Musselburgh Meeting Centre: The conversation continues




On Wednesday 16th March 19 people from across Musselburgh and beyond met in St Andrews High Church to hear about progress with setting up a Meeting Centre in the town.  This was part of a series of community conversations about setting up a Meeting Centre in Musselburgh.  You can read about the others on our website.

Janice McLeod, Chair of the Musselburgh Health and Well Being Group  chaired the day with Lisa Olsson from East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership. The Rev Dr Leslie Milton, Minister of St Andrews High Church, was our host and made us all very welcome indeed.

There was a really good mix. We included people living with dementia and unpaid carers who live in Musselburgh and people who come to Musselburgh regularly for the  Alzheimer Scotland D Cafe and from DFEL Friendship Groups. We also welcomed members of the Musselburgh Health and Well Being Group, the Community Council, Volunteer Centre East Lothian, John Bellany Day Centre and Alzheimer Scotland and DFEL.

The day began well with tea and Janice’s delicious home-made scones (thank you Janice!).  Leslie welcomed us to the Church and  Janice and Leslie were delighted to announce that the Musselburgh Meeting Centre will run in St Andrews High Church.  This made our conversations about the future Meeting Centre very real and there was a real buzz in the air.

Making Plans: The workshops

With a real sense of possibility and excitement, we got down to making plans. We worked in 2 groups:

  • People with dementia and unpaid supporters – experts by experience facilitated by Michael Huddleston from Alzheimer Scotland and Sue Northrop from Dementia Friendly East Lothian
  • People from the community and organisations – facilitated by Janice MacLeod from the Musselburgh Health and Well being Group and Lisa Olsson from the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership.

What people living with dementia and unpaid carers want from the Meeting Centre

We had our conversations in the small room behind the church, sitting round the table with our coffees and teas. We had the kitchen right next door so we could top up teas and coffees to fuel our conversations – and we might have eaten another scone or two! We talked about what people with dementia and unpaid carers want from the Meeting Centre and how we think the Meeting Centre should work. We were  3 people with dementia, 2 family carers along with Michael and Sue. There was a lot of enthusiasm and lots of great ideas.

What should coming to the Meeting Centre  feel like? The Meeting Centre should feel welcoming and we  should feel valued and respected from the moment we arrive. The Centre should be a place where we are taken as we are that day and not judged. We agreed the Centre should be a place where we could have fun and there should be a lot of laughter.  Members should also have the freedom to come and go; to take risks and feel we are challenging ourselves.

When we come to the Centre we should feel safe and comfortable to express and talk about our feelings amongst people who are understanding and supportive.

It is really important that when we come to the Meeting Centre we feel connected, part of the community.  We wanted to have a sense of belonging – to the Centre and the wider community – not cut off and separate. The Meeting Centre should feel part of the wider community, all ages, including schools and the University.  We thought local businesses would be supportive and might donate or sponsor us. We also thought we’d get great support from Rotary and  local clubs and these were important connections we wanted to make.

We think the Meeting  Centre could educate people about dementia, not just people with dementia and carers, but the wider community so everyone understands dementia and how they can make a difference.  People who come to the Meeting Centre – Members, staff and volunteers could tell people about dementia, how it works and how to keep your brain healthy.  The Centre could encourage people who are worried about dementia to come and find out more.

We felt that people with dementia and carers had an important role to play and that there is great value in sharing our knowledge and skills with other people ‘in the same boat’ so people could get the help they wanted as and when they needed it.

Animals should be welcome and included, so people can bring their pets – this was mainly dogs!


What should happen at the Meeting Centre? We wanted a wide range of different activities and experiences inside the Meeting Centre and available across the community:

  • Opportunities to find out what’s going on across the community that we could go to.
  • Chances to hear about projects, invite speakers, like from Thera-pets, East Lothian Countryside Rangers, Playlist for Life.
  • Lots of music – playing music, singing, listening to music, performing ourselves  and going to concerts and events.
  • Keeping fit and active – walking together, “Cycling Without Age”, links with the local sports centre and clubs, trying new activities.
  • Getting out and about – bus trips (we need a minibus!), theatre trips, like going to the Festival Theatre’s relaxed performances; trips to QMU for walks, meet students. The coffee and cakes are good too!
  • We could use the technology in the church to watch films, concerts or sports  eventsand talk to other groups on Zoom on the big screen
  • Cooking and eating together – we could use the kitchen to cook for ourselves; we could invite local chefs to make meals. We could have themed ‘dinners’ when we “dress-up”.

We  also wanted to be informed:

 The Meeting Centre should include all ages – There was a lot of enthusiasm for involving different ages from the very young to students. We wanted them to join us for fun but also so we could give back and help and support children and young people.  This was a very powerful motivator for people – to give as well as receive. For example, reading to children; children reading to us; having reading buddies.   We also wanted to link with students at QMU. We could help each other if they come to train at the Centre as part of their courses, help future carers and care staff to do their job better.

Who should come along? We felt anyone should be able to come along; there should be no restrictions.

What next?  We thought it would be a good idea to meet regularly at the Church, maybe on the Wednesdays that the Alzheimer Scotland D Cafe isn’t running so there’s a regular weekly group. We thought this would help us be more involved in setting up the Centre as a group. We also agreed to share news about the Meeting Centre in Musselburgh with our friends and other groups.

What people from community bodies and professionals thought about the Meeting Centre.

This group met in the main body of the church and involved people from a range of organisations, including Musselburgh Area Partnership, Deepness, Musselburgh Community Council,  a community activist, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, Volunteer Centre East Lothian, Churches, the Association of East Lothian Day Centres and the Royal Voluntary Service.


Do we need a Meeting Centre? People were very positive about setting up a Meeting Centre and thought it would fill a significant gap in the support available for people with dementia and unpaid carers.

Support for people with dementia and carers is part of the Musselburgh Area Partnership’s Area Plan. The Partnership has awarded funding to pay a designer to help make changes to the décor of St Andrews Church to make it more dementia friendly. We also have funding for a Dementia Friendly Community Worker and to support multi-generational working.

Involving people with lived experience in setting up the Centre  The group felt it was important that people with dementia and carers are actively involved in setting up the Meeting Centre.  A member of Deepness, who has been living with Dementia for 3 years, is working with DFEL to mentor and support people with dementia and unpaid carers to participate equally and fully in all stages, from developing to running Meeting Centres in East Lothian.

Organisations want to help There were offers of support from the Royal Voluntary Service and Volunteer Centre East Lothian.  John Bellany Day Centre offered to provide a link with the Association of East Lothian Day Centres as there is no Day Centre in Musselburgh.

Seeing the bigger picture A community representative raised the importance of taking a holistic view to supporting people to live independently in the community for longer, including accessible housing and access to adaptations.

What Next

We ended our session by coming together for lunch and a blether – and to finish off Janice’s yummy scones! Sadly I didn’t get a photo of them as they went too quickly!  The photo above is a tea we had at Cockenzie House and Gardens.

We all agreed to continue the conversation and we’ll be in touch with dates and opportunities.

We plan to run a weekly drop in for people with dementia and unpaid carers, starting after Easter. We will start with the people who came along today.

We hope the grant for running the Musselburgh Meeting Centre will be awarded in a few months and staff in place soon after.

Thank you! 

To everyone who joined us and made the conversations so thoughtful and positive. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the Musselburgh Meeting Centre and we look forward to seeing you soon!


Thank you from us all

Janice, Lisa, Anne, Lesley, Michael and Sue

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