daffodil lunch was held at Liberton High School. Pupils from the school’s Food for Life Action Group worked with their school cook to look at nutrition for older people and consider what dishes they might like to eat. Pupils designed invitations, menus, prepared the tables and cooked up a fabulous range of dishes for their special guests from Inch View. Three generations sat down to eat together, sharing their experiences and getting to know each other.

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Future events being planned include a strawberry tea and harvest event in autumn, as well as the on-going sharing of produce grown in Inch View’s polytunnel and the school’s raised beds. One pupil from Liberton has been inspired to consider a career in catering and another pupil who has expressed an interest in care work has been offered work experience at Inch View.

The project has been a real team effort, it’s a great example of generations working together and celebrating through food.


To find out more about Food for Life Scotland, please visit www.foodforlifescotland.org or email ffls@soilassociation.org

‘TeaSet’ – highlighting loneliness at the Edinburgh Festival

There are many ways to raise awareness on the effects of loneliness and isolation. Will Searle from Age Scotland’s Communications Team recently attended a play called ‘TeaSet’ in the Edinburgh Festival that aims to highlight social isolation among older people.


One of my favourite things about the Fringe is finding wee shows that have managed to cut past the hype of the huge behemoths everyone’s heard of and grabbed your attention. The team from Teaset did so by getting in touch with us at Age Scotland to see if we were interested in coming along to see their play. Simple and very effective!teaset

The play is a one-woman show performed superbly by Amy Malloy.  It tackles the incredibly difficult issues of loss, violence against older people and the heated debate of dying with dignity.  Using the medium of intergenerational interaction, Amy tells us how she came to meet Mrs A, an older lady, who is living in her daughter’s house.  Amy’s character, we never learn her name, is charged by Mrs A’s daughter to look after her whilst they go on holiday to the Carribean.

The story beautifully intersperses humour with the raw grief of loss that Amy and Mrs A have both experienced.  With the intimate setting of the venue, Pleasance That, you experience the emotion that Amy expresses so viscerally, whether as her own character or when she is voicing Mrs A.  You can feel the pressure as her eyes begin to well up and you really do forget that you’re in a show and not sitting opposite someone who is reliving a harrowing moment.

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As a member of the Age Scotland Communications Team, I’m regularly faced with the job of being one of charity’s press team and answering the press phone.  Journalists will call us for comment on the latest court case or issue that affects older people.  I’m reminded on a far too regular basis of the violence that is unfortunately targeted at older people.  This play tackles the difficult aftermath of how that can affect an older person but also someone of Amy’s age.  It highlights the importance of building safe communities for everyone but also how we deal with the effects.  Violence, when it happens to anyone, is something that needs to be managed in a sympathetic and supportive way to ensure that you can move on from that point and stop it from consuming your whole person.teaset2

I had a coffee with Amy along with the director and producer after the show and chatted to them about their experience of the show.  The show had a very personal element to Amy as her own Grandmother passed away last year.  It was heart-warming that the Teaset team were really concerned about the isolation facing older people and how they could use the show as a catalyst to spur people into action to make a difference.  As such, they will be promoting Silver Line Friends in their programme, a volunteer opportunity with Silver Line Scotland.  By donating just an hour a week you can transform the life of someone who feels they have no one to speak to.  It seems such a simple concept but it really does make a life-changing difference.

I would very much urge you to go and see Teaset, it’s on at 2pm, Pleasance That, 6-23 and 29-31 August.  And once you’ve done that, take the time to contact an older relative or friend.  Be it a parent, a grandparent, aunt, great uncle or an old acquaintance, in doing so, you may just make the difference in their lives.