Events and sessions this month

This month, we have some exciting things happening within the project and to share with you.

This Saturday, 3rd September – Purvai Family Festival Day at An Lanntair welcomes you to come and enjoy the festival all day but especially at 3pm, where the children who have been enjoying the drumming workshops have a concert to perform to you led by Dalbir Singh Rattan and at 3.30pm there is a special Indian Kathak Dance solo performance for you, all in the Auditorium. These are all free and if you prefer to watch from the comfort of the Cafe Bar with a steaming mug of tea in your hands, all of the screens will be open.


13th/14th/15th September, the team are braving the (currently Very!) high seas to travel to Cealasaigh to harvest Marram grasses to use for our Woven Communities project work across the Uists next month. This is an intergenerational project and we will be working with school children to document the project. There are exciting developments with this project which may see an exhibition and some film yet, along with the new pieces that will be created from grasses.


Thursday September 29th Carers’ High Tea at An Lanntair – please book with Alzheimer Scotland.

Chris Hammacott has been busy creating some beautiful patchwork quilt cushion and tote bag projects to support carers across the islands to learn a new skill and retain a sense of self with crafting. This project will develop into sessions in care centres and day centres and kits will be available for carers who want to have a go at quilting. Anybody who wants to have a go can also use their own fabrics and the instruction sheets with templates that Chris is working on now. We will be filming short videos with her from 7th September to offer how-to instructions for quilting projects online and on DVD, these will be available from October.


Jon organised a gorgeous and hilarious ‘In Conversation’ interview between Jack Manchester in North Uist and John Maher (Photographer, ex Buzzcocks drummer, Performance Car Tuner) and we have some wonderful images from that interview soon. The editing is about to take place and we will have that podcast for you very soon.

The Waulking Songs session that we recorded in the Gallery recently will be edited shortly to make a podcast and CD of Waulking songs for our Memory Box relating to Tweed & Weaving and available online to listen to.


Later, there will be further sharing of Purvai across care centres – more news as this is confirmed.

Calum Martin has kindly offered some singing at care centres, possibly including some psalm singing, so keep watching for confirmation on that.

Catherine is bring the enormous map to care centres with me shortly. More news on that as it is confirmed.

Our Memory Cafes at Western Isles Hospital will be starting up again shortly, as soon as the final planning is complete.

If any carers are wanting to develop their arts career, get in touch with Alex Boyd at An Lanntair, he has a brilliant programme for supporting emerging artists, of all media.

We now have a Soundcloud account for our own recordings and our playlists we have selected from musicians who have supported our project, some Gaelic Psalm-singing and some waulking songs.

Our Youtube channel has some waulking songs clips on there and we are trialling some cook-along videos which might be helpful for people at home with problems with ordering tasks. Cooking along in real time is the aim and the dvds will come with a shopping list and list of items needed to make basic meals at home. This is in trial, so any suggestions for meals that take around then minutes or less are most welcome!

Take a look at our Projects page for information on past, present and future projects. Links will appear there for more information as time allows.

We are almost ready to recruit our South Isles posts. Our Remoage Collaboration is being confirmed now and we will then be able to advertise.

Our trial memory box is currently in North Uist. We will be trialling how the mobile library service works to move it to South Uist and Benbecula shortly. Then we will take it back to An Lanntair to look at the feedback and develop several themed boxes through the new South Isles practitioners.


If you love film, get yourself on Oriana’s mailing list for Pocket Cinema sessions which are conveniently in the afternoons, are in a small and cozy space and it only costs £2 including tea and cake! Heather and Oriana are working on dementia friendly screenings, too. They are likely to be on a Monday afternoon and feature happy, singalong style films (maybe even occasional requests!). There will be a breakout space. The sound will not be too loud, the room is smaller and cozier than the Auditorium and the lights will be up a little for orientation.


Heading for Uist

Up at 4am, heading for Taigh Chearsabhagh for the first Carers Lunch Break.

 I’m overjoyed that the ferry wifi works. This is a first. Plenty of time for putting together a presentation for our South Isles carers on the way – the long way round because the direct ferry was booked up. 

Quilting for carers

I was thrilled to meet Chris yesterday and even more thrilled to arrange with her some carer support through a template, how-to video and cushion kit design. We will be bringing a session to Solas and a commissioned design to a resident of a care home shortly, too.

Chris writes for quilting magazines – you may have seen some of her designs in print. She also has a Wednesday evening class at An Lanntair right now.

If you are a carer of someone living with dementia and you would like to have a go at quilting, please get in touch.

The Power of One

In a care system which is focused on saving money, best value and limited resources, focussing on supporting one person can be difficult. Funds follow numbers and people living with dementia and carers often say to me how this doesn’t always work.

Of course, at times, a gathering works really well. Collectively enjoying a performance or meal is a sociable necessity from time to time and it is always good to have a circle of friends who understand a certain shared aspect of life. And what fun would a solo singing group be?

Interpreting people’s words and situations shows a need to be very personal at times, too.

‘I go where they take me, you know, in the bus.’

‘This is the only trip this month, I had to come even though my tummy is upset.’

‘I loved being outside in the sun. I haven’t been out since.’

‘It’s decided, where we go.’

‘I feel trapped, like I’m in prison.’

‘I am supposed to be the man.’

From these comments, it’s clear that one to one approaches are a very human requirement.

This week, I supported a man living with dementia to take his wife to a family party. He was the life and soul, singing, sharing stories and interacting, as he might have always done. The details were taken care of – transport, reminders, payment. This left him free to be the family support he wanted to be. This left his wife (and carer) free to make party arrangements. Neighbours and the wider community participated, dropping in. They were all very welcome to the ceilidh.

I also supported a carer to have more time at the shops (with a lift) and to have a look at a car, to give her more independence. And there was a coffee catch-up with a young girl who had been volunteering regularly with people living with dementia and was struggling to let go now that she has a job.

And when I think of the power of one – support to one person meant support to his wife, the wider family, the immediate community who shared the occasion, the community transport service supported to keep going, the local shops supported by the purchase of supplies and fuel, it becomes clear that we are all connected. The young woman who has given countless volunteer hours to the community, now moving confidently into a care post where her acquired skills and experience will be useful.

The power of one person being supported creates positive ripples throughout the community.

And the recorded stories can be shared very widely across the community to support other people.
One of the joys of this project is the flexibility to target support where it’s most needed and sometimes that support is greatest to the power of one.

Happy 95th Jessie!

I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon near Valtos today, where Jessie celebrated her 95th birthday along with her immediate and extended family, neighbours, holiday visitors and family visitors.

There was birthday cake and a summery  birthday tea of prawns, salmon, crab sandwiches, fresh baked scones with crowdie and cream and plenty of salad and oatcakes.

Birthday presents were beautiful brooches a rose necklace, a badge declaring ‘young at heart’, roses galore and a spectacular drawing of a sailing boat by a very talented young artist. Lots of cards were lovingly written with very personal messages and more kept arriving all afternoon.

Jessie brought the ceilidh with songs that she used to sing to Chrissie as a child. There were stories of India and Lewis. I asked Jessie her secret for a good long life and she said “I don’t know…I can’t quite believe it, I’m 95!’ And then she went on to explain how wonderful her carers are, supporting her at home.

Chrissie proved that you are never too grown up to sit on Mum’s knee. Although Jessie assured her, it would definitely be the last time!

Jessie’s memory for the village layout and who lived and lives where is incredible, she was able to reel off great long lists of neighbours and houses.

Staran Transport was fabulous, we made the birthday tea ourselves and with some family and neighbourhood love, some warm and sensitive support in the background, nobody cared about dementia or mobility issues or frailty or age or isolation or  ‘can’t’ or ‘disabled’. It was just a birthday party on a warm and sunny afternoon in a little village by the blue-green Atlantic Ocean.

And for me, that’s what a Dementia Friendly Community is. A community that understands what is needed because it knows the people individually and quietly supports them, completely understanding the value of older people and their families. A fully functioning community is, by nature, supportive of it’s community needs and values each person within it.



Carers High Tea/Lunch across Uists & Benbecula 24th/25th August

Alzheimer Scotland and our dementia friendly community project are collaborating on a series of carer lunches and high tea in order to meet with carers of people living with dementia across the Uists and Benbecula.

Please book with Alzheimer Scotland Bells Road 01851 702123 if you would like to attend one of the following sessions. Food & drink provided from Alzheimer Scotland  locally raised funds.

Wednesday 24th August 12-1pm Taigh Chearsabhagh Cafe (Paula Brown).

Wednesday 24th August 4-5pm Kildonan Museum cafe South Uist (Paula Brown)

Thursday 25th August 12-1pm Dark Isle Hotel, Benbecula. (Marion MacInnes & Paula Brown).

Please feel welcome to come for a break by yourself or to come together with the person you care for as a trip out together. Please discuss travel requirements with staff at Alzheimer Scotland when you book.

These initial sessions are for you to share ideas and thoughts on what is available, what you need from local carer support, which locations and times work best and what else would be helpful. Or just come for lunch/tea and a chat.

Looking forward to meeting you.

In Conversation

Jon is shortly about to kick off our In Conversation podcast series in Uist. These podcasts will be recordings made with older people across our broad community, in celebration of shared culture and differences between generations. We are going to be exploring similarities and differences across jobs, community roles, gender roles, language and lifestyles and recording those conversations to preserve the first hand living history and to value the elders in our community.
In preparation for this, I have uploaded to a Soundcloud Playlist a couple of conversations I have been privileged to share with older Hebridean women about food, housing, the roles of women within the home and community and family life.
In Conversation Playlist on Soundcloud