Printmaking with Gill Thompson 18th Oct

On Weds 18th October, we held an Art Ceilidh day at An Lanntair in the art room.

You may have seen the current exhibition of Gill’s evening class students’ work in the Mezzanine Gallery at An Lanntair – this was a supported day to try Gill’s techniques out for free, funded by Life Changes Trust and the William Grant Foundation under our Me Time set of projects to support people with unpaid caring roles by offering supported sessions and relaxed days to drop in or stay all day and try working with current artists for free.

Gill walked us through creating a lino cut print from start to finish and then talked about the different inks available and how long they take to dry.

We had a go at printing one of Gill’s designs to start with and then worked on our own designs drawing them, or tracing them, then using a white transfer paper to mark the tile surface to guide our cuts. We experimented with different tools and pressures.

There were a few Christmas cards, wrapping bags, tags because of the season but there was also a glorious two-colour floral card created, which was to be used as a beautiful, incredibly personal condolence card.

Comments from the day included
‘I can’t believe it, how good it is turning out!’
‘I made that!’
‘It’s brilliant, isn’t it?’
‘I didn’t think mine would turn out so good’
‘I’ll give this card to my Grandson, hand made by Granny!’

Throughout the day, we had ten people participate, plus some children after their dance show next door. Bellann from the Volunteer Centre came along, Kelly-Anne from Tagsa Uibhist, George Pazio, our Post Diagnostic nurse and the morning and afternoon sessions were equally busy, with three people staying for lunch.

Have a look at our creations!

Installing the Erisort DEEP vinyl

Here we are getting some hand hygiene training and a work permit to install the vinyl that people in hospital created with Alex Boyd

Roddy and Donald did an excellent job with the installation , supervised and assisted by the fantastic Murdo Finlay.

This vinyl was funded by DEEP and it is going to be extremely supportive to everyone in hospital but especially to people with more advanced dementia.

Living an outdoor life, wanting to feel ‘outside’ in the landscape has been a strong theme throughout conversations for this project.

I have already noticed people sitting, looking ‘out’. 

Promotion will happen through the NHS Western Isles Communication team shortly.

Thanks to everyone involved, including everybody in hospital past and present, the NHS team, An Lanntair team, DEEP for funding this project work, Alex Boyd for his gentle and sensitive approach to the work, Life Changes Trust for funding our staff time and expenses, to the printers and to everyone who supported us.

Birds and Making Nests

I recently took these pictures of the banner the children had made during our week when Arora collaborated with the children from Fèis Tir an Eòrna. The theme was birds and the natural environment of Uist. We spoke about all the different birds and flowers we had seen on Uist and looked at both the Gaelic and English names for them in different areas. For example a Daisy was a Dìthean-Caorach (sheep flower) or a Neòineag for some people. The more people we asked, the more variations we got.

IMG_7264The week began with traditional rope making workshops using local materials led by Dawn Susan. These workshops were developed during the Woven Communities project. The children learnt to make rope from Marram grass and then they made coiled ‘nests’. During the week they also practised techniques with willow (to make willow fish) and they perfected the technique for removing the pith from rushes (a traditional method of getting wicks for an oil burner lamp).

After the first session one of the children came in the next day saying he had spent the whole evening in his garden making ropes from all the different grasses he found there. He took samples to show us…he was hooked! He quickly perfected making the willow fish too and took some spare willow home with him to continue weaving.

The children made their own ‘coileach gaoithe’ feather wind toy and we chatted about what other toys they would make if toy shops didn’t exist and they could only use local materials.

During this week I was given a piece of heather rope from a local man in Locheport who can make the rope in the traditional style. This was the last piece of heather rope he could find on the old ruin by his house.


We closely studied the nests and talked about how resourceful birds are when it comes to finding materials to weave with. We found wool, hair moss, twine and shells;

At one of the evening events we took along the ropes and baskets. It was here that one of the local community told us about a local man who would weave slippers for ladies out of marram rope – a flat Uist espadrille! It prompted a lot of discussion and reminiscence about all the people who made horse collars and who the good weavers were. Everyone had a go at making a bit of marrram rope although it wasn’t the first time for many of them. Since then one of the ladies who was there has shown me this beautiful horse collar that was made on North Uist;


One afternoon a group of the children came along to Trianaid Care Home to show what they had made to the residents. They demonstrated their new skills and discussed what they had been learning. It was during this session that we first heard one of the local ladies tell us about how at Harvest time the children used to get the foil off the sweetie wrappers, flatten them out and cover the oat kernels. These were saved and used as Harvest or Christmas decorations. We later used this at the Harvest reminiscence sessions.

During the week Jon and Lucy Robertson visited as part of Lucy’s research into using local materials for her Intelligent Textiles project. Birds and birdsong was a big topic of conversation. These bird drawings were made using only a feather and ink;


A Ciosan and a Creel made by Dawn Susan;

Recording of local Halloween traditions

At the Tuesday ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital today, I recorded some stories of Halloween, ghosts, dreams and fairies, because I knew I would never remember the traditional rhyme.


Click to hear the recording on our Soundcloud –
Halloween traditions, ghosts and fairies

Does anyone remember the full rhyme in Gaelic that children said as they knocked on doors around Halloween on the islands? Did each area have its own version? And does anyone have a translation to English?

Also, does anyone have any local traditions to share of the season? In England, there is wassailing, which has a traditional song and beating spirits away with branches, to ensure a good fruit harvest. I heard today about a Belgian tradition of Blackening around this time of year.

We spoke about the harvest quernstone and the song that helped hand milling, keeping time and how waulking songs helped with the work of waulking tweeds.

We enjoyed some tea, coffee and gluten free mint choc chip cakes. And the company, of course!


October Newsletter (including Sept)

This is the Arora Dementia Friendly Community Newsletter for Oct 17 including all news from September. Spoken Word newsletter 

October events and news:

On Friday 6th October, I went along to the Museum’s National Heritage Awareness Day cultural session at Lews Castle Museum Education room. I was thrilled to see Maggie there, plus to have the opportunity to meet Euan, who has taken up the post that Angus left recently.  Best wishes for the future Angus, we will miss you!

A small group of us really enjoyed Euan’s presentation, plus I had the opportunity to see my own croft history in the telephone directory of the west side that Euan brought along.

Immediately after this, I was lucky enough to join Alzheimer Scotland’s Tea and Blether session in the Natural Retreats cafe.

And immediately after this, there was the incredible local Gaelic singing and storytelling in the Museum itself! One gentleman made a request for ‘puirt-a-beul’ or ‘mouth music’ and I joked that perhaps he was asking for a bit much there… but Maggie pulled it out of the bag immediately with a traditional mouth music song, which the gentleman bounced along to with his walking stick, while another lady ‘conducted and another mouthed all of the words in perfect time. .


The Museum evaluation sheet asked how it could be improved…and I  had to answer simply ‘more, please!’


The NHS Erisort Ward, Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway Ceilidhs will continue each Tuesday 2-3pm in Erisort Day room.
Tuesday 3rd October
Tuesday 10th October
Tuesday 17th October
Tuesday 24th October
Tuesday 31st October

Weds 4th October is the Dementia Friendly screening at An Lanntair Pocket Cinema 1.30-3.30pm

Weds 18th October, Art Ceilidh Day with Gill Thompson (printmaking), Art Room, An Lanntair 10.30am-3pm. FREE. Drop in or stay all day.

Weds 25th October, Me Time day for past and present carers with Chris Hammacott, Textiles. Art Room, An Lanntair 10.30-3.30pm. FREE. Drop in or stay all day.

Thursday 26th October 1.30-3.30pm – Photography Walk with Mhairi Law.  Contact Paula

Weekly events on Barra relating to music, photography and reminiscence, please contact Duncan

Weekly events on North /South Uist/Benbecula – please contact

Regular events for carers on the Uists/Benbecula – please contact Margaret Joan 

Later this month, we will be at Harris House with Louise Davidson and Maggie Smith, working on Cultural Movement and there will be a Fishing Box Memory Box creation session too.

The two existing Memory Boxes are back at Stornoway Library ready for their Stornoway launch – news of that as it is arranged. It will be soon and we will make and distribute posters.

This month sees TWO vinyl projects by DEEP going on the walls in two centres. The first one is in Erisort Day Room by Alex Boyd, working alongside people in Western Isles Hospital. News of the install date shortly but in the meantime, have a look at the poem I put together from responses from people in hospital for National Poetry Day.

The second vinyl goes up in St Brendan’s Care Centre in Barra, an image of Castlebay by Duncan Mackinnon, selected by people living at the care centre. Duncan has also been working with the people living at Castlebay St Brendan’s home, to create an image for each bedroom for the wall, a personal image of a favourite part of Barra. This is one example where very low numbers of people can be a massive bonus!


And here’s what happened in September:

Kate wrote a lovely blog post about the quernstone, which was part of the Harvest celebrations at Taigh Chearsabhagh,

Weds 6th Sept – Andy Lowndes, the Music Detective from Playlist for Life came along to Taigh Chearsabhagh with Kate.
He met Duncan on Barra when he was visiting there.
Mon 11th Sept, he came along to An Lanntair to meet Maggie Smith and on Friday 15th he came along to the traditional ceilidh in the Retirement Centre in Stornoway.

Weds 6th Sept, we screened a dementia friendly screening of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines at the pocket cinema in An Lanntair.
Clisham Ward had two Arora Film Club films this month – The Kid with Charlie Chaplin and a Laurel & Hardy compilation of short films.

Gill Thompson continued to work with people on the ward at Western Isles Hospital in Clisham Ward and on the Erisort Ward at the Tuesday ceilidh.

Dr Issie McPhail and Dr Louise Senior presented our Crofting Memory Box (see guest blog) to the Erisort Ceilidh during the Harris Mountain Festival and they are working on creating a new memory box for us with materials and resources from the exhibition relating to the Harris Mountain Festival.

We held a Bale-off month of baking at the Erisort Ward ceilidh plus we took along some harvest themed fruits and veggies, including some unusual varieties, which went down very well with the group.

Monday 11th Sept
, We went along to the Life Changes Trust gathering in Perth.

The NHS Erisort Ward, Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway Ceilidhs continued each Tuesday 2-3pm in Erisort Day room
Tuesday 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th September.

Weds 13th Sept – Art Ceilidh day at An Lanntair with Chris Hammacott, textiles.
Weds 27th Sept – Me Time Day with Dawn Susan, weaving with natural materials

Sat 16th Sept – Memory Walk at Benbecula with Alzheimer Scotland.

Margaret Joan held a Me Time cyanotype printmaking workshop at Taigh Chearsabhagh.


Tea at the castle 

I joined Alzheimer Scotland’s Western Isles branch for tea at the castle on Friday.

It’s such a lovely place to have a trip out to. 

The cakes were incredible, worthy of a round of applause as an entire carrot cake and a huge plate of buns came out from the kitchen.

Marion MacInnes did everyone proud!

Maggie Smith came and played her Melodeon and sang for us. 

A lovely afternoon in the midst of the National Heritage Awareness Day events.