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Answering the Lockdown SOS

1st Rhagfyr 2020

Jade West, Volunteer Coordinator, Skylark IX Recovery Trust,

Jade West

During the battle of Dunkirk, the Skylark IX boat saved the lives of 600 men by ferrying them to safety. Seventy-three years later it was fished from the River Leven, battered and bruised, following an SOS call from the Dumbarton Veteran community.

The Skylark IX Recovery Trust answered that call and set to raise the funds needed to have the boat restored, in tandem with its parent organisation ‘Alternatives’, a local drugs recovery service. A key aim for the conservation project was to build skills and job opportunities for the wider community, in particular for Alternatives’ own clients. Through skiff building, wood working and general boatbuilding programmes in the Scottish Maritime Museum, the trust intended to not only restore the Scottish town’s boat crafting heritage, but save lives all over again.

Despite receiving a significant grant from The National Lottery in 2018, many of the restoration plans had to be put on hold following the pandemic. Jade West, a Volunteer Coordinator and third year Glasgow University student who joined the day that lockdown hit earlier this year, began looking at ways in which the spirit of Skylark IX could be kept alive, making sure the ‘Alternatives’ network were supported.

"These folks were stuck through lockdown amidst their recovery and that was inevitably going to have a big impact on them,” notes Jade. “Lockdown has been difficult mentally, but I've had a real buzz and a sense of pride that, throughout all the adversity, we were able to keep things going and have a positive impact on people's health.”

In addition to running weekly Zoom calls and check-ins, the Trust engaged the wider community by creating a lockdown patchwork quilt together with a textile expert, incorporating maritime design motifs. Sending out material to 37 participants – ranging from care home residents to young people to those recovering from addiction – the group project saw personal stories woven into the fabric, with Jade describing the end result exhibited at Dumbarton’s Costa Coffee and its local church as a “tangible piece of history to hold”.

She added: "Projects such as this are a real lifeline for people and offer so much structure, pride and support that they need in their lives. Trying to stay optimistic when you're being knocked by the restrictions, when you're having to chop and change, is perhaps one of the harder things we've dealt with. But even through the adversity of the knockbacks, we've been able to push through.

“The quilt has been making its way around the town. Seeing everyone’s faces, it makes you remember why you're doing all this.”

The Trust is just one of the many inspiring organisations that receive a total of £30m of support from The National Lottery every week, while Jane is one of the carefully selected unsung heritage champions to be projected onto Stonehenge by The National Lottery.

“I had a poor upbringing – so if someone told me ten years ago that this would have been possible, that I'd have gone to Uni, that I could drive, that I would be making a huge difference to people's lives, I wouldn't have believed them.

"People playing the Lottery is so important, it's funding local jobs and projects and I would encourage people to keep on helping us.

"I've pushed through my own adversity and I'm so grateful for the support. All my mentors – thank you Claire McDaid – are women who have come through and made their way into managerial positions, coming up from nothing and pushing boundaries. I'm so proud to be representing women in heritage.”