August 26, 2008

Time to Curl

Did you watch BBC Scotland's new reality television programme last night? Primetime's aim is to champion health, wellbeing and fitness for the over 50s. The programme highlights 'projects that will help make older people in Scotland healthier and give them a sense of wellbeing, as well as encouraging better links between different generations'. All well and good!

In a series of six programmes BBC Scotland gives the decision to viewers how £3 million from the Big Lottery Fund will be spent. One project from three highlighted each week will be the winner.

Why am I uneasy? Having watched the first programme last night I am convinced that ALL the projects described deserved to be funded! That's perhaps not surprising as they will have gone through a rigorous selection before getting to this stage. I'm uncomfortable because the decision rests with me, the viewer, with limited background information on which to make a reasoned decision. The programme makers are asking the viewers to decide on a superficial 'impression' gained from watching an eight or nine minute televised presentation. No opportunity to ask questions, or find out more about the projects.

Of course, I know that supporters of all the projects will already have been out canvassing to get as many friends or relatives to make the all important phone calls which will decide which group gets the money, and, more importantly, which does not.

I'm uneasy, because this is not really entertainment. It is not 'Strictly Come Dancing', nor is it even 'Restoration'. One of the projects last night involved support for patients in the early stages of dementia, and their carers. Another involved personal safety programmes to help old people cope better with issues such as crime, racism and home safety. The third was a volunteering project using outdoor and educational activities to improve life for the over 50s in deprived areas of Dundee.

The programme was educational, certainly. I am just uneasy that one of these projects will get the money asked for, on the basis of a few viewers' votes, and the others, 'will leave with nothing'! Perhaps with the exposure gained, money will be more easily found from other sources for the two 'losers'.

I write all this because my email has been full of exhortations to vote next week for the Time to Curl project. This is the bid by the Border Curling Development Group (in the photo above) at the Kelso rink. It is an excellent project! The essence of the bid is on the Primetime website here. It says "Participating in team sports is a great way to encourage new friendships while building up physical fitness. Border Curling Development Group, through their Time to Curl project, aim to encourage over 50s in the Borders area to take part in a variety of activities linked to the sport of curling.

Key to the project is the purchase of a minibus so that Time to Curl will be able to offer access to those with mobility problems as well as those living in isolated areas. Curling is a particularly inclusive sport providing the proverbial level playing field, with people from all age groups and of all abilities - including disabled curlers - able to play on the same team. By providing taster sessions and coaching programmes, Time to Curl will make the sport more accessible to those who are new to it and, over the course of the project, will improve the health, wellbeing and social networks of the over 50s.

The Border Curling Development Group also believe that all of the curling clubs in Scotland could benefit from their Primetime bid. They say that any club in the country could use their 'Time to curl' proposal as a blueprint to get more over 50's in their area enjoying the sport of curling.'

The project also plans to train existing curlers as coaches, encouraging the over 50s to contribute to their community and feel a sense of improved self worth. Links to an existing schools programme will promote the sharing of skills and experience between the generations, while daytime league competitions will allow participation for all, helping to integrate communities through the many existing clubs in the Borders."

I'll be making my allowed five phone calls next Monday evening in favour of this Kelso project. Many of the ideas could be rolled out in other rinks throughout the country. I'm supporting it because I'm a curler, a fan of the game, not because I think that Girvan’s Community Garden and the Lifelong Carers project should not be supported too.

I'll continue though to harbour reservations about the whole concept of the Primetime programme.

Look at it this way. You know that the Royal Club is currently in the process of making the decision on who should get the funding available to build the National Curling Academy, Ratho or Kinross, see the previous post here. On this subject I see that new RCCC Director Willie Nicoll has been asked to join the Working Group because of his management and business experience. Colin Grahamslaw, the RCCC CEO now becomes the Secretary of the Working Group, no longer a voting member. The Working Group, which includes Anne Malcolm, Jeanette Johnstone and Lockhart Steele, will prepare a report for the whole Board which will make final decision in October.

Why bother? Let's just give all of Scotland's 14,500 curlers a vote and ask them to decide where the NCA should be? Or we could just toss a coin? Or play a reality TV 'game', and get people to phone Cairnie House in favour of one site or another?

Of course not. And that is why I will continue to have my reservations about BBC's Primetime, despite its worthy aims. Improving health, wellbeing and fitness in the over 50s is not a game.

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