Taigh Chearsabhagh (suggested Gaelic translation – ‘House by the Bay of the Trees’) is an award-winning museum and arts centre that sits near the water’s edge in Lochmaddy on North Uist. Lochmaddy is located in the remote Outer Hebrides – the chain of islands forming the Western Isles. This is a crofting community where the sea and the land are critical to the local economy. The Arts Centre (open since 1993) has a strong emphasis on community involvement and excellence in the arts and is a vital resource for the people of North Uist. It has two galleries, museum, arts workshop, shop and café. It was home for the ‘Connecting Generations’ project which built on previous intergenerational work that highlighted the community’s relationship with the sea. The project was supported by a Primetime worker and the Cultural Access Officer.
Aims of the ‘Connecting Generations’ project
- to strengthen interaction and links between the age groups;
- to form partnerships so the age groups could meet more easily, with young people gaining respect for older people and acquiring confidence to work with them
- to develop mutual support and trust
- to enable older people to participate in artistic activities through taking young people ‘under their wing’
83 young people aged between 5 and 13 were recruited through schools. 66 adults (aged between 50 and 77) were engaged through community consultations giving them ownership of the activities. Social interaction was built in and work took place in community settings or on trips with meals out shared together. This aspect was recognised as contributing to the Curriculum for Excellence as it gave the young people a sense of responsibility and maturity.
Range of activities
Workshops with visiting artists; storytelling; bookmaking; printmaking; creative writing; drop-in days with a variety of activities e.g. Wii Fit sessions, experimental photography. The project culminated in an auction of hand-knitted fish in December 2008. Learning about intergenerational approaches will be carried forward into future activities. More open days are planned with local organisations and schools, and the results of earlier project work will be showcased to demonstrate how new relationships can be built between schools and communities.
A gently encouraging approach was best to secure the active participation of some of the older people who were not so confident. The Centre has gained a better understanding of how to work across the generations in future projects and open up access to a generation that might not have taken part in artistic activities for many years, if at all. The older participants gained a different view of the arts and learned to relax and just enjoy their growing confidence working alongside the school pupils. The pupils themselves also enjoyed the responsibility of ensuring their joint projects with the older community members were successful.
The positive social interaction generated by the project has had a knock-on effect. People just saying hello helps to reduce isolation, improve relationships and break down barriers. One group who baked cakes and brought refreshments for shared meal breaks with the pupils were described as ‘really amazing’.
- managing relationships and support groups who might know each other but have not participated before in collective activities
- ensuring no-one is left out and that communication is ongoing
- facilitating collaborative work to enable groups gradually to take responsibility for themselves.
Aspects of success
There is such fun and enjoyment for all ages working together in creative pursuits. The confidence this brings helps to bring the community together. Points to note -
- greater likelihood of success when workshops are outside of school
- need to manage pupil numbers and the mix in workshops
- open days or taster sessions to give people an idea of what is involved
- communicate the details of activities and visits clearly
- be prepared to work hard to get people on board at the beginning
- be an active participant yourself and not a bystander.