Kinlochlovin’ – Creative learning and wellbeing activities for young people through lockdown

Posted: 12 October 2020, in News

Kinlochlovin’ is a Social Enterprise and charity based in South Lochaber in the Highlands. It was founded by myself and other teachers who wanted to give young people the best opportunities and experiences possible. Extra-curricular activities and cultural experiences are fantastic for the growth of positive mental health for young people, but sadly they can be limited and expensive, especially in rurally isolate areas, and we wanted to remove those barriers.

Anna McBride and Lilli Rochford-Smith

Sometime running a Social Enterprise can feel like a battle in which I’m fighting to not only achieve impact but also constantly having to stop and explain to people what a social enterprise is. Over the last five years, the establishment of Kinlochlovin’ has been faced with lots of confusion, constant questions such as: “How does it work?” or  “Why don’t you charge for youth activities and services?”

I think people are so used to the concept of profit-led business that it can genuinely come as a shock to them that the greatest outcome in our social enterprise is the social impact we make and not the profit. So one benefit of the past six months I feel, is that people seem to understand and appreciate community work more.

A creative workshop pre-Covid

Throughout the last few months when normal services had to suspend it was a challenge to try and think out of the box and adapt. No more kid’s workshops, youth drop ins, 1:1s or experiences. It felt like the highlights of my week just suddenly disappeared. Setting up online initiatives felt radically different as so much of our work is based on building relationships in person.

I personally felt really nervous about being online, I can happily stand up and talk to people but going in front of the camera worried me more. I took the plunge though and with our sessional worker started to use Social Media more effectively and we set up a YouTube channel. It was a novel experience and a learning curve! I hoped it would sustain relationships with the young people we work with and hopefully keep them entertained a little at home.

A YouTube video on homemade face paint

This really paralleled my own personal life and my two children became Kinlochlovin’ assistants appearing in videos and helping me decide what to do. They were presenters and camera men and the behind the scenes artists. It gave us moments of total joy, laughter and sometimes tears!

When we organised creative packs for young people and health and wellbeing packs for adults to distribute around the community, it became a family event. My kids helped make up and decorate some boxes and went with me on deliveries. My poor husband had to suffer our house becoming a new base with constant boxes of stuff everywhere!

Lewis decorating a creativity box

Amongst all the madness though, it did give time to reflect and think about how to try and build a stable and sustainable future for Kinlochlovin’. Without any income from additional services, the focus becomes about trying to develop more products for online sales and adapting our premises to become a pop-up shop. It’s such a challenge to do this when mostly you want to be interacting with people and providing activities, but I’ve accepted this is the reality for us to survive alongside more remote activities and services.

I love what I do with Kinlochlovin’ and the last few months just make me more personally determined to ensure we are still around for a long time as our community deserves it!

Anna McBride