Highland Mosaic Project

On Monday 14th December 2015, Alzheimer Scotland celebrated the unveiling of a mosaic created by people living with dementia, carers and volunteers that attend the DCaff dementia café in Avoch, Highland.

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The project was delivered by Sally Purdy, an experienced community artist, with funding from Highlife Highland and support from Groam House Celtic Art Museum and pupils from Fortrose Academy.  The project aimed to engage with people, give them the opportunity to learn a new skill and build confidence within a relaxed and creative environment. It also aimed to boost dementia awareness and build links within the community of Avoch and the Black Isle by forging connections between the students at Fortrose Academy and the older members of the population.

First things first, we choose our design and discussed the meanings of the various elements we wished to include.

Sally said: “Together we have created a Celtic themed design. The forget-me-knot flower features strongly.  In the centre of the design is a Celtic sparrow, the symbol for remembrance, memory & ancestral knowledge.  In its mouth is a sprig of rosemary, also symbolising memory. We have included a quote from Ophelia at the bottom of the design that reads: “ROSEMARY, THAT IS FOR REMEBERANCE, PRAY, LOVE, REMEMBER”

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As we started actually adding tiles to the mosaic, things came together pretty quickly.

Different people worked on different parts- for example, Jennifer and Norman created the sparrow centrepiece, Millie, Nancy, Jessie and Hazel among others created forget-me-nots and Andrew and Andy were a great help with tile smashing and grouting. The first element to be laid out was the Celtic heart.  Lewis, who attends the café, placed the heart in the mosaic. He said: “It is an interesting project and it is certainly something different”

Once the details were completed, we filled in the background of the mosaic and spent a week grouting, which the men took ownership of while the rest of us enjoyed a cuppa!

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As part of the project, Groam House Museum volunteers and staff and Fortrose academy students all became Dementia Friends. Angus, a year 6 pupil of Fortrose Academy has been a volunteer on the mosaic project along with Jenna.  Angus said: “It has been great fun to be involved in the project and I have enjoyed working with everyone at the dementia cafe.”

Participants in the project commented:

“If anyone in the community has dementia, I feel confident that I can deal with them.”


“It has improved my social skills.”


“Will use my new skills to teach grandchildren how to do a mosaic”


“Hand co-ordination is much better”


“May decorate something in the house”


“The mosaic project has brought everyone together for a shared purpose.  It is amazing what can be achieved when people work together.”

Fiona Ross, who is a volunteer at the café

“We were delighted to receive funding from High Life Highland to complete a Celtic Mosaic Collaboration on the Black Isle. The mosaic workshops have been supported by the Alzheimer Scotland run dementia café in Avoch called D-Caff, Black Isle Cares and Fortrose Academy.  We have also received support from VAF (Volunteer Action Fund).”

Carola Martin-Smith, Volunteer Co-ordinator, Groam House Museum

“We have had a lot of fun working on our mosaic, from sticky fingers covered in glue to heated discussions deciding which colours to incorporate to smashing tiles with a hammer and grouting in ‘binbag’ aprons – people with dementia, carers, volunteers and staff have all collectively learnt new skills and been united in such a rewarding experience. Our hard work over 3 months has definitely paid off – the final piece is beautiful and hopefully its presence in the heart of the Black Isle will act as inspiration for those living with dementia and a reminder that there are great local projects offering support for carers and families. Special thanks to everyone who attends the café and the pupils from Fortrose Academy who support the group and were a great help during this project.”

Joanna Sykes, Community Activities Co-ordinator, Alzheimer Scotland

The mosaic will now permanently reside within the community on the side of the Post Office in Avoch for all to enjoy.



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