For carers

For carers

There is now a halfway evaluation of Living Voices, and we're delighted with how well it is going. 

Liz Lochhead helped share this evaluation at the Scottish Poetry Library with guests from third sector and health care organisations on Monday 2 December.

See links on the right to Liz's moving essay for the Sunday Herald, as well as a summary of evaluation findings so far.

Living Voices

Poetry, stories and song across Scotland

‘Living Voices’ is a new national pilot programme by the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre.  We run regular interactive sessions in care homes across Scotland, facilitated by a professional artist supported by a volunteer.

Participatory oral and literary arts can trigger extraordinary levels of engagement and enjoyment in audiences who may be experiencing dementia, other health problems, or simply isolation.

Living Voices creates a space where residents and staff can engage with each other in new ways, in a creative and engaging environment. 


Our artist facilitators see the benefits of Living Voices every time they visit a care home:

"I had hoped that the group would enjoy the session, but I was completely unprepared for the sheer engagement and delight, the difference made by spending an hour listening to poems, stories, and singing together."  Sheila Templeton, Poet

"To be given that time together in the sessions to share, weave our tales together, laugh, inspire and remember is precious." Claire Hewitt, Storyteller

Our partners and supporters recognise the value of Living Voices too:

“Absolutely brilliant project that values individuality, creativity and connectedness”  Susanna Brook, The Wellbeing Team for Older People, Aberdeen City Council 

“I enthusiastically commend the work of Living Voices. Poetry, story and song can all help people with dementia to access memories, words and a sense of their own identity. For many years I observed the same effect on my own mother’s dementia.  By singing old songs and familiar tunes with her, my family was able to keep bringing her back to a sense of herself. It’s something I have observed over and over in my work for the charity Playlist for Life. The beneficial effects of music are backed up by a growing body of international research.” Sally Magnusson, broadcaster, author of Where Memories Go: Why dementia changes everything (Two Roads, February 2014), and founder of Playlist for Life


What does a Living Voices session look like?

Living Voices uses a highly participative 90-minute session format which recognises the power of active participation to benefit wellbeing.  It is not about performance to passive listeners; but interaction between facilitators and participants.

  • Each session is based loosely around a different theme.  Session resources are being developed as part of the project.
  • Facilitators spend around 45 minutes using poems, storytelling, songs and objects to curate creative conversations, from responses to the pieces being read to reminiscence inspired by an object shared.
  • Time is spent before and after chatting informally to allow participants longer to tell their own stories in a more informal environment.

Where is Living Voices working?

We are piloting Living Voices in three regions, working in six care homes in each area.  The pilot regions are: Aberdeen City, Perth & Kinross and South Ayrshire.

Living Voices works in care homes and sheltered housing units, and is designed to include people with dementia, but the audience is not limited to those with dementia.

We work with small groups of between 5 and 15 people, and where possible work with the same people every month to enable relationship building and personalisation to individual interests and needs.

Gathering learning

We are working with an external researcher to evaluate Living Voices, gathering learning on good practice in using oral and literary arts in residential care contexts.  A report on the project will be available in Summer 2014.

Support us

Living Voices recieves funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Baring Foundation, The Gannochy Trust and Creative Scotland. Your donations help us to provide training to artists, volunteers and care staff and create resources which can be used again and again by staff and residents in care homes.  If you would like to support Living Voices, you can donate safely and easily online using our Just Giving page.

Volunteer with us

Living Voices volunteers give their time to help deliver sessions in care homes, developing their own skills in facilitating participatory arts at the same time.  Our volunteer placements are currently full, however opportunities do sometimes arise. If you are interested in volunteering, email Living Voices to find out more.

Funders, Partners and Supporters

Living Voices is a partnership project by the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre, funded by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Baring Foundation and Creative Scotland.

We are working in partnership with Perth and Kinross Libraries and Information Services to deliver the project in care homes across Perthshire.  We also value the support of partners in the other pilot areas: Aberdeen City Libraries, South Ayrshire Libraries, Aberdeen Council Social Care and Wellbeing Team, South Ayrshire Council, Voluntary Action South Ayrshire, Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations and Perthshire Care Home Activity Co-ordinators Network.

Living Voices is managed by Emma Faragher.  If you are interested in getting involved, please contact her at