International Women’s Day 

We celebrated International Women’s Day with a screening of Funny Face, featuring iconic leading lady Audrey Hepburn. With tea and cake, of course!

Five of us (carers, people coming from a care setting and Activities Co-ordinator plus volunteer) laughed and cried along to a brilliantly colourful and beautifully shot film, featuring a feisty and intelligent Female lead character. We had a little look at the exhibition in the gallery afterwards, too. 

Comments were ‘it’s so nice to see you again!’ ‘I’ve never been up here before!’ ‘Oh, chocolate cake, please!’ ‘Is it proper coffee? Oh wow yes please!’ And the best of all… ‘Thank you. Really, thank you, it was just what I needed!’

DEEP project at WIH

Alex Boyd visited Erisort and Clisham Wards at Western Isles Hospital again today, gaining a fuller understanding of people’s thoughts about what is enjoyable to look at, favourite views, landscapes and broader likes and dislikes.

Alex Boyd’s website
Alex is well known for his completely authentic, rugged mountainscapes and his traditional/alternative processing methods but right now, the challenge is to see the landscape through the filter of the thoughts and ideas of the people we are speaking with, who are spending time in hospital for various reasons, and who tell us that the outdoors is so important to them.

The next stage of this project is to collect a set of images to share with people on the wards, to gain thoughts and feelings about the images, in order to create a set of possible images for the wall, one of which will be selected to cover the wall in the day room area on Erisort Ward.

Dementia engagement and empowerment project (DEEP) funded this project, which is called The Hills of Home.

Other side projects are coming to mind and I’m excited about the possibilities for sound and image being used more widely to support people as needed on the wards.

Wool Extravaganza

Wool Extravaganza

The lovely talented lady Mary Smith, brought her spinning wheel and extensive wool craft kit to the care home today.

Today’s tactile wool extravaganza included Mary’s mother in law’s family’s, blanket made around 1897.

Young Ann MacDonald from Shader on the Westside of Lewis, dyed the wool from the family’s sheep with crotal and indigo. Then spun the wool on the spinning wheel she had been given by her husband on the occasion of their marriage. A weaver from Borve, Isle of Lewis, wove the gorgeous blue and cream blanket on his loom.

Today our ladies spoke about blankets in their family, the colours, the patterns, the warmth and the weavers who had woven the blankets.

We heard stories about relatives who were tailors and could sew up a wool suit just by looking at a man. No need for a tape measure.

I had sourced in the Bethesda Charity Shop, hanks of Harris yarn in rust and light green, which two kind ladies rolled into a cnocan for me. As I was standing with my arms outstretched, we all sang some lively Gaelic songs and another lady contributed verses of a wool waulking song off the cuff.

          Dheidhinn leat a d’Uibhist far am buidhicheadh an eòrna

          Fil u ho ro u o

          Ag eisteachd ris na iarlachan ag iarraidh gus do phosadh

          Fil u ho ro u o

Just one, of today’s lovely moments.

One lady a keen knitter, though unable to communicate beamed broadly and participated in handling and choosing colours and sat with us during the entire three hours and saw us to the door as is the custom in many Lewis homes.

Mary’s dyed wool samples and large coloured bobbins of wool yarn were much enjoyed during several sniff tests.

Staff contributed their memories of plying wool in their young days. One granny had a motorised plying machine which was the motor of a new-fangled washing machine. Everyone was on stand-by, for when the switch was flicked, as it was difficult to keep up with it!.

The chore of making hanks of yarn using chair-backs instead of a crois-iarna or a niddy-noddy as Mary called it, was demonstrated by a staff member.

Another care assistant told us about the tweed a family member had woven, to commemorate a Royal visit by Princess Diana. She promised to bring in her special handbag made with ‘Diana tweed’ when we return for another wool extravaganza.

When I went to school in the mid1960s. I wore a Harris Tweed pinafore made from tweed designed and woven by my grandfather Eachainn an Eachainn of Laxay. It was a dazzling red, black and yellow tartan called Brodie. He was a crofter /weaver and like many others made his own tweeds when there was a little money to buy extra wool.

Thirty years later I discovered several yards of Brodie in a cupboard and had a jacket made. I regularly wear the jacket and American tourists just love the story of the provenance of the tweed.

I also brought my bright yellow basket weave jumper with contrasting coloured blocks. A jumper I had knitted from local wool, some 20 years ago. The bright colours were a hit!

My Harris Tweed hat with feathers made several years ago by Sally Avis, was modelled by several ladies.

They loved the colour of my lime green tweed top from By Rosie. Known by the designer, as ‘The Fisherman’ a very easy to wear smock type garment. This conversation led us to fisherman’s gensay patterns and other knitting patterns.

One lady spoke of a book of patterns she had and how she had knitted each one in the book. They included v-neck school jumpers for her three boys in red with a black stripe in the waist ribbing “They were very smart going to school” she said proudly.

We had such fun today. The bobbin tubes were a telescope which the ladies decided to peep on one another with.

The Black Hebridean wool carded and rolled, ready for spinning, was modelled in an impromptu moment by several ladies as a fluffy beard.

Thank you Mary Smith for taking the time to bring your spinning wheel, knowledge of wool dyeing and your humour. I believe we could do this workshop several times a week.


Tuesday Ceilidh on the ward

Just a handful of stories and comments that came from today’s Ward Ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital. It was a packed session with a second row of chairs around parts of the table with so many visitors! We had excellent volunteer and staff support too, with comments of ‘phew, that was busy!’ ‘Brilliant’ and ‘great teamwork’ from the team afterwards.

There were some lovely daffodils on the table, courtesy of Ellie from Alzheimer Scotland and Sarah Jane came after her class, to have her student nurse folder completed with evidence from the Ceilidh sessions. Joanne, from OT and Denise Symington completed the facilitation documents, while Ellie provided resources.

conversations: –

‘I’m Margaret’ ‘Me too!’ ‘Two Margarets! Easy to remember!

‘you must be so proud of her’ / ‘oh I am so, so proud’

‘Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea/silver buckles on his knee/he’ll come back and marry me/Bonny Bobby Shaftoe’ I remember that one from school. And Eilidh.

‘I was proud to see mental health nursing change and improve in my career as a Registered Mental Health Nurse. It was different back then, very them-and-us. Not like this, socialising together. This is wonderful!’

‘Oh that lady, I remember her from school – ask her to come over!’


Breakfast with the First Minister

What a fantastic and inspirational event to launch An Lanntair’s International Women’s Day….or rather Month!

Breakfast with the First Minister, with a lively talk about women in politics, encompassing Madonna, shoes, hair, while elegantly fighting for equality and stressing the importance of these events to keep the foot on the pedal to avoid losing any of the progress made in past years.

Nicola spoke about her gender balanced cabinet and how important it is that women put themselves forward for local council, stressing how effective women can be in politics at a local level and at all levels.

Nicola took questions about social media, gender, women in politics among other issues and spoke about leaving a legacy for the future in terms of skills and ability being the key for recruiting naturally gender balanced teams.

My pal and I had a lovely time feeling empowered and inspired over breakfast and experiencing the community gathering to hear our First Minister speak.

My favourite comments of the day were:

‘You are such a happy person, you make the people around you happy!’

and from our Post Diagnostic nurse late in the afternoon:

I just called her and she is still buzzing from this morning!

March newsletter

This is the Arora Dementia Friendly Community Newsletter (<- SOUNDCLOUD SPOKEN WORD LINK)  for March 17, covering all February news too. Our Facebook page (aroraanlanntair) has details of all of our events and plenty of pictures.


I recently attended the Life Changes Trust gathering in Perth – Crossreach Heart for Art presented, along with a brilliant Trading Standards project, protecting vulnerable people from scams and an equally fantastic project to support relationships through dementia. It’s always an inspiration to attend and I was fortunate enough to see Paul from DEEP and to meet Colm McBriarty from Life Changes Trust, whom I had only heard on the telephone previously. Great to put a face to a name!


Kate Macdonald has started working with us as Intergenerational Arts Practitioner across North and South Uist and Benbecula – she came to the Perth Life Changes Trust gathering with me by way of an induction and she spent two days working with me in Stornoway to see the arts events that we run and to meet Chris Hammacott, who was completing her work at Solas as Quilter in residence at the time.


Duncan Mackinnon has also started working with us as an Intergenerational Arts Practitioner in Barra and Margaret Joan MacIsaac is our Arts Practitioner for a fixed term contract. All have been awarded an arts commission to create an arts piece based on their response to this body of work.
We will shortly be putting out a press release about this work.

Memory Boxes
Our Memory Box scheme is gathering pace – we now have the boxes and we are working with Museum Nan Eilean both in Stornoway and Benbecula to fill the boxes and the Libraries to transport the boxes across all of the islands via the Mobile Library van system, plus our own practitioners in all areas. This will be launched in April.


Wm Grant Foundation and Life Changes Trust fund success
We have been successful with a £10k fun to support carers of people living with dementia across the islands. The project funding has been agreed to offer vouchers to support free time for carers, ‘Me Time’ vouchers. Once the fund is with us, we will put out a press release about how to access this scheme.

Western Isles Hospital ceilidhs during February featured themes of birthdays, springtime, Valentines Day and Pancake Day. Pancake Day Ceilidh featured an outstanding line-up of musicians from student nurses, Horo band members plus Keith Morrison and friends from Wee Studio. This incredible performance came about after an impromptu store-cupboard meeting with Eleanor’s mother, who works on Erisort ward. Eleanor recorded our Gaelic Without Trying and cultural project podcasts for us at Wee Studio last year.

Our dementia friendly screening for February was The Kid with Charlie Chaplin.

Jon has been in Senegal all month, on a UNESCO World Heritage site island, working on an artist residency exploring culture, memory and hand memory. We’ve missed him and can’t wait to see what he has learned.

Maggie’s movement and song sessions continue to progress, she has held some sessions in care centres and we are looking at packaging up the sessions to make them available for care centres to use going forward. Maggie has composed original Gaelic songs for this work and she has come up with some movement and reminiscence work to go with it, supported by her learning at workshops and local experts. More news shortly.

Alzheimer Scotland Carers High Tea was at An Lanntair on Thursday 23rd Feb.


This month, Our commissioned Quilter in Residence Project at Solas is featured in British Patchwork and Quilting magazine, out now. It is a four page article, written by Chris Hammacott herself and has plenty of pictures of the incredible quilted pieces and the exhibition at An Lanntair.

Our DEEP funded ‘Hills of Home’ project continues – placing vinyl wall images on the walls of care centres and hospitals to personalise surroundings for people there. Jon Macleod has worked with a resident at Blar Buidhe Care Centre to create an image of Stornoway harbour, being completed now and Alex Boyd has started working with people at Western Isles Hospital to create a vinyl for the wall of the day room in Erisort ward, because so many people from all over the hospital use this space during Tuesday Ceilidhs as well as other times. Alex has been to the ward and met some people, chatted about views and ideas and he is working on some images to offer for feedback now. We will progress this together during March.


Weds 1st March A Kind of Seeing at Stornoway Library – we went along to enjoy an archive film screening event in the library, the films were fantastic, what a wonderful opportunity to see Stornoway and North Uist in the 1930s. It was a packed event, just a couple of seats available.

We are working on strengthening our partnerships this month, evidencing the incredible level of support that we have from so many organisations locally.

Mon 6th March, Breakfast event with Scotland’s First Minister Nichola Sturgeon, at An Lanntair.

Tues 7th March , 14th March, 21st March and 28th March – Tuesday Ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital Erisort Ward 2pm

Weds 8th March Dementia Friendly screening of Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, 1pm at there Pocket Cinema.

Thurs/Fri 9th/10th March, Jon is attending the Arts & Dementia conference in London with a poster presentation

Weds 22nd March – Bond Film dementia friendly screening

Thurs 30th March – Carers High Tea at An Lanntair – please book with Alzheimer Scotland, Bells Road, Stornoway.

In March, DEEP are holding a gathering, there are funded places available for people living with dementia and their carers. Please ask if you would be interested in attending.

There is also a Self Directed Support event through Life Changes Trust, again funded for people living with dementia and carers, so please let me know if you would like more information.


We are so fortunate and excited to be able to share the wonderful Purvai festival from An Lanntair with our project – the fantastic Tabla player Dal has offered us a little project tour during April. More news shortly.

Early April, we will be launching our Memory Boxes with launch events.

Mid April, we will be launching our ‘Me Time’ vouchers for carers.

British Patchwork & Quilting Magazine

This month’s edition of British Patchwork & Quilting is out now and features our Quilter in Residence commissioned work with Chris Hammacott.

Chris spent November and December working with people attending Solas Day Centre and created personal quilted pieces based on their life stories and conversations.

The quilted pieces were then exhibited at An Lanntair before being gifted to the people involved.

The work continues in the community for people living at home, through funding from Alzheimer Scotland.  

DEEP project at WIH


Alex Boyd and I went along to Erisort Ward yesterday to chat with some people and look at the wall for the vinyl.

Previously, I had gathered lots of quotes, thoughts and ideas from people about what they would like to see on the wall and several themes have come forward about long distant views, the shape of the hills, looking out.

This theme continued on the Ward – ‘the view from the window in the village where I grew up’ was a powerful image. Also ‘oh the view was beautiful’.

Alex had some ideas on how he was going to approach the project initially but it was fascinating to hear him talking through his thinking through the lens of the people we spoke with. Initially, he thought he might climb a mountain but then he started to imagine the angle of the views and how the light over the hills might impact on the mood of the finished room and how this season offers snowy tops on the heights, which could give the room a cool feeling.

The plan is to go in to Clisham Ward and meet everyone there, gather some images to share and gain feedback from at the Tuesday ceilidhs and then push forward with taking images for selection by  everyone at the hospital and then ordering and installing the vinyl.

I’m thrilled to be able to do this for everyone and very grateful to everyone involved and to DEEP for funding this. Special thanks to Alex for putting so much care and attention into this work.

Library event tonight

We had a wonderful evening at the Western Isles Library, Stornoway, tonight.

The archive films were wonderful and the conversation about the films equally so.

Comments came forward from people who remembered, such as ‘My mother was a herring girl’ and ‘I remember the old Loch Ness, we travelled overnight to England and you could buy a bed but we didn’t – we were young and just starting out so we slept on the floor.’ It was also common chatter that lots of people remember going to see the ‘mail boat’ (Loch Ness) coming in every day ‘for something to do’.

There are some interesting possibilities in conversation for supporting people in care centres with film and archive material. And for creating new work.