An early start

The first job this morning, before 8am, was to measure the wall at Western Isles Hospital, where Alex Boyd’s vinyl will go.

I have shared the top 4 images and sent them to Alex for cropping to fit the shape of the wall and communicated with all involved.

I’m looking forward to seeing the images cropped up and as they would be on the wall.

Birds at the Ceilidh 

Gill Thompson came along to the Erisort Ward Ceilidh today and showed everyone the collage print work that she has been doing for the Memory Garden. We had a look at the process behind Gill’s print making. 

We made a blue tit print panel ready for preparation and inking by Gill.

Catch Gill’s exhibition at An Lanntair quickly as it is being taken down shortly.

There were six of us at the Ceilidh today and the home baking was gooseberry flapjack. 

Catching up with Kate

I had a lovely catch up with Kate today (Kate is such a force of nature, I do have to run to keep up with her 🙂 and we chatted about all of the brilliant work she has been doing across the Uists and Benbecula.

We chatted about the new carer Me Time art form ceilidhs, the post diagnosis work along the same lines, hospital vinyls, the Blar Buidhe vinyl project being in the Stornoway Gazette this week, Playlist for Life work coming up, the intelligent textiles, sound recording, reminiscence work, the memory boxes, dance, a digital link between Iochdair School and Sacred Heart Care Centre, Ceolas having a new dance officer, amongst many other things.

Kate has been cycling up from Barra  on a yarn bombed bicycle (by Gina) as a trial for a cycling event in April 18. Have a look at her fabulously adorned cycle!

Uist trip

Building on our research into assistive technology for people living with dementia we were visited recently by Sonic textile PHD student Lucy Robertson who spent a week with the Arora team in Lewis and Uist demonstrating the possibilities for combining textiles with sound. Visiting island artists such as Gina Macdonald and the amazing Uist wool we discussed ideas for developing technology alongside local textile skills, Gaelic culture and language, utilising the rich aural landscape of the archipelago. We explored the possibilities of using birdsong in combination with traditional and contemporary knits and how music and birdsong contain such strong and evocative memories for people, as well as being hardwired into the Gaelic language and culture (the Gaelic word for music ‘Ceol’ coming from a root origin meaning ‘the piping of birds’).

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Lucy Robertson demonstrating some of her sonic textile devices


Traditionally the different birds were said to say different things, the sound of their call made into a phrase – for example the grouse sais :

‘Laighibh! laighibh! laighibh! caomhnaibh, caomhnaibh bàrr an fhraoich,

chan fhaigh sibh gu la ach na fhuair sibh’

‘Lie down! Lie down! Lie down! Save, save the tips of the heather,

you won’t get any more until the day comes’

There are also Gaelic counting rhymes that imitate birdsong, weather lore and poetic imitations of birds such as the wild swan, that ‘sais’ – Guiliog ì! guiliog ò!

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An image from Dwelly’s Illustrated Gaelic dictionary

These cultural links all tie in with our reminiscence sessions and approach of person centred care – providing people living with dementia and their carer’s specific relevant, joyful and evocative sensory stimulation in the language of their choosing or in no verbal language at all, and instead combining touch, sound and other senses. This approach has proved valuable in previous sessions, developing our findings on ‘Hand memory’ and the use of combining sensory stimulation as a way of ‘reaching’ people.

We also put together ideas for a yarn bombed sponsored cycle ride through the archipelago from Barra to Lewis to coincide with our week long Symposium and events in April 2018. This would be sign posted throughout the route by knitted birds attached to fence posts along the way. Kate is currently trialling the idea, cycling up from Barra with a knitted addition to her bike made by Gina Macdonald, inspired by the crochet bike created by Jane Robertson and Lucy Robertson.

Jon Macleod


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Crochet Bike – Jane Robertson, Lucy Robertson

June Newsletter (into July)

Early in June, Kate Macdeonald worked with Angus Murray of Museum Nan Eilean to bring artefacts ‘things from home’ to two care homes in North and South Uist, bringing forth some wonderful recollections, such as:

‘A piggy was better than a bodach.’ and

‘They used to have accumulators to power the radio before the electricity came in the 1950s. They took the accumulators to Stornoway to charge them up.’

Tommy Whitelaw came to the Western Isles through Dementia Carer Voices on 31st May and moved up through the islands 1st and 2nd June to Lewis for the Memory Walk with Alzheimer Scotland. Margaret Joan met him first in South Uist and showed him the Memory Box, which he blogged on Dementia Carer Voices. Then Paula heard his emotional talk in Stornoway (many tears there!) and gave a talk about the project’s current work, and then sharing the Friday ceilidh, Alex Boyd’s projections and the opening of the Memory Garden, and finishing off at the Remoage session with him. What wonderful energy he brings to any event and to every heart.

We have been sharing the craft and food festival from An Lanntair with global and local foods  across the community. We showcased foods and drinks from Morocco (Mint tea), South Korea (Kimchi), Syria (Labneh and Halloumi), France (flognarde and Red Carmargue rice), England (Plum upside down cake), South Africa (Rooibos), Russia (Sharlotka), Belgium (Chocolate), USA (Wild rice and a New York Plum Torte), Italy (Antipasti), Venezuala (Arepas), Ireland (dulse), Orkney Beremeal (scones and bannocks) and and Western Isles Carrageen. We now have a big world map to place everywhere we have ‘been’ with our global food tour.

Our PhD student commenced conversations with Jon about Intelligent Textiles applications for the community here, supporting people with dementia with locally produced textiles which have added benefits in technology.

It was Dementia Awareness Week early in June

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Sat 3rd June – We supported Alzheimer Scotland Memory Walk as volunteers with a walk to the event and then celebrating 30 years of the branch with them.

Tues 6th June – We visited Norman and took more photographs of the DEEP Blar Buidhe Vinyl

Weds 7th June – We worked with Gill Thompson on Memory Garden Art with people at the hospital am, then pm – screening Arora Film Club at An Lanntair Pocket Cinema.  Please book with

13th June, travelled to Edinburgh with local people to the DEEP gathering. 14th was the event and travelled back on 15th.


Visit to Dementia Friendly East Lothian – Creativity Day!

Paula presented the project at the Creative Scotland/Care Inspectorate/Luminate/Art Works  talk in Edinburgh Care & Create 

Paula presented the DEEP image to Doing Dementia Differently in Stockport

Doing Dementia Differently

which led to a reflection on why should this be so different? Shouldn’t this be ‘how we do dementia‘?

Kate ran a session at Sacred Heart and Trianaid in North & South Uist, relating to Bàta – Sealastair / Iris Leaf Boats


Alex Boyd’s DEEP vinyl work has continued – we whittled down the images to a final 16 during June, ready for exhibit in the Hospital League of Friends Cafe in July.

There have been plenty of birds on the ward, over several sessions in June, courtesy of Gill Thompson, to create printed panels for the Clisham Memory Garden. Work continues throughout July.

We have screened Dambusters, by request this month at the Arora Film Club – Whisky Galore has been requested for July.

We did a Dementia Carer Voces Guest Blog  in June.

Maggie Smith has largely been working on other projects this month, as she is so valued in the Gaelic arts and tourism industries and projects. She will be working more on the project as her time becomes free-er, particularly with her Cultural Movement dance project.

We have been building the MeTime carers project with Margaret Joan MacIsaac, craft and creativity based support as people feel appropriate with their caring roles. This is funded in part by the William Grant Foundation.

Jonhas been working on our final Conference/exhibitions for April 18 and he is also working on Intelligent Textiles and further exciting developments with the Woven Communities work.

Every Tuesday 2-3pm, there has been a ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital and Duncan Mackinnon and Kate Macdonald have been working on music, reminiscence and crafting sessions for Barra and Benbecula hospitals, at Caidean Uibhiist, at Cobhair Bharraigh and other venues across the islands (inculding ceilidhs at home).


Arora Film Club has been developing across the community with hosted films, hospital screenings, and screenings in care centres. Watch out for posters of the next events in the venues.


Alex Boyd’s final 16 images have been displayed for voting at the League of Friends Cafe at Western Isles Hospital since Monday 10th July.

03 Uig landscape copy

We have been successful with TWO funding pots from DEEP – one is in connection with Dementia Friendly East Lothian and this is relating to Digital Dining, a project requested by people living with dementia at the Inverness DEEP gathering.

The second pot is to develop our dance project with Maggie’s Cultural Movement and Louise’s dance sessions, relating to research on positive brain patterns along with movement.

Duncan has been working on a vinyl image for Castlebay, St Brendan’s Care Centre. This is most likely to be the image, if image quality works out well. 


There are more print sessions relating to birds around Clisham Ward and Gill Thompson is exhibiting at Anm Lanntair right now. 

We have been selected as a case study for a Luminate publication on creative aging, which we are thrilled about.


Ceilidhs and cakes, reminiscence, crafting and film screenings continue across the Uists, Benbecula and Barra. See Duncan, our Barra Boy accordion player in action here! This was at South Uist.

Kate held a reminiscence session about pebbles.

Our Intelligent Textiles project work started in earnest, alongside the Feis in North Uist last week. Dawn Susan worked on rope making and twining techniques with schools and care centres, along with KJate Macdonals, Margaret Joan and Jon Macleod, who took Lucy Robertson, our PhD student, along to see Uist Wool, plus meet the team and gather ideas and inspirations for creating relevant pieces of interactive textiles to support people living with more advanced dementia across the islands.

Maggie has helpd more sessions relating to Cultural Movement in Care Centres.

Later in July, the final two images from Alex Boyd will be passed around the hospital for a final vote on which one will be selected for the wall to be made into a large scale vinyl for Erisort Day Room.

We will have more dance sessions from Louise, starting at Harris House. We will also be visiting Harris House later in the month to commence a fishing memory box.

Duncan on Barra is working on a Transport Memory Box with Andy Hyde of Upstream.

The original two memory boxes are being launched on Barra right now, after being launched in Benbecula Library, in the KJ Macdonald Pharmacy window during Dementia Awareness Week and tested out at Sacred Heart Care Centre in South Uist. After a launch in Barra with Duncan, they will come back to Leverburgh and Tarbert via North Uist, where Margaret Joan will launch them in Taigh Chearsabhagh before they make their way back to Stornoway to go out on the mobile library buses.

The Library Service continues to load archive film and more recent local film on to the Tablet Computers we are collaborating with the Library on.

On 19th July, at 2pm, there is a writing workshop in An Lanntair’s Community Room, relating to reminiscence around cinema.  Let Paula know if you want to come along.

On 26th July, Andy Hyde from Upstream is visiting us for a walk around Stornoway Airport with people living with dementia to see what we think of accessibility and signage for people living with dementia.

On 27th July, Carers High Tea with Alzheimer Scotland is at An Lanntair at 5.30pm, please book with Alzheimer Scotland, Bells Road.

Later this month, our MeTime Carers project starts with monthly creative and crafting sessions across the islands. I will list the events on facebook as they are confirmed.

Please check our facebook for new event listings – Arora An Lanntair.



Lewis & Uist

Have a look at this blog (Source: Lewis & Uist) from Lucy Robertson. She has been funded to work with us at Arora on Intelligent Textiles through her PhD work since she graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in 2013.

We are thrilled that Lucy is working with us and with people living with dementia in our community, as well as with local textile and raw materials producers in order to create innovative and relevant, interactive items to support people living with more advanced dementia.

Jon is going to be publishing a blog about this work shortly, and there will be images and words from the rest of the team involved.

Blog link to Lucy’s blog about her initial trip here: Lewis & Uist


Recently we were reminiscing with pebbles at Sacred Heart and Trianaid Care Homes…

I’ve got one like that I collected on the beach and I keep it on the windowsill here

We collected colourful shells, filled a bottle and then put a light in the top

Remember the shell bus?

When people went on holiday they used to bring her back shells from all over the world

Me and her Granddaughter used to gather the shells for her

A cowrie is a ‘faighdeag’

I remember someone who used to collect pebbles and she had a machine to cut them and polish them up

We never learnt to swim, we were all told to keep away from the water that it wasn’t safe

I like the smooth ones


The rocks at the back of Heisger they’re very unusual


Which one do you think is heavier?




With lime or rhubarb.

Spread it out on the ground, they say you should leave it out for at least one rain shower to wash off the salt and then once it’s dry you collect it.

It’s the best thing for you. 


Yes I grew that in the garden

It smells lovely

It’s strong

Bog Cotton

Canach- leathann that’s what we called it 

 Ragged robins…they’re my favourite.

 Honeysuckle and wild grasses

You can pick that down by the loch on the corner and the smell just hits you first and then you see it.

Ceilidh & Cake

Last month (Wednesday 14th June), Duncan MacKinnon from Barra came across meeting Margaret Joan and myself for a visit to Sacred Heart Care Home. We shared a great afternoon with the residents. There were tunes, singing and dancing. Request of the day was a ‘Scottishe’ with enthusiastic cheers! Margaret Joan took the beautiful black and white photos during Duncan’s visit.

Left hand side: Duncan

Right hand side: Don

Following on from this Duncan organised for his friend and fellow musician Don (Eriskay Lilt) to come along to play some tunes and have another wee ceilidh at Sacred Heart this week. (Wednesday 13th July) On request Don played Shetland reels, Wild Mountain Thyme, Auld Lang Syne and plenty of ceilidh dance tunes in between. Don had the whole room up dancing, a wonderful afternoon. We had lovely cupcakes with strawberries on top!


I never missed a dance at Iochdar.

I would never say no to music – never ever, ever,ever!


Luminate Publication

Luminate Scotland has commissioned a report into Creative Ageing in Scotland and we have been selected a s a case study to highlight the excellent work happening across the country.

Naturally, we are thrilled to be chosen for such wonderful illumination on our work but in addition, this could be a very powerful publication to gain government support for this work and it is a fantastic opportunity to see our work through the Arts Journalist lens of Andrew Eaton Lewis and his perspective, pulling together the threads of excellence in Creative Ageing across Scotland.

I had a lovely conversation with Andrew on the telephone this morning and I’m looking forward to meeting him over the next couple of weeks, when he comes to Lewis.




Gill Thompson Exhibition

If you have been intrigued by the work on Clisham Ward that we have  been doing with Gill Thompson, come and have a look at her Exhibition at An Lanntair’s cafe bar right now.

Gill’s work celebrates the landscape and flora/fauna of the islands and was selected for the Memory Garden work for the beautiful birds she creates. 

At the Arora project, we share the work and skills of current Artists in a broad sweep of media, in order to reach people living with dementia at all stages on a personal level and to facilitate communication and self expression.