North Angus shares borders with Aberdeenshire to the north and Perthshire to the west, southwards it faces Dundee, with many accessing services there such as Ninewells Hospital. The area has a mix of rural farming and coastal communities. Rural Wisdom worked in the settlements of Brechin, Edzell and the surrounding areas during stage one of the project from 2017 to 2019. The area has a population of 11,396 (2016 figures), approximately 22% of whom are pensionable age.
How it all began
During our initial conversations with over 400 people and groups across the community, we used a creative approach to engage with people called “The Potting Shed”. This encouraged local people to imagine their community as a garden and asked specific questions in the form of the gardening metaphor; blooming – what is working well, nurturing – what exists but needs support, sown – what do we need to develop, challenges – what do we need to watch out for. This method proved popular with many enthusiastic about this creative approach and eager to share their thoughts.
It was clear from our many conversations with those in the area that older people wanted to be part of the discussions about the future of the area and to be involved in the developments so they could make a direct contribution. Local people expressed frustration at the lack of communication about events and activities. Many felt that they only found out about them after the fact when they appeared in the paper, so we wanted to create a more effective communications network for information to be shared in a variety of ways. We worked to develop good relationships with groups who were already active in the area by attending community councils and locality integration meetings and so we could fully understand the challenges and opportunities.
Local groups were encouraged to implement a more inclusive approach through the use of taster sessions and sessions specifically designed for beginners, to get more people along and involved. Groups were also given support to get people of all age involved to create an intergenerational aspect to the activities taking place within the community there. These areas are so small it was felt that it was important to develop a culture of collaboration in all areas across all age groups.
Keeping active and connected
More community activities were created specifically for older people, both those who needed a level of care and support and those who were managing at home, such as the singing group, and the tea dances we hosted in partnership with Edzell Village Improvement Society. We also worked to get older people involved in more physical activities like swimming and walking in the local area to help improve physical and mental health. Activities were also created for older people in the evening but not too late at night to ensure they were always accessible as safely and easily as possible. Using local resources we hosted a pop-up shop and Community Conversation session.
What we achieved
By improving access to activities and events delivered at suitable times and in accessible formats, more people from the community came together more regularly to enjoy the benefits of improved social connections. The activities started through Rural Wisdom, like the singing group, have continued to keep going, now being organised by members and local community volunteers. Increasing awareness of the activities and opportunities available meant that attendance was improved as more local people knew what the area had to offer. By creating connections between generations within the area, it felt that investment was being made in the future and everyone within the community had equal opportunity to participate and enjoy the benefits of living there.
We continued the theme of social connections and information through our follow-up project Community Connections. The project worked alongside local organisations who we developed relationships with through Rural Wisdom – like Angus Council Communities Team and Kirrie Connections – to enhance and compliment what they were already doing, supporting them to reach more people and become more sustainable through covid-19 and beyond. You can read more about Community Connections by visiting https://otbds.org/projects/community-connections/