good life, good death, good grief

Truacanta

The Truacanta Project is supporting local communities across Scotland who are interested in taking community action to improve people’s experiences of death, dying, loss and care. On this blog, you'll hear from time to time from people associated with the project who wish to share their experiences.

Summertime in North Berwick

Deborah from Truacanta Group North Berwick Compassionate Community tells us about their busy 2021

2021 has been a very busy year for the North Berwick Compassionate Community project. The pandemic had disrupted many of our plans last year, but we decided as a small core group that we would adapt and experiment with what could work during this time of zoom and isolation. If you remember our project had two key threads: the Big Conversation Thread and the Support Thread.

The Big Conversation Thread

At the end of last year we decided to experiment with Armchair Chats on zoom with the intention of creating a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere whereby people could chat from their armchairs during the winter evenings.

We arranged for four chats once a month. In February we provided the community with an update on the project and entertained people with poetry and music. The use of poetry and prose and music was really effective in creating an atmosphere that supported the deep chats about difficult issues by providing some light relief. Although, often the readings and poetry also focused on the topics of death and dying and grief, but it was uplifting. Once we had discovered this format we used it for every Armchair Chat. We were keen to involve as many people as possible and we learned how to use subtitles on zoom. The second armchair chat was on legal issues involved in death and dying and a local author Isla Aitken read from her book about breast cancer ‘ Making Pearls from Grit.’ It is a funny, self-deprecating and thoughtful and honest account of coping with breast cancer. A Soul Midwife Jude Meryl who is the coordinator of Soul Midwives in Scotland led our third Armchair Chat. She outlined the philosophy and how they work with people who are dying. We also had readings from a local Death Doula Lucy Ackroyd, who has written a very helpful book called ‘Leaves of Love.’ The fourth Armchair Chat invited Kathryn Mannix to explore with us her book ‘With the End in Mind.’ The armchair chats had about 40 people signed up for each event and usually about 25-30 people turned up on the night.

The armchair Chats led us into the Fringe by the Sea events. We had always planned to have a large event supported by the infrastructure of Fringe by the Sea in terms of advertising, managing the tickets and providing the venue and stewards and sound technicians. This was cancelled in 2020 but we were able to go ahead in August 2021. We kicked off the festival with a book club that discussed Kathryn Mannix’s book ‘With the End in Mind.’ Kathryn Mannix and Richard Holloway followed this in conversation in the Big Top, accompanied by beautiful singing from Ruth Stapleton. Kathryn and Richard covered a vast range of subjects and the audience was spellbound. We continued with our inclusion policy and provided interpreters for the Deaf Community. 130 people attended the Big Top event. We were thrilled by the attendance. Alongside these events we held an emotional and wellbeing master class led by Alan Mclean for young people and youth workers and teachers on ‘Mastery over Mystery.’ About 20 people attended this event.

A local art group pARTicipate supported us by making an art display in the old telephone exchange phone box where people could add the names of loved ones who had died. 70 names were added.

Using the format of the festival enabled us to reach many more people that we would normally reach. Good outcomes were the involvement of the local Nursing Home in the book club and the number of local organisations who attended the Kathryn Mannix in conversation with Richard Holloway event.

Support Thread

This was the part of the project that we felt was going to be the most challenging. But by chance St Columba’s Hospice were developing a Compassionate neighbor project and we negotiated to be one of the pilot areas. Currently six local people have been trained by the hospice and they have also undertaken the EASE training. Two of the core group became EASE training facilitators ad ran the local course for North Berwick. We were concerned about the long-term sustainability of the support thread, so we negotiated with a local social isolation project Community Connections to integrate the Compassionate Neighbours’ objectives into their proposal for funding to the lottery. If this is successful we will have worker hours to support the Compassionate Neighbours and manage all referrals and training for three years. The St Columba’s Hospice will provide transition support for the new worker.

So after a hard summer of work we have completed our objectives set out in our Truacanta proposal. We have almost certainly developed a sustainable model for the future. The pandemic has probably made it a less whole community approach, but we have had a wide reach and involvement from local people and organisations. Not bad work for three volunteers!

If you live in the North Berwick area and would like to know more or get involved, please email Deborah

Highland Truacanta – Moving forward in 2021

Anne McDonald, from Highland Senior Citizens Network, shares where Highland Truacanta are at following their activities being put on pause last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions.

In March last year we regretfully decided to postpone our Highland Truacanta activities. The partner organisations – Creativity in Care , Highland Hospice and Highland Senior Citizens Network – felt that being in the communities was key to our aim of supporting communities to have conversations about end of life. We were challenged to come up with a response that didn’t result in the exclusion of people who are not engaging digitally.

Over the last year we have all been very agile in our service delivery. Highland Hospice provided Last Aid training online to at least 120 people. Creativity in Care posted out creative kits and delivered virtual and telephone creative classes, working in partnership with organisations such as HSCN, Connecting Carers and Highland Hospice. HSCN organised weekly virtual tea breaks, emailed and posted monthly news-sheets, hosted a weekly coffee morning on local radio, ran the HIghland Hello social media campaign and sent 500+ 'Silver Star' postcards for our 25th Birthday.

This experience means despite ongoing Covid restrictions, we can now see ways of realizing some of our original aspirations for Highland Truacanta. It was really lovely to catch up with each other and Caroline in February, and start to look at what is possible for the coming year. We were inspired by the activities of other Truacanta projects, in particular the Selfie Wings, Reminiscence Trail and Armchair chats.

Highland Truacanta 2 is very much in the planning stage, but will start with virtual engagement, being very clear that we are aware of the limitations for those who are not engaging digitally, and planning to mirror the virtual sessions with face-to-face sessions towards the end of the year. Local contacts, word of mouth, local press and radio will be critical to reaching out to communities.

Our main focus will celebrating and remembering people who have died, as the absence of ways to do this has been extremely hard for people. Each community will have its own solutions, but where possible we will be facilitating the involvement of care homes and intergenerational contacts. Stories, food, and creative activities will be key; feathers, leaves and petals were all mentioned! Alongside this we will be linking people into the Last Aid Training.

It’s great to have something uplifting and exciting to be working together on after all the challenges of the last year.

If you live in the Highlands and would like to find out more or get involved, drop Highland Truacanta an email!

North Berwick Compassionate Community Launch with Series of Events

In early 2020, the North Berwick Compassionate Community Project Group, a sub-group of North Berwick Coastal Health and Well-being Association, was delighted to be successful in being selected as one of five Truacanta projects across Scotland. The project group had been very encouraged with the community support for our project proposal submission and to have won this status for the North Berwick community, so… we were very disappointed to put our work on hold, in March 2020, due to lockdown. However, despite this set-back, we have rallied and have been busy behind the scenes, preparing to launch the project with a number of events and initiatives set up for 2021, listed below:

Support Thread For Our Compassionate Community Project

We have been in discussions with St Columbas’ Hospice about a partnership with the North Berwick Community. The hospice is setting up a Compassionate Neighbours Project and we are pleased to say that we have a potential agreement to be a pilot community. In March 2021 the plan is that volunteers in North Berwick will be offered approximately six hours training, to become a ‘compassionate neighbour.’ This will be a fantastic development for North Berwick and the Compassionate Community group recognises that support and guidance from the hospice will be invaluable.

photo of an art installation in North Berwick which is an image of houses with decorations in the windows, including a rainbow

Members of Compassionate Community Project plan to undertake the EASE training (End of Life Skills for Everyone) that has been developed by Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and we will then be able to offer local training next year.

‘Big Conversation’ Thread of our Compassionate Community

We had to put on hold our plans for author events at the 2020 Fringe by the Sea but we are pleased that our plans will be integrated into the 2021 Fringe by the Sea programme. As a lead up to a creative and new Fringe by the Sea, to be held in the Lodge Grounds, in August 2021, we are going to host online ‘Armchair Chats’. The online chats will be on a series of relevant topics, linked to the Compassionate Community initiative, from February to June 2021. The events will be available to be booked via Eventbrite and will be shown on Zoom.

Tuesday February 23rd at 7pm

Music and poetry alongside presentations from:

St Columbas Hospice on the Compassionate Neighbours Project

An update on the Truacanta Project

(book on on Eventbrite HERE)

Tuesday March 30th at 7pm

A presentation from Dorothy Kellas, a local solicitor, on the legal aspects of dying and death.

Tuesday April 27th at 7pm (face to face if possible then)

Soul Midwives Scotland - Jude Meryl on their ‘Tender Loving Care’ Programme for workers and volunteers who support people who are dying.

Tuesday May 25th at 7pm (face to face if possible then)

Kathryn Mannix, a palliative care doctor, with a passion for public health and the author of the excellent book, ‘With the End in Mind,’ (date provisional)

Tuesday June 29th at 7pm (face to face if possible then)

CRUSE bereavement Scotland on managing grief.


We have also supported pARTicipate, a community arts venture, in their devising of an arts installation that reflects the themes and concerns of Compassionate Communities, in the three telephone kiosks at the heart of the town.

More updates to come as we progress our plans, in the meantime if you live in the North Berwick area and would like to get involved please get in touch:

Lorna Sinclair: lorna@northberwickhealthandwellbeing.co.uk

Deborah Ritchie: deborah.ritchie@me.com

Fiona Watt: fiona.watt15@gmail.com

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Bereavement Charter for Scotland
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