How we do dementia

I was thinking today about how sad it is that ‘doing dementia differently’ has to be so different. 

This kind of togetherness, community, people with dementia taking the lead and communicating how it feels, should be how we do dementia, together.

The ‘othering’ of people living with dementia needs to stop. We are our community, all of us. 

This project work through An Lanntair has found that art can support people to have a voice when words fail. Dance and expressive movement is communication. Colour working an image to highlight the important aspects is communication. Singing, laughing along to a film, gathering at a Ceilidh and smiling at the person across the room, it’s all language. Life story work expressed in quilted form, sharing how to twine a rope or mend a net, or knit. It’s all communication and language. 

Our project work and the work in Stockport, the work of Life Changes Trust, DEEP and many, many other incredible projects across the UK are doing dementia differently but my sincere hope is that this will become not so different in time, that it will become just ‘how we do dementia’, together.

Doing dementia differently 

Last night, Rachel Niblock from DEEP and myself were honoured and moved to be able to show the Lazy Corner image to the wonderful people gathered at Stockport Plaza for the annual Doing Dementia Differently event.

The event was put together by the brilliant Mark Perry and featured the work of the YODEL group and allotment (young onset dementia enjoying life) and Singing for the Brain group, the incredible intergenerational choir, the drop in group, Educate, plus there were incredible poetry readings and informative films as part of the evening.

People living with dementia clearly lead the work here and they, in turn, shared with us what the projects mean to them.

It was a very emotional night. The poetry was immensely moving. The singing was heavenly and I sang along loudly and joyfully until the final song ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Oh my, how relevant this was. Everyone on stage holding hands and singing such incredible words, holding hands together. ‘Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.’ I was gone, I couldn’t sing the words, I was so choked up.

There was a surprise finale of Let’s Twist Again, with some gorgeous young dancers on the stage, together with a wonderful gentleman showing his best moves but the star of the show was the lady dancing in the aisle with her daughter, after being part of the gorgeous choir. I have no idea how she found the energy but she was by far the best dancer!

And all of this in Stockport’s Art Deco theatre, the Plaza, lovingly restored by a community of volunteers. How appropriate.

Well done to everyone. It was wonderful to finally meet Rachel after she has spent so much time retweeting our project tweets!


DEEP Gathering in Edinburgh


On Tues 14th June, the DEEP gathering was on in Edinburgh and I (Paula) helped out with facilitation.

We arrived late on Monday night after a long day travelling and met with Agnes Houston, Paul Thomas, James McKillop and had a quick drink and planning session that ended at almost midnight and headed up for bed.


The next morning, we had an interesting detour around Cowgate via Greyfriars and old Edinburgh while we realised that the road we were walking along was actually underneath the one we wanted but as Agnes helpfully pointed out, we would never have seen the amazing Cowgate wall sculpture or mural without going this way. A quick taxi ride took us to Edinburgh Festival Theatre and we spent some time setting up and making up packs for the people coming along.

Around 40 people arrived over the next hour or so and enjoyed coffee/tea and breakfast in the cafe bar area before coming through and having a wonderful welcome from Philly Hare, Paul and Agnes.

I took along the DEEP poster of the Lazy Corner image we did with Norman at Blar Buidhe Care Centre in Stornoway. Everybody loved it when I told the story of how it was funded, the questions I brought to the DEEP gathering in Inverness and the process of conversations and decisions, designed colourwork and collaboration that took place before it could be printed.


We had a quick introduction session and made some notes about what is important to us and then talked about that as a group.

We took a group photograph and I took a little snap when everyone broke away from it for tea and cake.

The incredible SEWA group from Derby sang a gorgeous song they have composed about memory, everyone loved that. A very emotional song but performed with joy!

There was a little ceilidh in the foyer at the end of the day, Paul played and sang and there was plenty of dancing! Cathy couldn’t make this gathering, so all of her friends made her a little video to say hello.

Everyone planned what to do with a pot of funding, which was agreed to be spent on more gatherings. Community, friendship and togetherness were strong themes throughout the day. Archie invited everyone to the Western Isles 🙂

Well done to everyone who came along, planned and worked so hard to make this happen and thanks to all of the funders and organisations involved. It felt powerful in the theatre. Strong. And joyful.


Birds on the ward


Today, Gill Thompson came along to Clisham Ward, Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, and made a start on the art pieces for the Memory Garden with one gentleman, respecting his interest in birds.

Gill showed us an ink plate that she has used to make prints for cards (see below) and showed how it feels with the relief and recess on the plate.

She came up with a jigsaw collage method of creating a tactile bird relief image, which the gentleman was able to stick down with Gill and he spent some time feeling around the outline of the bird and the way the beak and legs felt.

The way that Gill tests her print relief images is to make a rubbing from them before printing, and this is what we did with the bird shapes, in order to leave something behind on the ward while Gill works on the next stage (Robins to work with a lady who said she really likes them).

The gentleman had a little session drawing some grass and making a rubbing with a brown wax crayon, which created a new kind of rubbing image, which he was then able to admire against his book of birds.

A member of staff laminated the images and put them up on the wall.

Gill will return in around a week with the next set of birds to work with another lady and when the birds are complete, they will be used to make digital print images of shoreline, moorland and garden birds, which will be printed on weatherproof board for the garden (see Gill’s sketch).





Today’s Dementia Friendly screening was Dambusters, by special request.

12 of us enjoyed tea/coffee and soft drinks along with cake and good company in An Lanntair’s Pocket Cinema on the third floor.

‘The quality of it was really good, has it been remastered?’
‘It’s so nice to get out and it’s such a nice day.’
‘Oh hello! How are you? (we were school friends, you know! Many years ago).’
“I enjoyed that.’
‘Thanks very much”
‘Same day next month?’
‘Ooh chocolate!’
That looks nice, thank you.’
‘No singalong today with this film!’

were some of the comments and more requests for future screenings came forward.

One lady (who loves music very much) was conducting the theme tune and waving her hands in perfect time at each musical interlude, finishing with a sweeping flourish at the end of the music.

More films are being screened across the Uists and Barra – also in hospitals and care centres so watch out for Arora Film Club posters.



Alex Boyd’s DEEP work continues

Since Alex Boyd’s projections and Smart Screen slide show on Friday, where we all had an opportunity to  have a first look at his images, taken in response to feedback from everyone on the wards at Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, I printed the images in A3 size to have a look at during today’s Hospital Ceilidh on Erisort Ward.

The next step will be to laminate them and show them around everyone to see what they think of the images and record thoughts, feedback and selections in order to come up with a top ten image selection. These top ten images will be showcased on a board within the hospital for patients to select from, whether they are coming for outpatient appointments or whether they are in hospital long or short term. There will be a simple voting and feedback system.

The favourite image will then be printed as a vinyl image for the wall on Erisort Ward day room.

Today’s ceilidh was a very personal one for a lady in hospital enjoying the full attention of her lovely daughter and the staff team that came along. Some sessions have fifteen people, some six or seven, some sessions have one or two but this is the nature of hospital admissions – it depends who is well on the day.

Look out for our next Arora Film Club on the ward – we will set a regular day and time when we have spoken with everyone to see when they would most like it.

Visiting Norman

Jon Macleod (photographer on this DEEP project) and Ruaraidh Macleod (Graphic Designer responsible for the colour work) went to see the vinyl in place at Blar Buidhe Care Centre and to visit Norman today.

We had a sit down with Norman and we talked about Harbour History – Lazy Corner itself, Norman’s early seafaring days.

‘I started out with the Sea Cadets here in Stornoway. I passed out the year the Queen was crowned. 1952. I went to Portsmouth, to Victoria Barracks. It wasn’t the biggest one but I still think of the pals there sometimes, when I’m on my own. Aye, the Royal Navy, not the Merchant Navy.’

Jon brought up the subject of ‘flying boats’. Norman recalled, ‘Oh they were a sight as they took off, from the Quay the other side by the Castle. There was a big shed there for them. They took off in the early morning before anyone else in the harbour was about.’

‘We have some big tourist boats in now, it’s all changed, it’s dredged, the Harbour. Oh but it was back in the war, we had some big ships in then too.’

We went back out to admire the vinyl image again. There is so much to see in the image that there is often a bit of a traffic jam in the corridor as people slow down to have a good look, the care team all enthused.

‘It’s been so popular, such a talking point!’, said Manager, Peter. One gentleman moving some furniture in for a relative stopped and said to Norman ‘It’s really great that you have put something so very local in here.’


Tea in the Dayroom

Uist and Barra Hospital Dayroom

Earlier in May we held the first hospital ceilidh in the dayroom of the Uist and Barra hospital. Over the next few months we plan to hold some informal afternoon tea sessions in the day room to help support people (socially and through memory) during their stay in hospital. We hope to create a welcoming and relaxed environment where people can feel more at home. Through informal feedback from patients we are hoping to make small changes to the design of the dayroom to make this a more dementia friendly space and generally an inviting place for all with some homely touches.

I enjoy looking at these old photographs. It’s good to do something different – it makes life in hospital more interesting.

A lovely atmosphere.

It’s very cosy and welcoming.

(patients feedback from afternoon tea in the dayroom)



Sarah Jane (student nurse) has been taking part in the Arora hospital ceilidhs in Stornoway and is now also supporting the Arora Dayroom ceilidhs here too.

This month I took along local landscape photos, flowers, some iris leaves to make iris boats and other objects to reminisce with. The hospital put on a fantastic spread of delicious bakes and many of the patients and staff came along for a lovely afternoon of chats and reminiscing.


Bata Sealastair

Yes I remember – we did it like this with one bend and a slot further down. I like your method but it wasn’t the way we did it. I remember playing with them as a young boy – we had a lovely stream running down by the house. You can race with them. It’s no good if it ends up in the loch though.



That photo (Usinish Lighthouse) reminds me of a dog my brother once had. He was out on the boat and as he came ashore there to collect some plastic fish boxes that had washed up the dog jumped into the sea. Anyway they couldn’t get it to come back and they thought they had lost it. Then when they got home to Benbecula they saw something coming down the road at the house…it was the dog. It knew the way home.



Butter Making

It was the real thing. Gu dearbh.

The butter changed in taste as the year went on. In September it was very strong from the flowers the cows were eating on the Machair. I think it was from the yellow flowers but I’m not sure.

We had 5 or 6 cows and I had to milk them. My mother sold butter so we made an awful lot then. I got given a glass churn. Things were so different then, people worked so hard it wasn’t an easy time but still they just got on and did it.

Oh yes I was a good baker; scones, pancakes, shortbread, fruit loaves (they’re the popular ones now), sponges…oh anything at all. It’s just knowing how, and yes a good tin. The food here is fantastic. And what a spread, there is so much choice. I could knit too and sew. I made aprons like that one.