bold generations – a bold mini commission with Alec Thompson-Miller

(bold generations – Alec Thompson-Miller)

About me…

In 2010, after a clowning course called ‘Courage To Be’, I had the whisper of an idea to leave my full-time job teaching singing and choirs to create an organic tapestry of projects that could help people of all ages to connect with each other and our wider natural world. 12 years later, ACE Voices is the result of this leap of faith.

Founded in 2011, ACE Voices is a family of play-centred community projects in Aberdeen and beyond. We specialize in empowering people, communities & the wider natural world to thrive through the creation of transformative community play spaces involving music and the arts, outdoor education, intergenerational relationships, leadership mentoring and many more themes. So far, we have supported 10,000+ people across Aberdeen and beyond, worked in partnership with 250+ UK/international professional organisations and practitioners, mentored 170+ volunteers from ages 8-90, and provided paid work for 10+ freelance practitioners.

I joined the bold family as part of Cohort 2 of the online social leadership programme in Summer 2021 and was part of the bold sparks programme in March 2022. I am very grateful to the bold community for their wonderful support during the past 1.5 years and am delighted to share this blog post about my new bold mini commission project, which launches on 27th September 2022.

My inspiration for this bold mini commission…

My inspiration is three-fold.

Firstly, both my grandfathers had dementia, and I learnt how to ‘be’ with people with dementia during this time, how dementia can affect everyone, and how important wider support structures are for everyone involved.

Secondly, I have learnt so much from our friends with dementia at Kingswood Day Centre in Aberdeen, and the joy that our visits gave them meant so much to me. Here are some examples of comments I collected from earlier projects, which give you a flavour of how important our gatherings were to them:

  • “The music makes me feel happy inside”
  • “Are the kiddies coming? Yes, they’re coming! That’s what I come here for. I love it when the kiddies come”
  • “Are you singing today? Is Neil Diamond here today? I wouldn’t come if it wasn’t happening”
  • “The kiddies are here! That’s all fine, fine, fine. I love them all”
  • “If it wasn’t for you all coming to entertain us, I don’t know what we’d do. (To friend) I hope you appreciate it as much as I do”

(bold generations – playing uno)

Finally, the children are my constant teachers as well, and one of the main reasons why this project has come into being is due to two P7 pupils from last year, constantly asking after their Kingswood friends who they hadn’t seen since March 2020. I wanted to make this happen for them too to help foster positive hope for the future. Also, one of the other Kingswood Youth Leaders from 2017-2018 put the impact on herself beautifully into words:

“I learnt at Kingswood that not just our lives matter, that old people have feelings. And I grew my confidence with talking to people.”

About my bold mini commission…

Inspired by these two P7 pupils at Heathryburn School, who consistently showed a keen interest throughout lockdown to return to Kingswood, and help their elderly friends, my project is bounded and framed in simple, small-group, face-to-face gatherings as we explore how to re-build our bridges geographically, emotionally, across generations and through the ever-evolving mists of dementia.

Following a great deal of planning, discussions, and nurturing community courage, I initially ran a pilot programme of 5 sessions between 12-15 people living with dementia at Kingswood Day Centre, their wonderful staff and 5 children from Heathryburn School. Everyone was both nervous and excited about returning, and we allowed relationships to grow again at a gentle pace.

This pilot programme gave us the collective confidence to create a slightly larger bold mini commission, running over 9 sessions, and involving up to 10 children instead of 5. It will be funded by bold mini commission and Heathryburn School. This will be the first time that the children and people with dementia will have met, so it will be a brand new experience for everyone except the staff.

The activities will be tailored to suit the interests/life stories of our friends with dementia and the children and will be a lovely space to pilot different ways of working and building bridges during this time. Some of the activities will be inspired by the bold programme projects, and also by Southbank Centre’s Art By Post booklets. Furthermore, this bold mini commission will be a seed-project that will help to rekindle my confidence in running intergenerational projects during this challenging time, and send out powerful yet almost invisible ripple-effects out into the ether.

Through this bold mini commission, I am aiming to achieve the following:

  • Improved social connection and mood for our friends with dementia
  • Re-kindled engagement with Kingswood staff, opening the door for ongoing future collaborations
  • Improved confidence and social leadership skills for the school pupils
  • Enhanced skills on how to effectively bring together people with dementia and children

(bold generations – walking & talking)

Inspiration from bold Online Social Leadership Programme/bold sparks…

Taking part in the bold programme in Summer 2021 and in bold sparks in March 2022 were such wonderful community learning experiences, and they play a big part in the development of this project.

Firstly, they’ve given me the confidence to explore running more arts and crafts/hands-on creative activities, which used to be a domain of fear for me in the past. Now, they are more a domain of curiosity. Excited.

Also, they helped to validate my belief in the importance of the small steps, the simple forms of communication such as a smile, a laugh, sharing a story, and listening intently on people’s life journeys, especially ones involving dementia. This has often been a lonely space, and one from which I’ve usually had to stand up for my beliefs seemingly on my own. This programme/community has been very beneficial – other people are on this journey too. So grateful.

and finally…

Thank-you so much once again to the bold team for this exciting opportunity and I’m looking forward to working with you all while the project and our new intergenerational community grows!


Alec Thompson-Miller, Director ACE Voices

You can read Alec’s 2nd bold Generation blog here!

The 3rd bold Generations blog here!

And the bold Generations Film here!

Mobile: 07422 575711


Twitter: @acevoices