How COVID-19 is affecting our work

The current COVID-19 pandemic is presenting numerous challenges for us in terms of service delivery. Find out how we are managing this here.

[Updated 29th May 2020]

Full details of the challenges we have faced, the opportunities we have encountered, the work we are doing and our view for the future post-pandemic can be found here: Connecting Communities – COVID-19 work.

On 17th March the decision was taken by our Senior Management Team to close both our Helmsdale and Golspie Village Hubs – this decision was taken in order to protect our valued Hub members at a time when they were being advised to stay indoors and not join social gatherings. Our team are continuing to stay in contact with our Hub members and helping them with shopping etc.

The same day we decided to suspend all Art ‘n Blether classes for the same reason. Our art tutor, Anne, organised a few outdoor art classes following this, but with more recent announcements and advice from the government these have also now been suspended. Anne has hosted some Facebook Live art sessions, which can be found on the Art ‘n Blether Facebook page.

We are currently doing everything we can to keep our Dinner To Your Door service going as we know how important our hot meals are to so many of our customers. Thanks to grants from Foundation Scotland and The National Lottery Community Fund, we have been able to continue to provide this service and, from 27th April extended the service to cover Dornoch and Embo on Mondays and Wednesdays.

We apologies to anyone who has been affected by the closure of suspension of any of our services.

If you have any questions about any of our services at this time please call us on 01431 821655.

We wish you  all the best in the coming weeks and months. Stay safe and well.

The Connecting Communities Team


Art n’ Blether arrives in Brora

In January, Art ‘n Blether classes begun in Brora and we have welcomed some wonderful new and experienced artists to this increasingly popular project.

For more information about our Art ‘n Blether classes click here.

Introducing Golspie Village Hub

In October 2019, we opened the doors to Golspie Village Hub for the very first time, and it has proven to be a great success.

Golspie Village Hub takes place at the Masonic Hall on Station Road on Thursdays from 11am to 2pm with the option to stay for the full duration or pop in and out as you please. Each week we host an activity or live music and lunch is available too.

Click here to find out more about Golspie Village Hub and see what is on this month.

We are now Connecting Communities!

Since we were founded in 2012, our focus has changed from purely dementia friendly work to social inclusion. To reflect this progress, we feel it is time for a change of name. From 16th March we will be known as Connecting Communities.

Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC) was originally developed in 2012 to support rural dementia families, but over time we have realised dementia only is too small a parameter for rural villages and that a socially inclusive programme which relies on the compassionate support of the whole community to sustain all older folk – irrespective of their situation – was a far better option.

Since 2012 we have spearheaded transformational change for dementia families in remote rural areas. Over the years a socially inclusive community ‘Circle of Support’ for all our older folk – not only people affected by dementia – was developed which is so successful that DFC Helmsdale is now regarded as a model of rural excellence for community support in the Highlands and is working with NHS Highland to roll out a similar Compassionate Community programme across the Highlands.

We would like to reassure our regular members and customers that this change will not affect the work we do and we look forward to continuing to see and support you.


Art ‘n Blether success

Experienced and aspiring artists from Helmsdale, Brora, Golspie and neighbouring villages have been gathering over the past two years for a range of successful Art ‘n Blether sessions, inspired by the picturesque views in and around East Sutherland.

Art ‘n Blether is led by Helmsdale-based landscape artist Anne Little who is originally from the small mining village of Calverton in Nottinghamshire. Anne is guiding and supporting participants through a variety of styles and techniques, including portraits and landscapes; painting with watercolour, acrylics and oils; glass painting and clay modelling; as well as drawing with pen and ink and charcoal.

Sessions, which are open to all members of the community over the age of 16, have often involved field trips to paint local landscapes, including Berriedale, Strath of Kildonan, Loch Brora and Helmsdale harbour. Each class is followed by a pop-up café, giving a chance for a break and extra socialising over a cup of tea or coffee and some home baking. In March 2018, an exhibition of Art ‘n Blether work was held at Timespan Museum and Arts Centre, which proved to be very successful.

Art ‘n Blether classes take place at Seaforth House care home in Golspie on a Tuesday from 1-3pm, and at The Bridge Guest House in Helmsdale on a Wednesday from 1.30-3.30pm.

To find out more visit our Art ‘n Blether page, visit the Art ‘n Blether Facebook page, or email

Here are just a few comments from those who already attend:

Pat Kidd who lives in Helmsdale and regularly attends the Helmsdale classes says of her experience: ‘I am new to Helmsdale and know very few people. Art ‘n Blether has been just right, a new hobby and new friends!’

Maggie Adamson, also from Helmsdale, said: ‘I started going to the art classes back in May this year. Originally, I went along to see how I fared as it was many years since my school-day art lessons! I enjoyed the classes from the start, learning new techniques and also meeting new people. Not to mention the scrumptious cakes! It’s great to go along each week and catch up with everyone and also see how we are all developing our skills as time goes on. I particularly enjoy being pushed out of my comfort zone and challenged to try things I wouldn’t attempt on my own at home. We continue to take completed work home most weeks, sometimes with just a little finishing touch to add later. My confidence, both in my abilities with various painting techniques and also in social situations has grown as the classes have continued.’

Jane Murray, Helmsdale, added ‘As a fairly creative individual, I have never found it difficult to completely immerse myself in the often solitary pursuit of ‘all things arty!’ On Wednesdays however, I can happily continue to explore and widen my own experience but with the added bonus of being able to do this as part of a team of friendly makers and creators. I have found that since joining the group, Anne’s class has already become a contributing factor to my own ‘wellness’ of mind. Anne’s kind words of encouragement, along with her considerable experience as an artist, can only bring out the very best in her students!’

Anne says of the classes: ‘I really enjoy tutoring our Art ‘n Blether group. Our Helmsdale group have produced some fantastic artwork over the past year or so. Everyone thoroughly enjoys attending the classes and by coming together, have made new friends.  We have covered many different techniques and the group have learnt many new skills. The group also tailor the classes to their needs in that if they have discovered something they really like, we will cover it again but with new ideas. Art is a wonderful way to bring people together, whether they have experience or not. Creating your own painting or craft product is so very rewarding and great therapy in making you feel happy.’

Dog Show 2018 a great success

Skye, an Akita/Bulldog, from Alness was chosen as top dog at our 3rd Helmsdale Dog Show earlier this month to the delight of owner Greg. Skye, who also won Best Cross Breed, was up against 38 other competitors to win the accolade.

Over 100 people were in attendance to watch as the dogs went up against each other in 11 categories, including Best Pedigree, Best Veteran and Waggiest Tail. Competitors gathered from villages across Sutherland, including Bonar Bridge, Brora, Golspie, Helmsdale, Portgower and Rogart. Others travelled a greater distance from Alness, Invergordon, Inverness and Portmahomack. Most impressive though, were those who hailed from Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy and Puddletown (Dorset). Beccy Clay, owner of Tess the Pointer/Setter made the journey for the third year running from Drumbeg.

As well as the competition categories, each dog was able to take part in the Fastest Recall challenge in which the time it took them to reach their owner, with a number of distractions along the way, was recorded. The fastest small dog, Kayla the Shih Tzu (owned by Nicki Hughes from Brora), and fastest large dog, Skye the Border Collie (owned by Hannah Munro from Portmahomack) received an engraved glass from Alsorts Arts and Crafts to mark their win and some Tecxys herby dog treats, made by Sandra Mackenzie in Rogart.

dog show18 5The Judge on the day, for the second year running, was Annabell Broom from Aunty Annabell’s Dog Training. Annabell had her work cut out for her with 26 different breeds in total. The final category of the Show was the Dog the Judge would most like to take home. After much deliberation, Annabell chose Mac of Springfield the Teckel, owned by young Ailsa Shaw from Helmsdale.

Mini Reiki sessions with Kareen were available on the day for both dogs and owners. Tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches and home baking were on offer in the Community Centre hall, alongside table-top displays from The Highland Hound, Crafty Crofter, Yvonne’s Wee Honesty Box, Highlands of Scotland Pets as Therapy, Weaving Heart Wood, SSPCA, Jo Henderson’s Crafts, and the Helmsdale Village Hub Pop-Up Shop.

For the third year, Easter Ross Vets very kindly supported the cost of rosettes for the winners. A variety of raffle prizes were on offer courtesy of a number of local businesses and individuals including Maisie’s Daisies, Spar Helmsdale, La Mirage and Nicki Hughes.

The Helmsdale Dog Show is organised and run by our Helmsdale Village Hub and the event raised £830, which will go towards the running of the  Hub.

Wendy Simmonds, Hub Project Lead said: “We had such a wonderful turn-out this year. It was great to see many familiar faces and some new competitors too. Our thanks must go to all of those individuals and organisations who were involved, including Annabell Smith, Easter Ross Vets, Ossie and Kareen from Rogart, Waverly Engineering, our volunteers, those who had tables in the hall and everyone who came along on the day. The Dog Show seems to be growing year on year, which is great to see. Our dogs are family and it’s great to have a day especially for them. We’re also very pleased that the rain stayed away this time after a couple of very wet Dog Shows in the past!”

Results from Helmsdale Dog Show

Best Pedigree

1st: Boorach (3 yrs), Red & White Irish Setter. Owner: Dean Cowie, Helmsdale

2nd: Mac of Springfield (7 yrs), Teckel. Owner: Ailsa Shaw, Helmsdale

3rd: Balach (9 mths), working Cocker Spaniel. Owner: Ian Whitehead, Helmsdale

Best Cross-breed

1st: Skye (1 yr), Akita/Bull. Owner Greg, Alness

2nd: Marcie (2 yrs), Jack Russell/Chihuahua. Owner: Jenny Morrison, Inverness

3rd: Lexi (3 yrs), Staffie/Akita. Owner: Mandy Baird, Bonar Bridge

dog show18 2Best small dog

1st: Cassie (12 months), West Highland Terrier. Owner: Chris Gray, Edinburgh

2nd: Kayla (2 yrs), Shih Tzu. Owner: Nicki Hughes, Brora

3rd: Percy (6 yrs), Chihuahua. Owner: Hilary Michael, Brora

Best large dog

1st: Fionn (7 yrs), Labrador Retriever. Owner: Carol Grant, Kirkcaldy

2nd: Mackie (2 yrs), Sprocker. Owner: Allan Bokas, Helmsdale

3rd: Tess (13 yrs), Pointer/Setter. Owner: Beccy Clay, Drumbeg

Best veteran

1st: Hettie (11 yrs), Bedlington Terrier. Owner: Hilary Michael, Brora

2nd: Titch (7 yrs), Border Terrier. Owner: A M Wallis, Invergordon

3rd: Macy (11 yrs), Chocolate Labrador. Owner: Carol Pann, Puddletown

Best in Show

1st: Skye (1 yr), Akita/Bull. Owner: Greg, Alness

2nd: Boorach (3 yrs), Red & White Irish Setter. Owner: Dean Cowie, Helmsdale

Brightest eyes

1st: Sasha (4 yrs), Border Collie. Owner: Keith Cookson, Helmsdale

2nd: Zara (18 mths), German Shepherd. Owner: Ossie Ross, Rogart

3rd: Tikka (5 yrs), Labrador. Owner: Caitlin Martin, Helmsdale

dog show18 3Best turned out

1st: Kayla (2 yrs), Shih Tzu. Owner: Nicki Hughes, Brora

2nd: Archie (5 yrs), Cairn Terrier. Owner: Robin Macleod, Helmsdale

3rd: Garty (4 yrs), Cocker Spaniel. Owner: Alister Jappy, Helmsdale

Waggiest tail

1st: Shon (7 yrs), Cocker Spaniel. Owner: S Swinton, Invergordon

2nd: Marcie (2 yrs), Jack Russell/Chihuahua. Owner: Jenny Morrison, Inverness

3rd: Tullie (3 yrs), Springador. Owner: Tani, Invergordon

Best biscuit catcher

1st: Garty (4 yrs), Cocker Spaniel. Owner: Alister Jappy, Helmsdale

2nd: Fionn (7 yrs), Labrador Retriever. Owner: Carol Grant, Kirkcaldy

3rd: Koda (7 yrs), Alaskan Malamute. Owner: Tony Harris, Portgower

dog show18 4

Dog the judge would most like to take home

1st: Mac of Springfield (7 yrs), Teckel. Owner: Ailsa Shaw, Helmsdale

2nd: Bobby (8 yrs), Border Collie. Owner: Caitlin Munro, Portmahomack

3rd: Bonny (6 yrs), Chinese Powder Puff. Owner: Isobel Macleod, Helmsdale

Fastest recall (small dog): Kayla (2 yrs), Shih Tzu. Owner: Nicki Hughes, Brora

Fastest recall (large dog): Skye (3 yrs), Border Collie. Owner: Hannah Munro, Portmahomack

The dogs are coming back!


New rural dementia-friendly guide

In May, Alzheimer’s Society launched their new Dementia-friendly rural communities guide, the result of the Prime Minister’s rural dementia task group. Our founder and Chair, Ann Pascoe, was a part of the task group, sharing our experience of the challenges faced by those working towards becoming more dementia-friendly in a rural location.

Our interactive screens project features in the report as a good example of a technology-related dementia-friendly initiative.

To find our more and read the report visit the Alzheimer’s Society website.

We’re looking for a Modern Apprentice!

DFC Helmsdale Modern Apprentice Advert

Big Lottery funding support

In April we were delighted to receive news that the Big Lottery Fund had approved £112,000 of funding to support our work over the next three years. This will make a huge difference for us and ensure that our work at the Helmsdale Village Hub, as well as our Dinner To Your Door and Bridge Over Troubled Waters services, will be guaranteed for the coming years.

We are very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for this support.