Edinburgh Local

St Cecilia's Hall supports people affected by dementia

Two initiatives at our beautiful Concert Hall help people with dementia and their carers.

Social Programme

Sarah Deters with visitors at St Ceceila's Hall

The annual Social Programme offers a series of free events for anyone affected by dementia.  It does this in a friendly environment where everyone is welcome and all contributions are valued. 

The Programme is a joint initiative by the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and National Museums Scotland, together with our own St Cecilia’s Concert Room and Music Museum and with Edinburgh Zoo.

Friday morning sessions start with tea and cake and chat, breaking down the barriers of isolation which families often feel.  People can then take part in a range of activities inspired by the different Collections, stimulating curiosity, building confidence and having fun.

A wide shot of a virginal - an old keyboard instrument. It is large and rectangular with short legs and ornate panelling

Sessions range across a wide range of subjects from books, wildlife photography, Renaissance art, the sounds of old musical instruments, bee-keeping and folk tunes.

The power of music

At St Cecilia’s, the May session invited people to travel back to the 1940s when the Hall was the Excelsior Ballroom, while the June event will explore the historical collection of keyboards and wind instruments.

Music can be an important link to a person’s past. At our most recent session, a normally quiet participant was delighted by a harpsichord performance.  She started tapping her foot and swaying to the music, and was really enjoying the experience.

Dr Sarah DetersLearning and Engagement Curator

Playlist for Life

A separate event to raise awareness of dementia was held at St Cecilia’s in April when musician Ricky Ross and friends got together for ‘The Memory Sessions’, a sell-out performance to raise funds for the ‘Playlist for Life’ charity.

‘Playlist for Life’ was founded by writer, broadcaster and alumna Sally Magnusson in memory of her mother, Mamie, who had the condition.

The charity promotes the use of music for people with dementia by delivering personalised playlists to those in care homes.  It has also teamed up with the University’s Centre for Dementia Prevention to research the relationship between music and brain health.   

A carefully selected playlist of personally meaningful music can give people the solace and security of their own music at any time of the day or night.  It can help to enhance memories and abilities, strengthen relationships and restore a sense of self in a world that can be increasingly alien to someone with dementia.

Sally Magnusson

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