As we all visioned the future together, bold co-director Heather Wilkinson quietly blogged in the moment, the blog below is the result which we feel brilliantly reflects our bold day together!

The future is bold, the future is yarning.

The Festival Theatre in the centre of Edinburgh feels a fitting venue for our bold futures meeting. A theatre is a place to project your voice, showcase talent, and share dialogue and creativity that can challenge and influence our daily lives (not to mention the pantomime!). So the perfect space for our bold partners and social leaders to really give voice to our hopes and creative plans for the future.

Coincidentally, we managed to lure Dawn from her role at the Festival Theatre as Creative Engagement Manager, to be our new bold project manager! Dawn is a veteran of bold, a partner in the East Lothian cohort which happened right as we went into lockdown. Hard to believe she has only been with us for 8 weeks as we all benefit from her enactment of social leadership and core bold values throughout the day.

The Dawn(ing) of bold futures

Amazingly we were able to hold this event in person, milling about this dramatic space together, meeting people from across our community mostly in person for the first time! Outside is a beautiful autumn morning in Edinburgh, and we are delighted to have Brendan join from Australia to give us our encouraging opening thoughts and offering the potential of ‘bold down under’ before he headed off for supper in rainy Sydney. Magdalena continues our bold tradition of joining online via zoom and despite being poorly with Covid can still join in and have her ideas heard.

Brendan joins us from ‘bold down under’

As Dawn prances about with her dancing body session, Willy comments ‘the trouble with Dawn is she is so shy and quiet.’ We can hardly hear Willy for the buzz in the room as people gather to share ‘how bold makes you feel’ and Dawn invites us to bring our ideas to the bold party.

So imagine it’s ten years from now, let’s mingle in our characters and talk about the projects we will just have done, what will we have changed, how are we feeling, who have we been working with over the last ten years? Everyone joins the party and the drama unfolds, the script is starting to emerge from the array of characters that people bring to the bold party. Valeria provides the body outline for us to develop the character and the party-goers review the event highlights as: proud and inspired, outspoken boldlings, full of positive energy with high expectations after taking part in a programme, the power of which had ‘crept up’ on them and ‘got them’. Enthusiasm for sharing the energy, the learning, the power.

People talked about the international, the intergenerational, in every compassionate community and with no labels needed. Full of energy for going forwards. Some of this came from the bold Youth Leadership programme. The International Centre for Creativity in dementia was now ten years old and offered research on the positive effects of alcohol on dementia (I think this was Willy and Ron dreaming big!). Ron described how his first reaction to trying to think ten years ahead was that he wouldn’t be here, but that he was then able to think positively and decided he would be there to experience how coproduction was real and a ‘given’, that dementia was secondary to the person.

boldly going where no one has gone before!

Partners at the party recognised that being in bold wasn’t about identity as a worker or carer – it was more about what do you think, feel, do! The party began and ended knowing people were among friends – the power of social relationships. The bold ethos is easily transferable into other social systems and institutions – the principles of bold can spread across how we live and work with anyone, how we continue to value each of us in a community in which we can age in place. Fenella brought our own emoji to the party which she had launched ten years ago in the Festival Theatre.

Ron presented the finale to the party as a celebration that the last ten years of bold had resulted successfully in bold becoming redundant, the values of bold so far embedded in everyday values that people no longer needed a leadership programme in order for people with dementia to flourish. ‘Destination mainstream’ had been reached. Breda thanks everyone for a party in a safe space, where needing a wooden spoon is accepted and off she goes home to her multigenerational house filled with grandchildren, while Lois heads off to her bold commune. ‘No cheek, no chance’ chants Breda as she heads home.

The first interval in the day’s performance gives us time to visit the community table with its display of art, sculpture, including Alan’s beautiful white budgie, and stories told through fabric, paper and collage.

 Norman the budgie, talking heads and BOLDArt!

The bold community table!

After the interval, Lorna Hill leads us through a story telling session where we start putting ideas down onto paper, making them feel real and developing our script. We are also able to welcome Joy, our administrator from QMU, into the meeting who immediately goes to work booking taxis and helping move furniture. In the background Kelman moves swiftly around capturing our energy, movements and laughter on film.  Willy develops the script for the story of the development of the bold International Centre for Creativity – sharing good practice and training people and full of intergenerational safe spaces for art, outreach, reminiscence and the spectacular Ron Coleman Memorial Dance Studio. Alec advertises the plans for a beer festival with a difference – emboldened by the arts grant for the Dementia Beer Arts Festival that will tour Inverness, Orkney, Shetland, Ullapool and beyond. By 2032 it’s an annual event and in 2050 is the first intergalactic event renamed boldly going where…….(well Brendan did say to dream big!). The Dementia Beer Festival idea has obviously inspired others who give a drama-filled presentation of ‘Rose goes to the dementia arts beer festival’ where she learns that her knitting is a valued creative skill.

A letter to Heather from bold partners aims to inspire further funding based on their fears, achievements, and what works. They encourage further funding for a programme that has made them feel welcome, making a difference, building on their experiences, feeling safe and knowing that their contribution will be valued – warmth, connection and caring for each other are the values that wrap around everything. Fenella rounds this session off with a story about George who has lived with dementia for two years and is an active key part of bold. Ten years ago his diagnosis would have been a disaster but now his story shows that everyone can live with dementia without it making any difference. What an achievement!

Lunch goes well – we all remember how to eat and talk and be with others in the light-filled space of the theatre bar. Thanks to Café Manager who was the perfect host, welcoming and attentive.

Having spent the morning looking into the future, our afternoon session almost feels like a step back into quieter times. The yarning circles have an aura of peace yet are full of emotion as people yarn and share the powerful, personal, stories that bring us together. Introduced with a film from Brendan, and facilitated by Frankie with our two Lornas and Dawn, we experience how a technique used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia can be instantly adapted to the Scottish style of yarning, with humour and openness. Elaine describes the process beautifully as ‘the democratisation of creativity.’

Our bold stories yarned together!

The stories that emerged from the circle (as opposed to the many held in the circle) were thoughtful and mindful and lots of appreciation mentioned for the process of winding around the stick (and thanks to Lorna’s dog Lexi for gathering the sticks for us). Willy, who describes himself as ‘not backwards in coming forwards,’ said that the yarning stick allowed him to access a sadness that he didn’t even know he had and that he was able to share during the ‘extraordinarily meditative process – it’s like drawing things out from a deep well within – its surprised me’. Lil spoke passionately about the challenges and opportunities in her local community. Magdalena felt that she was part of the circle even from her zoom box and thanks to Willy for doing the yarning for her.

Elaine and others noticed the slower pace of speaking and listening and how making space was an opportunity to slow down, to think more deeply, to notice. Lesley noticed that everyone spoke, no one passed the stick on, the stick allowing and freeing everyone to speak. Lois felt that this was because sitting in a circle was easier and Valeria described her experience of the process as ‘precious.’

The final circle came together with a buzz of energy after a quick break. Frankie guided us through a pulling together of our take home action words with Cath giving a lovely summary about how energising it has been to ‘come back home to the mothership.’ Karen and Alec agreed, emphasising the power of connection and thinking how important it is to rekindle the special listening culture we created in the circles back out in our daily lives. Magdalena sent ripples and ruptures from her zoom box; certainly the idea of ripples and ruptures is something that many of us will take as we leave our future to return to our present. Rebecca, Barbara and Anne each articulated how the permissions to be creatives and the reminders today of these permissions are something they will take back into their communities and networks.

We will give the last word (for now) to Jo: ‘today we have lit the fire under the curiosity cauldrons, now we need to get on and see what will bubble in the pot!’

A standing ovation for everyone who took part.