New things all around us

It is funny how a sudden injection of funding can lift an organisation like SAND even before we start spending! Our National Lottery Community Funded project EMBRACE does not start until June but already it is having a significant impact, as we are planning the future very differently.

Included in the funding is some money for ‘Organisational Development’ which is going to help us with practical things – like a printer, professional advice, an Away Day, some promotional materials. But, even before we start getting those things, we realise that we need to – and can – replace our trip-hazard carpet in the office! And so – happy days – our meeting this week began with a carpet choosing exercise. We are lucky enough to know a good outlet: The Carpet Gallery who were only too happy to supply us with a sample pack to play around with. Nothing galvanises quite like shopping-with-ease and we had a very animated discussion before choosing … beige!! Ha ha – with the proviso of sourcing a rainbow rug – over to Julien at The Carpet Gallery for that one!

Shopping aside, we had much to report on this month as things step up. Our feature on local BBC Radio attracted a flurry of communication from interested parties, as did our recent presentation at the AgeUK conference. Consequently, we have already been to meet people at Connexus Housing Association; Wrekin Housing Trust (Independent Living Coordinators) and Telford Citizens Advice Bureau – and are due to get together with Midland Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – Memory Services.

In April, we also delivered a half day training session for Green Oak Foundation, who tweeted:





SAND waved goodbye to David Coull – outgoing CEO of Coverage Care and great supporter of our work, and had the opportunity to say hello to his successor, Chris Wall. During these conversations, we discovered that SAND has had a mention in an Outstanding CQC report – see page 14! We continue to work with Coverage and will be screening the 25 minute version of Gen Silent for them in the next few months as part of their commitment to EMBRACE a Culture of Inclusion.

It feels as though May is a month for adjustment as we move ever nearer the formal start of our big project. We are already advertising for help with marketing and design and planning ways to increase our capacity. We have identified a Critical Friend to help us think through how the project can happen at a practical level and will soon be engaging the whole Action Group in an exploration of how change will happen.


We shall create magic

– at our own pace!

Solid Foundations

With our brand new EMBRACE project just around the corner, we have started laying the foundations. We know that we are going to need more support and more capacity to get the very most from this project and the Organisational Development aspect of the funding from the National Lottery Community Fund is there to do just that. Continue reading “We shall create magic”

Taken a little by surprise

Photo credit: Tony Finnegan

The leaves are dropping and, strangely the temperature is rising here at SAND as things move on apace. For one reason or another we’ve been doing a bit of reflection and realise that  5 years ago, in our early time, all doors were shut to us and nobody seemed to hear what we had to say. Jump to 2018 and we are being proactively invited to speak at events, attend groups and meetings and share what we know! That is quite a shift in anyone’s book and we’ll be digging deeper in the next few weeks to consider where that might all go in the next 5 years!

We are collecting stories from LGBT people over the age of 50 in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin – if you’d like to find out more and invite us to talk with you then check out our Grains of SAND Project page. We have 15 interviewers trained up with 7 of those already out and about collecting stories. We are interested in positive and not so positive experiences that all contribute to shaping our lives, so please get in touch. Another option is to become a SAND Well-Wisher to help and support the work we are doing. Join others in contributing a few pounds per month – the price of a cup of coffee and make a difference.

We have also now launched our portfolio  inviting investment from health & social care providers in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin. We had 2 investors in the first 24 hours – find our how to join others and EMBRACE a Culture of Inclusion at

Photo Credit Tony Finnegan

In September, we hosted Libby Pearson and Ian Baxter who (respectively) wrote and performed in the play The Purple List: a gay dementia venture. Over 60 people came along to see the play, engage in an inspired Q & A with ‘Sam’ in character (played by Ian) and then with Libby and Ian as themselves. Audience members said it was:

Excellent. Very moving and honest.

Amazing, brilliant, emotional, funny, sad, an experience like no other, was just sensational

Incredibly moving and thought provoking. Educational and inspiring and it will influence my practice as a Registered Nurse and Registered Manager. It has encouraged me to be more proactive.

In February, we shall be working with the Shrewsbury LGBT History Festival crew to welcome Clare Summerskill back with a presentation from her play Rights of Passage, highlighting the struggles of LGBT asylum seekers.

Back to now, and for today and the rest of this weekend 5 – 7 October, SAND is well represented at the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, including on the panel this very afternoon for Snapshots.
There is a handful of seats left so come on down and say hello!

Tardy Post!

Oops – the hot hot Summer seems to have led to us downing tools on our blog – but we’re back!

With lots going on it’s hard to know where to start but first off – we have a new Treasurer! With a bundle of financial skills, Katharine is a very welcome addition to the SAND Action Group and is already getting us sorted with systems and processes to make everything just that bit easier.

As reported in previous blogs, we currently have 2 funded projects on the go.

Grains of SAND, funded by the Big Lottery (Awards for All) is all about reaching out to our LGBT communities in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin. We are doing this through a series of events and interviews to collect stories of experiences, hopes and fears of health & social care. Alongside planning and attending events we have been ‘training up’ individuals to conduct interviews. This whole process includes:

  • short presentations for Telford LGBT to outline the project, let people know it is in the making and tweak interest
  • a workshop led by Jane Traies on things to think about when conducting interviews with older and old LGBT people – 24 people from different parts of the County came along to this workshop by invitation which has expanded the group now taking the project forward
  • a workshop to identify the questions that we want to ask during interviews and discuss some of the additional considerations – we called this workshop The Snailbeach Sessions as it took place at Snailbeach Village Hall – 18 of us gathered for that one
  • Ludlow Pride where 7 volunteers ran a stall and encouraged people to take part in engagement activities. About 200 people took the chance to pick up leaflets, chat and look at the information boards, with a dozen signing up for interviews
  • Oswestry Diversity day where 2 volunteers had a collection of Grains of SAND materials to hand out. Approx 80 people saw the stall and 20 actively engaged, asking questions and taking away information.
  • ‘Test’ interviews amongst members of the group from The Snailbeach Sessions to make sure the questions work, we know what we’re doing and we all feel confident
  • we have started outreach interviews with the people who have volunteered to date and these will continue
  • In the pipeline to continue the project :

People taking part in Grains of SAND events so far have said:

I feel enthusiastic and motivated …. I have lived in Shropshire for 5 years and this is the first time I feel that I am not the only gay in the village

It’s been a wonderful day

I have enjoyed it very much – nice group of people – a very worthwhile project

It’s good being with everybody – I think everybody is wonderful

So – if you see us out and about – come and say hello! We’re also working hard to try to ensure that this project can continue and we will be able to keep similar work going into 2019 and beyond. One way we’re looking at doing this is to link it up directly with our second project… keep reading!

EMBRACE a culture of inclusion – this project is funded by Comic Relief (Core Strengths) and Shropshire Partners in Care. It is about providing practical ways that providers of health and social care – and related service providers – can improve the way that they work so that they are more inclusive of older and old LGBT people.This involves them being aware of LGBT lives and experiences, and understanding how these might affect experiences – and providing safe and friendly spaces for older and old LGBT people.

EMBRACE will be a practical process which identifies the characteristics of different stages of inclusive practice. In the development stages, it will have a particular focus on the inclusion of older and old lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. We believe EMBRACE will have huge potential, in the future, to transfer to embrace inclusion for all – wherever they may be, and expand to legal concerns, financial issues and housing sectors.

SAND cannot develop EMBRACE alone and is in the process of identifying organisations to work with. After 5 years of plugging away it is rewarding now to find organisations approaching us, actively wanting to be involved and expressing excitement about our ideas for a more inclusive future.

We are nearing the stage where we can invite investment in the development of EMBRACE – so, watch this space!