2016/17 Happy New Year!

Well, it’s the final day of 2016 and a brilliant opportunity to look back on the year and look forward to 2017.

2016 – what an incredible year

Jan 16 – I went to Shetland and met with people working to improve lives for those living with dementia. I met Alan Murdoch, Dementia Services Nurse Manager, Ann Williamson and the community activities organiser for Alzheimer Scotland and we had an interesting chat about similarities and differences across the islands.

Focus on Dementia came to Lewis, and I had the opportunity to meet Michelle Miller and present the project to the delegates at the conference at Western Isles Hospital with Jon Macleod.

Lots of planning took place for a Carers’ Support group to start with Alzheimer Scotland at An Lanntair and for the Woven Communities Project. Maggie Smith, Donald Saunders and myself recorded several podcasts, which are available on our Soundcloud account now.

Feb 2016 – Jon and I enjoyed the Perth Gathering at Life Changes Trust, where we presented the project to the assembled awardees.Anna Buchanan came to see us at An Lanntair, to see how we are doing with the project.

The An Talla Solais team came to chat with us about the project in advance of starting their own dementia support project. I managed to persuade the incredible Scottish Opera to bring a bite-sized version of their tour programme to Harris House, which I loved every second of and I think we sparked some ideas there relating to creating dementia friendly performances.

The An Talla Solais team came to chat with us about the project in advance of starting their own dementia support project. We presented the project to the Rotary Club.

I managed to persuade the incredible Scottish Opera to bring a bite-sized version of their tour programme to Harris House, which I loved every second of and I think we sparked some ideas there relating to creating dementia friendly performances.

Maggie Smith ran a spinning session across the care centres and transcribed some gorgeous Gaelic poetry through her sessions. We went to Harris Distillery to collect some sensory items towards our Memory Box scheme that was in development back then.

We went to the South Isles, to support Alzheimer Scotland with Dementia Friends sessions and information sessions, which have since paved the way for more.

Also, this was the month all the final planning took place for the Hospital Tuesday Ceilidhs.

March 2016 – was all about branding with Good, Becoming the Island Case Study for Upstream project, podcast recording and uploading to share, starting off the Tuesday Hospital Ceilidhs, plus I went to Brazil on holiday and had a look at how people support each other with dementia there. We screened local film festival films across care centres.

April 2016 – Our collaboration project with St Andrew’s University and Dawn Susan of Hebridean Baskets, Woven Communities began and it was such a wonderful start, with excited planning. We worked with Lews Castle Museum, in advance of opening.

I met with Angus Murray at the Museum Nan Eilean before this project, to look at taking groups around the quiet museum before it opens to the public.

The Hospital Ceilidhs continued. The Carers High Tea continued… Storytelling sessions travelled around the care centres and day centres with Donald Saunders.

Andy Hyde of Upstream visited the island for the first time. I checked out some of the more remote dementia cafes and we took on the singing group for Alzheimer Scotland during a staffing low point.

May 16 – It was the Perth Life Changes Trust Gathering, it was Dementia Awareness Week, the Museum Visits took place, I met Myra Lamont of NDCAN, the Memory Cafe and Carers High Tea continue, Andy Hyde ran a session at Stornoway Airport for the staff team, plus one at Solas for reminiscence.

June 16 – Woven Communities took us to Uist, we welcomed some Japanese visitors, plus we supported the Stornoway Big Band Matinee event.

July 16 – Woven Communities work continued across Lewis & Harris. Paul Thomas from DEEP visited the island to talk through joining. The memory box scheme sensory box trial continued.

Aug 16 – Chris Hammacott commenced the carers cushion kits and films with me. We ran a Waulking Songs performance session in the Gallery as part of the Harris Tweed festival. We celebrated a 95th birthday, to kick off our In Conversation Podcast series. We went to the South Isles to build a team working to support people with dementia. We hosted some summer baking sessions.

Sept 16 – We did everything from cutting marram grass on a deserted island for Woven Communities, through presenting the project at Life Changes Trust First Community & Dementia Conference, on to attending the Scottish Dementia Awards and winning Best Dementia Friendly Community Initiative! Wow. We also launched our website.

Oct 16 – We commenced a document for collating all the makes An Lanntair a dementia friendly organisation. We also started working on the Volunteer Centre Western Isles WAVE Award for Volunteering Excellence. We joined the DEEP network. We gratefully received funding towards a South Isles Post from Remoage and Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch.

Nov 16 – We were back in the South Isles for the making part of the Woven Communities Project. Also, Paula attended the Life Changes Trust meeting on Benbecula about phase 2 funding. We ran the hugely successful Quilter in Residence Project at Solas day Centre with Chris Hammacott.

Dec 16 – We presented at the Upstream Conference in Edinburgh. We recruited two excellent artists in the South Isles to work with local communities living with dementia. We were successful in our funding application for the DEEP funds to support people to improve their surroundings in care centres. This work has now started. There were Christmas dinners, dementia friendly screenings, carers events, panto sessions, Christmas baking – it was truly festive, not to mention the beautiful quilts from the Quilter in residence month at Solas Day Centre.

Looking forward to 2017

The DEEP ‘Hills of Home’ project has started and will complete across 2017 with wall vinyls of relevant and personal images in care settings.

January 18th-20th 2017 Jon and Paula have been invited to present their part in the Woven Communities Project at a Symposium at St Andrews University.

February 2017 Jon is undertaking a residency in Senegal to research for this project. He will be away for around 5 weeks.

Work continues across the South Isles, with our new post holders Kate MacDonald and Margaret Joan MacIsaac.

Volunteering work continues. Work continues on Dementia Friendly An Lanntair.

Work continues on the hospital wards, with carers, across care centres and we continue to share the arts programming widely. We look forward to developing our partnerships and collaborations.

Thank you to everyone who supported us this year and we very much look forward to working with you again next year. Happy New Year!

October to December 


July – Sept



April – June


Jan – March


Supporting the Dementia Dip

Gress Beach saw 30 ‘dippers’ (it was too dangerous to swim!) and at least 20 other supporters gather to raise vital funds through Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch, for local people living with dementia this afternoon.

There were Santa hats, a snowman jumper and plenty of other festive attire heading for the water, where sizeable waves and spray dramatically hit the horizon, threatening to bring forth an icy hailstorm from the menacing cloud.

Just as the dippers made their way towards the water, the sun shone brightly until they were all safely out on dry land again and the hailstorm held off until we were dry, dressed and on the way home.

The Coastguard did a wonderful job of reminding everyone about safety and everyone did a wonderful job of making this event a success. Well done, everyone.


Solas Christmas dinner at Caberfeidh Hotel


I had a wonderful time with people attending Solas Day Centre, family, carers, volunteers and staff at the Caberfeidh Hotel today for an incredible three course Christmas Lunch.

The food was wonderful, the company was brilliant and the joy that Santa brought to the occasion was a complete hoot! Everyone went away with a gift and I took the opportunity to say a few words about the Quilter in Residence Project with Chris Hammacott and how it will now continue through January to create quilts for the people who did not have an opportunity during November.

I took down the exhibition quilts from An Lanntair’s Mezzanine Gallery this morning and returned them to their owners at the Christmas lunch today. One gentleman expressed that he is keen to hang it on the wall, ready for when the family arrive for Christmas this week. One gentleman has said that the cat missed patting his face on his picture while the quilt was being exhibited so he will be glad to put it back on the sofa.

Many thanks to everyone who made this such a life-changing year in so many ways. Merry Christmas and I’m looking forward to working with you all in 2017.

Carers’ Christmas Dinner

This evening was the Carers’ Christmas dinner at An Lanntair, through Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch. Volunteers, carers, people living with dementia and support staff enjoyed fantastic food at An Lanntair’s sparkly Christmas table setting, complete with photo booth props and glitter.

I had the unbelievably wonderful vegetarian haggis, made by the Chef at An Lanntair. It’s a good plan, I’ve never liked shop bought vegetarian haggis but this really works. I spotted some Puy lentils in there but the sublime texture and flavour remains a bit of a mystery. Perfect. Then I had the lemon posset, which was incredibly zesty and creamy and came with two pieces of shortbread that finished me off after the first piece – but thankfully there was an eager recipient at the table. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the beautiful looking Christmas Dinner and the sticky toffee pudding.

It’s been a wonderful year and it was fantastic to draw towards the close with taking some people up to see the quilter in residence exhibition. One lady hadn’t seen hers until that point and she danced along the walkway after seeing the dancers on her beautiful quilt. I don’t think anyone can wait until 22nd to get their quilts, bags and cushions back.

Conversation danced around HGV driving:
‘The worst place I ever drove was Singapore. An Army Truck. Pandemonium!’
‘The worst place I ever drove was Brazil’
‘Will you take me out practicing driving? If you’re driving….NO!’

And how couples married for a long time seem newlywed…
‘How long have you been together? ’39 years’
‘You?’ ’19 years’
‘You joke like newlyweds.’ ‘So do you two!’

Plans for Christmas:
‘Are you cooking on Christmas Day?’
‘Yes, I think I might – I treated myself to a deep fat fryer and a food processor!’
‘Buying your own Christmas presents, huh?’
‘If someone bought me kitchen appliances, there would be trouble…’

‘I’m just glad I’m out of hospital.’

And the inevitable…
‘Oh what’s that pudding? Sticky toffee?? Oh I’ll have one of those!’

White Christmas

We screened White Christmas this morning at the Pocket Cinema at An Lanntair.

On the way up to the Pocket Cinema, a handful of people who hadn’t already seen the Quilter in Residence Exhibition admired the pieces. Then we passed a life-sized reindeer in the corridor, minded by Joe from Education and Outreach.

We had twenty people cosied up together, singing along with the song sheets provided by Ellie at Alzheimer Scotland. Ginger cake and steaming mugs of tea and coffee were passed around as guffaws of laughter resounded around the room at the funny parts.

Some Christmassy little friends in the shape of reindeer, snowmen and Santas were given as prizes to those who sang along very well. They will be a nice reminder of the day for everyone. One fantastic gentleman said that he is saving it for a little premature baby on the island. Truly the spirit of Christmas.

Comments on the way out were,
‘I feel Chrismassy now!’
‘I had a lovely time’
‘Thank you so much, I enjoyed it!’
‘I had such fun!’
‘Thank you, that was lovely’
‘Thank you for Santa’
‘I’ll take him home now’
‘It was lovely’


Christmas baking

We spent a lovely afternoon at Solas Day Centre, baking some Christmassy treats.

Something that really moved me about the session was the care that everyone takes with each other. Look at this lady making sure that her friend is able to participate with her best hand. And the care that the staff team take with each individual person.

We used some modern techniques, to much hilarity as the aerosol icing made odd noises and the snowman took a nosedive into the luscious looking chocolate icing.

There was plenty of ingredients left over to make more shortbread and mince pies in the future sessions.

The aromas wafting out of the kitchen were wonderful and the results looked amazing. Some people took some pies and buns home, proudly, for relatives to share, and some were saved for tomorrow’s session tea break.

A little tearjerking moment at the end of the session….when I was presented wth a gorgeous Christmassy potted plant gift as a thank you for the support this year. It was a pleasure! I’ve really enjoyed the joy and self-confidence moments when we have worked on baking to create beautiful treats, the quilting, the storytelling, films, Gaelic phrases, singing and trips out to the Museum, shows, exhibitions and participation in local festivals to name just some of the things we have done this year. Merry Christmas to all of you and see you at An Lanntair tomorrow for White Christmas!

Gardening club

I went along to the gardening club at Lews Castle College, run by Alzheimer Scotland, today.  Everyone was making Christmas decoration wreaths and cuddling three-week-old baby bunnies.

Contact the Lewis & Harris Branch of Alzheimer Scotland if you’d like to give it a try.

There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor gardening and hundreds of chickens, a few goats, pigs, sheep etc and it is a nice reconnection for people who miss crofting and gardening, plus a great opportunity to get outdoors and make a difference in the community. The tea and cake is very welcome too, not to mention the fantastic company.



It’s nearly Christmas

The Tuesday ward ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital was wonderful today. Jimmy Myles came along, Alice, a wonderful doctor came to see what we do and a member of the nursing team from ClishamWard.

Three people from Clisham Ward and one person from Erisort Ward came and enjoyed Christmas cake slices, tea and a look at Christmas carols and pictures, plus the lovely decorations Ellie Donnelly from Alzheimer Scotland brought along. There was the odd tinkling of sleigh bells in preparation for next week’s Christmas Ceilidh.

Christmas Ward Ceilidh – Western Isles Hospital Tuesday 20th December 2-3pm, Erisort Ward Day Room.

Christmas break will then follow – returning on Tuesday 10th January, Erisort Ward Day Room, 2-3pm, Western Isles Hospital.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Tuesday Ceilidhs at the hospital. Merry Christmas to all of you.


Quilter in Residence Exhibition Opening

I counted 22 people in one hour enjoying the opening of Chris Hammacott’s Solas Quilter in Residence Exhibition today and several more after the hour such as the Rev Ian Campbell and his wife, who dropped by afterwards to have a look at the beautiful and very personal quilted pieces at An Lanntair’s Mezzanine Gallery.

I was very moved by the fact that, in the end, every person decided to share their quilted piece with us all in the gallery. The pieces meant so much to people that it was a wrench to give them up for ten days.

Many of the visitors were relatives of the people involved, who heard about the project and wanted to come and see for themselves. Some people had seen their relative’s piece and been intrigued to see the others.

It was fantastic to see people sharing recognition of some of the people, sharing their own stories and inspecting the workmanship and intricacy involved. The backdrop of the Christmas lights was fantastic and the drink sand nibbles went down so well. Round two of everything left over went down really well in the staff room too!

Many thanks to everyone involved and to Life Changes Trust for funding this important work. Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch Manager Marion MacInnes is funding the work to continue through January and possibly beyond.

Some of the questions were:
‘How long did this one take?’ ‘About 12 hours’
‘Was this hand guided stitching?’ ‘Definitely, yes’
‘Are these vintage fabrics?’ ‘Some are, some are new and newly woven’
‘What about the colours?’ ‘These are favourite colours of the person’
‘How long are these up for?’ ‘Ten days, until 22nd’

Some comments were:
‘What incredible craftsmanship!’
‘I love the way Chris has interpreted the personal stories and come up with these!’
‘These are beautiful’
‘I can just imagine these pieces having a life’
‘These will be looked after with real care, not like something you buy and just chuck on the bed, these are real heirlooms’
‘What a talent!’
‘I love the cotton printing for the images’
‘I have a real sense of the people’s lives’
‘The day centre does some lovely work’
‘You can’t not touch them, they beg to be touched, so tactile’
‘I saw some of these waiting to go up in the An Lanntair office, I was touching them and wondering if that was okay, they are so tactile. And colourful.’