Skye arts charity launches fundraiser to bring music to isolated residents

Concerts held across Skye, such as in An Acarsaid care home in Broadford, brought a smile to many people’s faces.

A music outreach project is making a positive difference to the wellbeing of some of Skye’s most isolated residents.

When lockdown forced residents of the island’s three care homes into their rooms, SEALL, Skye’s performing arts promotion charity, used money from the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund to develop its outreach program to pilot a two-month project entitled SEALL@Home.

This provided free online music sessions for the residents, carers, and families of Home Farm, Budhmor, and An Arcasaid. The sessions also reached the service users of Kyleakin Connections, the Skye and Lochalsh Association for Disability.

However, in order to extend the project for a further three months, SEALL has set up a JustGiving page to raise funds as Marie Lewis, SEALL’s creative director explained.

She said: “Whilst the pilot was initially a crisis response, we see this as a long-term project which we hope to continue into the future, reaching people in their homes and working with the Skye and Lochalsh Council for Voluntary Services to identify groups and individuals who would benefit from this work.

“The pilot ended at the end of July and while we await funding decisions to continue this work, we really need to keep this project going. We are therefore trying to raise £5,000 to programme more sessions and concerts for the next three months.”

To launch the crowdfunder, SEALL are broadcasting a concert tonight (Wednesday) on Facebook showcasing the musicians who have been involved in the project and presenting a flavour of the work to the public.

The concert, which features a fantastic variety of music, from Gaelic songs to Bach, moving slow airs to lively cèilidh tunes and a few musical surprises along the way, was recorded in Talla Bhreacais after the easing of lockdown restrictions and will be available to view from 7.30 pm tonight (Wednesday) on SEALL’s Facebook page here.

The SEALL@Home project enlisted the talents of Small Halls musicians Innes Watson, Su-a-Lee, and Hamish Napier, as well as local singer Anna Mhartainn, the multi-talented MacKenzie Family, John, and Kate Masson and Ceitidh Douglas of Sheepshank Beag, father and daughter duo Donald and Lucy Livingstone, a piper and fiddler Malin Lewis and box and banjo player Iseabail Strachan.

Marie Lewis said: “We wanted to do something really positive and worthwhile for the most isolated members of our communities as well as support performing artists.

“We could not programme live events so decided to use online music sessions to spread a bit of joy to our older and vulnerable residents during this pandemic.

“We set up concerts via Zoom and asked the participants for playlists. We could not have imagined such a wonderful response from everyone involved. There were even a few joyful tears shed during the sessions.”

Popular local musician, Iseabail Strachan, ran the sessions and also filmed and produced the video.

She said: “I had previously worked with the care homes and Kyleakin Connections in a previous role and I was delighted to carry on working with many of the people who I have got to know over the last few years.

“Kyleakin Connections had never been to a concert all together as a group, so it was very special for them to have such a variety of musical performances every week.

“It is clear to see from watching the audience on Zoom that people’s moods improve during the concerts. People sang, some danced, tapped their feet, and clapped their hands. Some of the service users at Kyleakin Connections played along on guitar and mouthie too.”

Iseabail added: “Music is something that could be overlooked during a pandemic, but to bring some music into the homes at such a difficult time has cheered up residents, carers and family members who were able to join in on Zoom and see their relatives.

“I think this work is extremely valuable to our local communities, not only to the groups themselves but also in providing local musicians with work and helping connect families and friends.

“I hope people will donate generously so we can continue to build on the work we have started.”

The funds will be used to pay musicians’ fees and the concert is available to view via SEALL’s Facebook page by clicking here.

Donations may be made to the charity’s JustGiving page by clicking here.