Caithness Voluntary Group - with Lyth Arts Centre: #BefriendingIs involving the community into creative arts

Mon 1 Nov 2021

Caithness Voluntary Group exists to support the voluntary sector in Caithness by representing and supporting voluntary groups and individuals who are interested in or actively volunteering, facilitating co-operation, and enabling citizens to access the decision making processes affecting their community.


A local art centre got in touch with us during lockdown, looking for a partner to work alongside them.  The group is the Lyth Arts Centre who had a resident artist called Joanne Karr.

This video by Joanne and Lyth Arts Centre gives a great insight of the project from beginning, to end and beyond:


It was so exciting as the Befrienders met each week on zoom with Joanne and worked on a reminiscing toolkit that could be used during the lockdown and onwards.  Some of the volunteers had never sewn before, so they learned new skills, and were able to share their creative work with each other on zoom.

It was also arranged by Joanne Karr to ask Doreen Leith (currently a Befriender) of Wick Voices to run a reminiscing training session with our Befrienders which really set the theme well.

It was decided the theme would be School days, Joanne had sourced all materials and handed them out to the Befrienders by dropping them off or posting them. The Befrienders in turn contacted their Befriendees and had conversations about what to sew on the different materials that would reflect their school days, so it was very much a joint effort.

All the clothing that was designed and made during the project is bagged and available for any Befrienders to use as conversation starters with their Befriendee. 

Some of the clothing has been on display in the Laurandy Centre, Wick recently and the feedback from their service users is very positive in that they really enjoyed not only admiring the work gone into each item but also the memories of being able to see and touch clothing you may have once worn yourself and then the topics that leads onto. 

When we were able to go out and visit our Befriendees in the garden we decided to take the above toolkits along with clothes maidens and have a pop-up exhibition in different Befriendees gardens that would not be able to visit a bigger exhibition that we are planning next year.  That was great to do this individually with their very own exhibition in their garden, fortunately the weather was good.

The exhibition was also used as part of the Thurso Festival that recently took place, and people gathered to look at the garments and reminisce.


The other outcome that was great meant that Joanne transferred photographs of embroidery that the Befrienders put together, and had them printed as postcards, which we were able to use to send to our Befriendees and also to other members of the community that would just like a Befriending Hello card.

Quote from Joanne Karr the resident artist -

I would just like to add that, this residency has emerged out of difficult circumstances, and I think closer connections with the community have been built than perhaps I could have ever anticipated as a result.  It has been one of the most rewarding artist residency projects I have been involved with. 


And we ain't finished yet, we have plans for TEXTiles and take our Conversations Over the Clothes Lines to Castlehill Heritage Centre next year, for a 'One Year On' event for Befriending Caithness and the wider community. There is enough enthusiasm and also need in the community to make this happen.

This was a wonderful way to spend a very scary, and dark time during lockdown, it took the minds of Befrienders and Befriendees and moved them forward by remembering the good time of the past.  Next year the plan is to have an exhibition opened to the public so they can all join in with “Conversations over the Clothesline“!



By Caithness Voluntary Group

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