December Project Newsletter

December Project Newsletter and all the news from November.

Soundcloud recording of this newsletter


DF Screening
Again, November was a very busy project month, with a fantastic trip to South Uist, which I will tell you about in a moment.
This month’s dementia friendly screening on 29th November was The Artist. What more could you want from a film when it has a little nostalgia, great dancing, a cute dog, amazing cars and a happy ending? Get yourself on Oriana’s Pocket Cinema mailing list for future films.


Oriana went along to the first in a course of training sessions at Volunteer Centre Western Isles as part of An Lanntair’s commitment to WAVE Western Isles Award for Volunteering Excellence. We aim to support and develop our volunteering programme and volunteers to benefit everybody. Paula has been working on a volunteering policy to shape with An Lanntair management and there Volunteer Centre Western Isles.

Western Isles Hospital Tuesday Ceilidhs
Every Tuesday afternoon at 2pm, you will find a social gathering of people in hospital, visitors, staff, students, volunteers, Alzheimer Scotland and Arora Project staff gathering for a chat and tea and cake. Sometimes, we have a special guest for poetry, music, Gaelic Psalm-singing, and occasionally there is home baking or a little one to entertain us all. November sessions have seen melodeon music and cultural Gaelic chat, singing, sewing and talk about everything from beauty queens at the carnival to ballet dancing.


Quilter in residence at Solas commissioned by the Arora Project
Solas Day Centre has had a quilter in residence for the month of November. Chris Hammacott has been working very hard with people attending the day centre on conversations, stories, life stories and reminiscence, in order to create highly personal pieces for people. Some lap quilts have been made for people who feel the cold, cushions for those who like some comfort while sitting and some tote bags for knitting and walking out with. Chris’s talents have been massively well received and so very welcome. It has been an emotional month, in the best way. You can see the quilts and other pieces exhibited at An Lanntair’s Mezzanine level gallery above the cafe bar from 12th – 22nd December.


Stitch kits and carers cushions
We have commissioned special craft kits from Chris Hammacott’s wonderful imagination and skill, with which we aim to support carers at home, who may not be able to get out and enjoy evening classes. All of the cushion kits have now gone out as far and wide as Barra and Ness and the local wool stitch kit has gone to Barra. More stitching kits will be coming soon!


Woven Communities
The entire team travelled to South Uist from 21st November to work on the collaboration Woven Communities Project with Dr Stephanie Bunn of St Andrews University and Dawn Susan of Hebridean Baskets. We based ourselves at Iochdair School and worked with all 65 of the children there. We also held an intergenerational demonstration session at Sacred Heart House, where the children showed their marram grass weaving to the residents, demonstrated twining rope from bailer twine and sang for the residents in gaelic. Maggie Smith played her melodeon for everyone and the residents shared their first hand experience of marram grass and tales of knowing Angus MacPhee, the Silent Weaver from Uist, themselves. School sessions saw some incredible twining techniques and ropes coiled into ciosan baskets. We held a community session where people came and shared their stories of marram and Stephanie and Dawn gave a talk to the whole school about baskets and history. The children were wonderful, so engaged with the rope making and the materials, plus eager to ask lots of questions and direct their own learning with ideas and challenges, tests and games.


This month, we recruited two South Isles posts. A 50 hour freelance project contract and arts commission went to Margaret Joan MacIsaac and a freelance contract for the project until March 2018 went to Kate MacDonald. These posts are supported by funds from Alzheimer Scotland and by Remoage.

Emerging Teamwork in the South isles
We met with our funders, Anna and Elizabeth from Life Changes Trust came to Benbecula mid November, and all of the team meeting around the table about the funding agreed to keep meeting for the benefit of people living locally with dementia and their carers. o, great things are coming from the process of even applying for funding, which is brilliant news.

In Conversation
Maggie Smith has put some wonderful In Conversation blogs and recordings on our Blog

Maggie also attended a dance for dementia event in Glasgow on 10th December. See her interesting and funny blog post about this. No doubt, we will be seeing a wonderful dance session appearing shortly, inspired by this learning.


Personalising Surroundings
As part of the work we are doing with DEEP, the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project, we are supporting residents in care centres, attendees of day centres and people in hospital to create or choose images that can be put on the walls in the form of giant vinyls, to give the illusion of space beyond the walls and to offer recognisable and personal images to relate to. Early in November, Jon Macleod took one gentleman to the harbour in Stornoway, to take some images with his support. A wee dram was required afterwards to keep out the wet weather! Quotes have now come in from three printing companies and we will be working on completing this first project shortly.


Memory Boxes
I had a meeting with Angus at the Museum at Lews castle on 2nd November. Angus kindly agreed to share a handling collection of crofting and fishing items, to go along with the sensory box that we have been trialling recently. The sensory box has been all around the South isles. Feedback has been immensely positive, especially for people more advanced with dementia. The images, lights, smells and sounds have been particularly helpful. I am going to buy flight cases for the handling collection shortly and then we can set these off on their merry way on the mobile library buses around the entire Western Isles.

Ness Carers Group
Because of weather conditions, I found myself supporting the carers group at Clan Macquarrie, Ness, this month on 4th Nov. It is always a joy to come here and at this time of year, there was a wonderful poppy display outside. One of the carers took away a cushion kit to have a go at.

Check out our playlists on Soundcloud as well as our Gaelic Without Trying podcasts for carers and our In conversation recordings.
The playlists are helpful for resources to listen to together.

Have a look at our Youtube channel for how to videos for the carers cushion kit (instructions for how to make a cushion without the kit are included). There are also presentations and the odd dolphin on there.


We have a new Facebook page. Check out our events listed on there.


Dementia Friendly Screening
This month’s dementia friendly screening will be a Christmas classic. Please join Oriana’s mailing list for Pocket Cinema details and dementia friendly screenings are open to invitation through care settings and organisations. There is no charge and tea and coffee are provided.

Jon Macleod’s Sunwise exhibition is on at An Lanntair now, come and have a look at his interesting mix of season and superstition, home made cameras and six entire months of work to create this amazing exhibition.


Suspension and Disbelief is the exhibition in the An Lanntair gallery right now. It’s quite a spectacle. Cable cars in the Western Isles, would you believe??

From 12th to 22nd December, come to the Mezzanine Gallery at An Lanntair, above the cafe bar for an incredibly moving exhibit of Chris Hammacott’s month as Quilter in Residence for Solas Day Centre. We commissioned Chris to spend a month working with people at Solas Day Centre, chatting, listening to stories and life histories, having a laugh, enjoying the atmosphere at this very warm and welcoming place, and then she went away and created some incredibly emotional pieces for the people, taking into account what they might use the pieces for as well as what they want to see every day. Come and see for yourself just a tiny part of what happens at this wonderful Alzheimer Scotland day centre in Stornoway, and what happens when you work one to one with people. This work will be featured in the March 17 edition of British Patchwork & Quilting Magazine.


Upstream Project
On 7th December, I will be going to the Upstream Conference in Edinburgh, to present our project as the Island Case Study for the work Upstream did on transport for people with dementia.

Woven Communities
Woven communities work is continuing with another local Stornoway Care Centre session with Dawn Susan demonstrating her baskets and weaving.

Carers High Tea
on 15th December, Alzheimer Scotland are holding their Carers High Tea a little early this month, to allow for Christmas festivities. Please book with Alzheimer Scotland Bells Road if you would like to come and enjoy a free meal from An Lanntair’s wonderful new Winter Menu. Try out our own haggis!

South Isles
Work will begin right away with our first South Isles Project post. Please see Facebook and our Blog for more details.

Looking ahead to January 2017 and beyond.

16th and 17th, we will be holding an intergenerational Woven Communities marram grass making session at Museum Nan Eileen’s education centre.

18th/19th/20th January, Jon and I are going to St Andrews to present at the Symposium relating to Woven Communities work.

In February, Jon is going to Senegal as a residency to work on community, culture, memory, communication and dementia.

Western Isles Hospital CafeTuesday Ceilidh on the ward

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas…

Check out the sprinkles on the Bakewell tarts and the shop magazines looking all festive!

Just one person from the ward today but it was lovely to welcome our new volunteer Murdo and enjoy lots of personal attention and conversation. One of the OT team came along, I was there for half of the session (The Artist was running at An Lanntair with Dave, our volunteer there), and Ellie from Alzheimer Scotland ran the session with fantastic cakes, flowers, resources and conversation.


In Conversation with Donald John MacInnes


Donald John MacInnes born in 1945 on the island of Grimsay near North Uist was ‘at the fishing’ for almost fifty years.

In this recording Donald John relates details about the lives of the Grimsay fisherman, making a living from the rich fishing grounds near Heisgeir or the Monach Isles, west of North Uist in the Hebrides

Donald John in conversation on Soundcloud

During this Gaelic interview Donald John also relates details of family life in Grimsay and several funny stories. Some of them relate to west coast of Scotland shipwrecks, bringing ashore cases of whisky and on one occasion unlabelled bottles of whisky, subsequently known as ‘Ocean Blend’.

Donald John’s humour shines through this conversation. His knowledge of fishing traditions and observations on island life are worthy of being placed in national cultural archives and will in the future be a resource for islanders and Gaelic scholars.
Be prepared to be entertained too!

Interview by Maggie Smith for Arora in 2016.

Guest Blog from Dr Stephanie Bunn

Guest blog from Dr Stephanie Bunn, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of St Andrew’s about the Woven Communities Project work at Iochdar school on Tuesday 22nd Nov 16

We went to Iochdar School  as part of our great collaboration with An Lanntair and we told them about all the work we have been doing gathering marram grass and about all of the work we have been doing across Scotland. We wanted to set up a new phase of the project here, which was working with the children as well as with the elders in the care homes.

The children came in, at first 9-10 year olds. They made little rope-y simmens things out of marram grass and then they graduated to windlasses, which was fab and we started to make ropes of 10-20 feet long. Maybe I’m exaggerating but they enjoyed the effect of the twisting into rope all by itself and the colours. They enjoyed measuring it against themselves and testing the strength of the rope with a tug of war and lifting heavy objects with it, such as chairs.

We then tried the pleating, testing their technique on each others’ hair while waiting to have a go for themselves.


This afternoon, we thought it might be similar but it turned out to be quite different. We stated with some gentle twining but instead of developing into coloured rope, they were enjoying the natural marram grass so much that they wanted to keep going. And they kept going and kept going and kept going, until they had backed themselves along corridors and into cupboards! They completely went for it – used it for limboing, moving furniture, not for skipping……yet!


Even the CEO of An Lanntair turned up, Elly Fletcher. She had a go herself and she said ‘It’s very relaxing, isn’t it?’.


The children came up with some brilliant questions and ideas, led their own learning very much with their own thoughts and sharing ideas.  One boy thought he had a marram grass chair at home, so that would be exciting. Watch this space!


South Uist, Barra yesterday

Yesterday, it had been snowing when we left for Barra. The Eriskay ferry was calm, though, and plenty of sun shone through onto the snowy peaks. I took my dog as he loves the beach at Eriskay. He had a little sniff around the wild and surfy beach close to Castlebay, too.

The last cushion and stitching kits from Chris Hammacott are now with Cobhair Bharraigh and are certainly going to get some good use there.