An interview with Scotswoman of the Year: Sally Magnusson

Image by Derek Prescott

The Evening Times’ Scotswoman of the Year is an award given to celebrate the unique accomplishments of women across Scotland, especially the unsung women who make the world a better place through their achievements, talents and hard work. We speak to 2018’s winner, writer and broadcaster, Sally Magnusson.


Aside from her broadcasting career, Sally’s work as a memoirist and novelist as well as her charitable work caught the eye of the award givers. Her most famous and moving book, Where Memories Go, is a real-life story about her mother’s dementia. “I wrote about what it’s like for families dealing with dementia and I guessed at what was going on in my mother’s head when she had dementia,” explains Sally.

Family is clearly important for Sally: her new novel The Sealwoman’s Gift was inspired by the tales her father, the beloved broadcaster Magnus Magnusson, told her about his native Iceland. But it was the passing of her mother in 2012 from dementia that moved her to establish the charity Playlist for Life.


One of the ways Sally connected with her mother towards the end of her life was through music. While she was caring for her, Sally realised the powerful effect music had on her mother’s mood. “You can time your music which we did with my mother so that if she was frightened in the bath, we would start singing her to calm her down and let her enjoy it. Music raised her spirits.”

Inspired by music’s effect on her mum, Sally says: “I wanted to tell other families what I’ve been going through – that there is something they can do to help their loved ones get through a little more easily and happily. I started talking about it at conferences and gradually that evolved into a charity because more and more people wanted help. We began developing tools for families and training care home staff about how to offer people music that would make them feel better.”

Sally notes that music can be used as a therapy for a range of conditions, not just dementia. “At the Scotswoman dinner, I was sitting next to a woman who told me that her son has severe autism and when they played him certain music, it not only calmed him down but also made him more engaged. It works with stroke patients and in Accident & Emergency to calm agitation. I would urge anybody to think about making a playlist for themselves which they can carry with them into whatever life throws at them.”

Playlist for Life is music and dementia charity, that uses the music of a person’s life to keep them connected to themselves and their loved ones throughout their dementia journey via apps and playlists. For more information, visit

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