Making Our Mark

IMG_1968Margaret Joan MacIsaac is based in North Uist and is reaching out to carers of people living with dementia to have a look at her thoughts on mark making, identity and connection. If this resonates with you in any way, please get in touch with her, or any member of the team and we can provide materials free of charge and whatever you need to start whatever comes from this. Paula

Making our Mark
Margaret Joan MacIsaac

A mark to describe our existence be it photographs or letters, helps create an umbilical between us, the past and the future. Looking through a box of shabby old photographs I realised I tended to take photographs more of animals than humans, blurry seagulls, proud cockerels, lambs, cows, a goat and a multitude of cats and dogs that describe my story.

We can consider other expressions as making our mark as well, knitting, weaving, even baking and cooking , creating from raw elements with tools and relevant supports. Loving and nurture are mark making too, creating positive brain chemistry and brain development.

To be a carer can be hard, loss of identity can occur. To be addressed as a carer instead of a Child of, a Mother of, a Father of, changes how we identify ourselves, our social parameters are changed. Many emotions experienced can be unexpected and can be distressing.

To have an object we can go to that we can work with at those times might be of help, to create a meditative place with repetitive action. It could be a tile of soft lino that we can carve periodically or a simple collagraph that we can carve or add objects to with simple PVA glue mix. This action could be of benefit to sooth and calm, maybe help create a new identity; it can be a diary of emotion without having to express that emotion in words. It can be figurative or a build up of abstract marks.

This type of print development does not require a lot of expensive tools and we can create it with others or on our own. Sometimes it’s hard to get respite to go to a regular class, but we can use phone or email to share problems, questions or just photographs of the development of our piece. This relationship building is important in other aspects as well and can continue for other reasons and benefits.

We could work towards a day or a couple of days in the Print Workshop and the opportunity to learn new skills; we can emboss or use inks to print our developed plate. If this is difficult we can individually use simple hand rolling methods to create beautiful prints.

Through this time relationships are being built, new ways of making our way through our lives are being explored. Building new aspects of our identity.



Memory Garden at Clisham

What a difference volunteering and community collaboration makes!

I dropped by the Clisham Memory Garden today to drop off some seeds and compost, pots etc and wow! It is so much brighter painted and tidied, weeded and there are some flowers in bloom and pansies planted in troughs. Well done to everyone who gave time, funds, plants, and that one person who hung upside down to do some painting  (you are uniquely wonderful) 🙂

It has to be said that this work, although undertaken by volunteers and local organisations in partnership, the people on the ward have chosen what they want to see planted and have selected paint and stain colours and will be planting in the forecast sunny weather. And I’ve received many expressions of joy about watching the garden progress today.

The final push is this Saturday 27th May for the planting and painting. Please come along at 12 if you can spare some time. The weather forecast is lovely!

In the meantime, have a look at the progress!

Food Fest sharing Day 2

Today, I dropped off some Jersey Royal potatoes, a badag brush, sea spaghetti (seaweed), Orkney Beremeal flour and bannocks made with it and some New York plum torte to Solas Day Centre for people to have a look at, talk about and taste. I will return tomorrow to see what everyone thought of it and bring more goodies for discussion. The cooking day is Thursday there. The mango juice from yesterday went down particularly well, I hear, and the mint tea 🙂 More news on this tomorrow.

Session two of the day took place at Erisort Ward Tuesday ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital. We had some wonderful visitors of 4 Army Medics and recruiters, who are recruiting in town at the moment. Despite their tales of army life, travel, wildlife and sailing, we were all happy to continue in our current work.

The cakes went down well and we talked about food in Iraq and (then) Persia, curries and spices.  We talked about travel a great deal, and working life, the interesting jobs we do and have done. Two people from the ward came along, Helen and a trainee Chaplain, a student nurse, a Ward Manager, Denise from the Health Board, Ellie and Ciorstadh from Alzheimer AScotland and two visitors as well as myself, Paula, from Arora. We ran out of chairs around the table at one point!

The Badag feather baking brush was much enjoyed and we had discussions about what scallop shells were used for – ash trays, soap dishes, skimming the milk were all well remembered tasks for used shells.

Next week, being Dementia Awareness Week, there are two ceilidhs, one on Tuesday 2-3pm as usual and one on Friday – see hospital notice boards as there is a film screening from us on Wednesday as well, with the new screen being installed tomorrow.




Food Festival Sharing Day One

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We are currently sharing the food festival from An Lanntair across the community. Please get in touch if you would like a session for your group.

Today, we started with two small tasting sessions. At Solas Day Centre, I dropped off some Moroccan mint tea, some mango juice and a vegan cake to try. I will drop back tomorrow with more things to try from home and away, while getting some feedback and conversations that came about over today’s drinks and cake.

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At Blar Buidhe Care Centre, we screened a film with our new Arora Film Club and we had cinema snacks of popcorn and choc ices, with melon for people who had a preference or a dietary need for it. This brought forward the immersive feeling of being at the cinema and we talked about what we had smuggled into cinema houses (mostly crisps and drinks to avoid the high charges, nobody admitted to alcohol!). ‘Oh I do love a choc ice’ and ‘I haven’t had popcorn for ages!’ ‘It’s lovely, not too sweet, just how I like it’.

The film itself was very well received – I had to pass around tissues for the sad parts. The visual comedy was a massive hit, to the extent that comments were being passed about everything before too long – ‘That hat! She could sail down the Clyde in it!’ ‘Ohh look, he is watching the boys fight’ ‘HAHA look, he ran away!’ ‘Ohhh the little dog!’ ‘What is that dinner they are eating?’ ‘Oops he has heartburn now’

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Tomorrow, the food festival pops up at the hospital ward ceilidh in Stornoway and again at Solas with more tasting.


Hosted Arora Film Club

Thanks to our new license, we are able to screen films from many major film companies/distributors across the community.

A recent development is hosted film screenings – chosen by an individual to share with friends, neighbours and family and with snacks of choice too! This makes the film event much more personal. If you would like to host a film screening at a care setting, gathering, community group etc. please get in touch.

Community Arora Film Club screenings coming up at Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway and on Barra and Benbecula/the Uists. 

We are unable to promote the film title but we can accept requests!

Arora Film Club at An Lanntair is in the Pocket Cinema, third floor at 1.30pm on the first Weds of the month.

Food festival planning

An Lanntair’s food festival late last month was a feast of local foraging and techniques, paired with foods from all over the world and this is just what we are preparing right now for all of you!

We have local seaweeds, duff, crowdie, butter, fish and nettles and some further afield flour from Orkney and Jersey Royals. We also have blue corn, wild and red rice, Gurkha curry, tapas, rye bread, saurkraut and chocolate from Europe, street food from Korea and Brazil, tea from Africa and (naturally) home baked cakes, breads and oatcakes.

Book your sessions now! Everything is completely adaptable to your own situation and policies and get as hands on as you like!

Trip to the Museum


We had a lovely visit to the Museum nan Eilean U&B along with the residents from Sacred Heart Care Home to see the recent exhibition on Childhood Toys. Mabel MacAulay who had donated all of the items held a discussion around the toys and her experience of island life as a young girl. Despite having all of these toys Mabel emphasised that her strong memories of childhood were much more about being outside and around animals, horses and generally getting involved with the island life around her.


The items on display took back lots of memories for the residents (and the carers!).


We had a delicious afternoon tea with lots of home baking including fresh pancakes with jam and cream, scones, gingerbread and biscuits! Abair feast! A big thank you to the Museum for hosting us all so well. It was a great day out.


Barra Boy News

Duncan and Duncan had the fiddle and accordion out today at a special lunch on Barra.

Around 20 people gathered and enjoyed the music and lunch, there was even some dancing.

Duncan has experience of being part of a Ceilidh band as well as being a photographer. His work on Barra focuses on reminiscence, Gaelic, local culture, history and music/song as well as reminiscence through photography and images.

Duncan says,

‘The Ladies and Gents that visit Cobhair Bharraigh were at Craigard hotel for lunch and we went to entertain for them afterwards. They were very complimentary as we did it as a surprise for their special lunch.

Duncan Johnstone who was with me is a classically trained musician who played at the Royal opera house and has played with the likes of Pavarotti. He is the son of the very much respected piper Duncan Johnstone.’

Duncan has been working with the Historical Society, looking at copyright issues of images and how best to use them to support people across the island who might be more isolated and along the same lines, he has been meeting with care providers to find a way to provide ceilidh and reminiscence sessions at home for people.


Recently at Sacred Heart and Trianaid Care homes we have been reminiscing with items on the theme of making butter and cheese. There has been a lot of discussion and fond memories of the cows people kept (almost everyone had a cow called Daisy at some point that was treated like one of the family). We have been chatting about the hard work involved in looking after them, milking them and making the cream, whey, crowdie, butter and cheese. It all seems so far removed from buying these items at the shop now with no real concept of how they were made or where they came from. It is the taste, freshness and flavour that people seem to miss the most from their days of home made butter and cheese. It wasn’t uncommon either to use goat or sheep milk if you didn’t have a cow.


crogan agus fiodhan (milk pale and cheese press)

You got wooden ones as well before the aluminium. It was for transporting the milk. The lids were always stiff to get off. That one’s quite weathered now. You would then pour it into the… Oh that’s a very fancy (fiodhan/cheese press) – we just had a cloth and a rock to weigh down the cheese. They weren’t very common, it’s quite modern that cheese press.


crannachan (wooden churn with the handle)

Is the lid upside down? Oh there’s a hole in the top maybe it had another handle on it? Oh yes you just turn it like that…


crannachan agus lonaid (churn and plunger)

Yes we had one like that in the shed I don’t know where it is now. You did well to keep all these things. It had a plunger with it this one. We used to put a leather bit around the hole at the top where you would plunge it. It would gradually wear down and then you would replace it again. That’s the kind we used, well both really.

spàin–ime agus stamp (butter pat and stamp)

We had a big thistle stamp. That’s lovely… a swan…a scallop and a thistle. So you fill it in…then scrap it off…oh yes that’s a good handle on the knife. We used the lines to decorate the butter. This way, that way. People were so busy and they still made time for decoration.


slige- chreachainn (scallop shells)

You would make holes in them. Use the curved one not the flat one. I remember people would keep these shells on the mantel piece, they were so beautiful and people didn’t have many ornaments then. Doesn’t that feel nice? Just beautiful, they’re so perfect.


Quote of the sessions; Never turn your boat around anti-clockwise, it’s very bad luck.

Glasgow with LCT

It has been a sunny and glorious travel day and meeting day since we left Stornoway yesterday lunchtime.

Today’s Life Changes Trust meeting was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with fellow awardees and talk about film making, what we have learned and how we are going forward. More of this follows in more depth tomorrow morning.

Although all of this is wonderful, it absolutely helps that the hotel room has a great view (even at 10pm last night), the sun is shining and that we are all about to gather for dinner.

The journey home on Thursday will take in Glencoe… prepare for breathtaking images!