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Community / Sea shanty group to bring ‘feel-good factor’

Storyteller and shanty singer Jan Bee Brown. Photo: Sheila Masson Photography

A DEMENTIA-friendly sea shanty group is starting in Shetland next month.

The Shalder Shanty Crew will meet weekly in Scalloway – but you do not need to be a singer, or have a diagnosis of dementia, to join in.

Behind the project is professional storyteller and self-proclaimed “shanty woman” Jan Brown.

The project is going ahead thanks to funding from Scottish creative ageing organisation Luminate and the Dementia Inclusive Singing Network.

The group will be singing sea shanties on Friday afternoons in the Scalloway Youth and Community Centre, from 2pm to 3pm from 7 January.

Brown is Alzheimer Scotland’s dementia advisor in Shetland, although the shanty project is being organised with her storytelling hat on.

“Each week there will be refreshments and a sea-themed story and thanks to the Luminate funding the sessions will be free with any donations going to Alzheimer Scotland,” she added.

“Kirsten Watt, Alzheimer Scotland’s new community activity organiser on Shetland will be on hand to support anybody who is living with dementia and their carers.”

Brown arrived in Shetland in September and she said she has heard all about the Yell Shanty Men, and the Scalloway Singers.

Chatting to locals at the over 60s club in Scalloway she heard folk say that they do not feel that they can sing in groups now because their voices have aged.

But Brown – a member of the Scottish Storytelling Forum – is encouraging anyone to come along regardless of their ability.

She spent lockdown working in a care home in Edinburgh where she regularly shared stories and sea shanties before taking on the role of the dementia advisor for Alzheimer Scotland in the isles.

Brown said she understands, from experience, that singing together delivers a “fantastic feel-good factor and firmly believes that a sea shanty, with its familiar chorus and call and response, is dementia friendly”.

It coincidentally comes after sea shanties regained popularity over the last year thanks to viral videos on online video platform TikTok.

For further details of the singing group contact Jan Brown on 07799852612 or Kirsten Watt on 07760 177049, or Shetland’s Dementia Resource Centre on 01595 720344.