Digital dining

After a joint chat with Sue Northrop and Philly Hare, Digital Dining is ready to go!

The idea came from the Inverness Deep gathering, when people living with dementia highlited the loneliness and isolation of eating alone and the desire to keep connected with each other since making such strong bonds.

Philly & Sue applied for funds and were successful with a pot of money from DEEP to work with us in the Western Isles.

We will shortly be receiving a tablet computer and software licence in order to start this important work and who knows where it could lead?

All about carers

Yesterday was all about carers!

As well as our first Me Time day at An Lanntair, Paula spoke at this event at Western Isles Hospital not once but twice!

Fantastic comment from Karen, Speech & Language Therapist.. ‘This work is so advanced! It’s what I’ve been waiting for!’ and ‘I love the collaboration work, like the vinyl.’

Also from Elizabeth Shelby ‘It’s so interesting, the research work.’

Others promised to come and check out the Tuesday Ceilidh on Erisort Ward – Tommy said ‘I’ve been, it was great!’

No pictures… camera battery died. There’s a lovely group photo on Tommy Whitelaw’s twitter @tommyntour 

Me Time!

We had such an inspirational day yesterday at An Lanntair for our first Me Time session with Calum Watson.

Calum wowed us with pay rates for television writing, entertained us with his hilarious short film ‘Six Tenners and a Soprano’, enlightened us as to the format of soap writing, how to pitch to a film company, and we had the amazing opportunity to look at scripts from the film we screened, plus from big, current television dramas such as Casualty.

Calum is so very knowledgeable and a trusted industry writer. It was a joy to spend time with him in our Me Time and I think we were all inspired to write by his session.

Dig out those pens, people! One episode could pay your way for a year!

Me Time is funded by Wm Grant Foundation and Life Changes Trust. It is a project for past and present carers to focus on new art skills and togetherness.

A wee dram…in Cinematic Form


A wee dram, choc ices and popcorn were the snacks of choice at a local care centre, for our wonderful Hostess Bella for our Arora Film Club today. The residents had their own drinks, of course, and we provided soft drinks, fruit and fruit juice lollies for everyone behaving themselves.

We found the music and singing very entertaining and sang along quite a lot. There was a fair amount of heckling from the back seats too, at the grumpy mother, salutes to the military men and giggling and tutting at the shenanigans.

We picked our next Hostess and film and we might be back next week…we might be magnificent, we might not be women, and we might have airborne machinery!




A giant jigsaw

While we wait for the go ahead from the NHS team to install the Alex Boyd/DEEP vinyl on Erisort Ward at Western Isles Hospital, we took the opportunity to play jigsaw with the pieces in the Gallery at An Lanntair today.

Check our our lovely Donald for scale… this vinyl is on an immense scale to give the impression of being in the landscape.

And what a landscape! The hills of home, what a fitting name for the DEEP project.

Hanks for the Visit

Hanks for the visit
It was quiet in the wee lounge when I paid an unscheduled visit today, some of the ladies were having a nap. As I popped my head around the door, I was spotted and invited in. I could not resist a blether, a song and a tune or two on the box.
Today several of my songs were new to the group and the lyrics brought about, great hilarity. What is it about group laughter? One fuels the other. I listened to the laughter and wondered whether the staff thought. What is going on in there? The funny macaronic songs were a hit. I Once had a Girlfriend that came from Cromore and When I went to Glasgow first a mach a Tir nam Beann.
One singing giggling lady had a visitor and swithered about leaving the room. A lady visitor from the street then took her armchair and joined in the song circle. This time it was the evergreen Lovely Stornoway with the chorus Ied by the very lady she had come to visit. Another resident, who never sits for long and seems to sit to one side of the main group, joined us the minute there was an empty seat. She laughed when the rest laughed, relaxed, became a member of the gang and stayed seated for a good half hour.

There were only six armchairs in the wee lounge and as I passed on the way to the water fountain, I realised two ladies had come to sit in the hallway outside the room. One of them addressed me “There was only one song there I did not have. And the title of that other one was actually MacDonald’s First visit to Glasgow. What about my brothers favourite, as she launched into Eilean Beag Donn a’ Chuain”

After the singsong in the wee lounge, I went to see a lady who had participated in the group session the day we had brought the spinning wheel and the different colours of Harris Tweed. I had extended both my arms wrapped in a Harris wool hank and she had promptly began to wind it around her fingers and made a ball, as I swayed left to right feeding the yarn into her capable hands.
I had thought of her yesterday when I discovered a hank of reddy brown wool on my loft. When I enquired about her whereabouts today I was told “She is in her room knitting”. Turns out this lady not only knits furiously, she has her own stall when they have a Care Centre Sale of Work. So my hunch had been bang on, but what I only realised on our second meeting was that she was unable to communicate vocally.
After introducing myself, I examined the hank in my hands. In the company of an experienced knitter I was not going to pull and break the crosswise thread which keeps the hank together in transit. I had several attempts at opening the knot on the bands, on admitting defeat I just extended my hank covered arms towards her, one tug and they were unravelled and we were away, making balls of the reddy brown hank.
If you have ever extended your arms with a hank of wool, you will allow me this. Some of my childhood insecurities came back, have I mixed up the loop putting it on my arm, did I lose concentration and has it slipped to one side. Am I extending my arms far enough, will it come unstuck if there is a snag in the wool loop?
Well we had a sticky start, but the lovely silent lady studied and deftly gave the wool a sharp tug and occasionally would thread the wee ball through the strands. And we were off. She motioned to me about the size of the ball, was it big enough, should she start another ball. The shared understanding of workable ball size helped me to communicate. Yes. She would measure the width of the hank with her fingers and I could see what she was planning. It was a huge hank and we got five equally sized balls.
As I swayed back and forth feeding the line of wool I sang work-songs, mouth music and whatever else came to my lips. By this time I could not stop singing, having spent an hour and a half in the wee lounge. I tried some funny Gaelic stories from her part of the island and by the humorous twinkle in her eye I knew I was speaking her language in more sense than one.
Searching for a poly bag in her drawer when we finished, her face lit up with the joy of a creative knitter when I said the wool was now hers. I will be going to the Bethesda Shop tomorrow to see if there are any hanks, not balls no thanks, just hanks.

August Newsletter (including July)

This is the Arora Dementia Friendly Community at An Lanntair Newsletter for August, including all the news from July.

August and beyond

ME TIME AND ART CEILIDHS – at An Lanntair, inspired by the work in the Uists.

We have been working on some new sessions at An Lanntair, in the Art Room, where we are booking some of our best and most current local Artists (and some visiting Artists) to work with us on a drop-in or stay-all-day basis. You can stay all day from 10.30-3.30 and enjoy a light lunch in the cafe bar of soup or a sandwich and a soft drink or tea/coffee, or you can just drop in for an hour or two. These are taster days to try out new art forms, such as basket weaving, quilting, writing stories or poetry or scripts, learning the guitar, learning to dance, print making. The idea is to see what everybody enjoys and to try out which times and days are best, and where the sessions are most needed. We are very happy to take the sessions out to villages as needed.

The dates will be advertised on our Facebook page (please like and follow us, it’s @aroraanlanntair) along with the Artist for that session. They are mainly on Wednesdays, although some sessions for guitar and dance will not be on a Wednesday. They are split into two kinds of sessions called:

Me Time sessions for people with a caring role (and this is very flexible – it might be that a family member lives with you and this time and space to learn new art forms and skills is valuable to you – the person you care for might like to come with you…or not).


Art Ceilidhs for people who would welcome additional support to participate in art and crafting classes. If you have someone you would like to bring for support – a friend, a family member or a more formal carer, please do, but you are equally welcome to come by yourself and meet new friends.

These Me Time sessions for people who are caring are available in North Uist and South Uist with Margaret Joan MacIsaac (who has been putting some kits together in print making for people to try at home). Inspired by Margaret Joan’s work, we have booked sessions in to An Lanntair and Duncan on Barra has been working on a similar set of events there. Me Time sessions are funded by Wm Grant Foundation and Life Changes Trust. Art Ceilidhs are funded by Life Changes Trust.

Kate has been working on Art Ceilidhs at Caraidean Uibhist, which has inspired our Art Ceilidhs at An Lanntair, and these continue each month, see facebook for details.

Birds on the Ward

Gill Thompson will continue to work with people on Erisort and Clisham wards to create bird collages to print for the ward memory garden.


Maggie Smith, Louise Davidson and myself went to Harris House for a little dance session last week. We are returning on 2nd October, in order to work on more cultural dance with traditional songs and tunes, plus waulking songs movements and Maggie’s reminiscence and cultural movement. We have been funded by DEEP (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) to continue this dance work and to create a short film to support activities teams to continue and develop this work.

Ward Ceilidh

The ward ceilidh on Erisort ward continues weekly, on a Tuesday from 2-3pm.


Arora Film Club

There is a monthly film club at An Lanntair on the first Weds of the month.

Hosted film clubs continue, where requested.

The NHS Ward Arora Film Club will get started as soon as we can organise that with NHS staff.

Tommy Whitelaw – is coming back on 30th August, Paula is presenting the project at the event in the morning and afternoon.


DEEP vinyl project – at NHS Western Isles Stornoway – Erisort Ward – the final three images have been cropped to size by Alex Boyd and I have them printed ready to show around the hospital one last time on Thursday 10th August. The reason for this is in case the images do not look quite the same when cropped to suit the shape of the wall where it will be installed. We felt it important to show people exactly what the image will look like, installed on the wall, and the final selection will be ordered later on this day. The celebration event will take place on 30th August. Install will take place when all teams are ready. Paul Thomas is coming to visit on 16th August, there may even be an impromptu ceilidh on a ward somewhere….if we twist his arm 🙂


At St Brendan’s, Castlebay – Duncan has been working with people at St Brendan’s Care Centre in Castlebay to create a framed, personal image of an important place on Barra for the room of each person, plus a large image for the entryway of the care centre.

At Benbecula, Kate has been working with the team there to look at how to support people in hospital to feel inspired to eat and the vinyl image will be based around the comforting images of home, the dining area etc.

Reminiscence work

Maggie has undertaken some interviews about memory recently, working towards our final publications and exhibitions for the April show.

Kate has been working with people at Trianaid and Sacred Heart on reminiscence sessions, more will be uploaded to the blog shortly – she has been busy cycling from Barra to Ness, testing out a yarn bombing exercise in preparation for the final show, again, in April 18.

Duncan has been working with the Men’s group at Cobhair Bharriagh, as well as offering many ceilidhs across the island and joining in a session in South Uist at Sacred Heart with Margaret Joan and Kate.

Digital Dining

Our digital dining partnership work with Dementia Friendly East Lothian continues with a conference call booked for the end of the month.

11th September is a busy day for the project! Jon and Paula are heading for Perth for the Life Changes Trust gathering.

Andy Lowndes from Playlist for Life has planned a session with Maggie in the An Lanntair Auditorium on 11th September in the afternoon. Come along and learn all about Playlist for Life and how you can get involved! It’s free. Times to be announced, check our facebook (@aroraanlanntair).

AND RECENTLY….Looking back over the past month

We have supported the Erisort Ward Tuesday Ceilidh, we screened Arora Film Clubs with Whisky Galore, as a refresher for the new release film and For Your Eyes Only, in tribute to Roger Moore.

The team has been working on Intelligent Textiles through Lucy Robertson, a PhD student of Duncan of Jordanstoun. She has been looking at supporting Gaelic for carers and supporting people with more advanced dementia to settle towards the evening and to be creative with colour and light. She has been working with local textiles at Uist Wool.

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Kate has been working on the Feis at North Uist. She was working with Dawn Susan, completing the work funded in part by Remoage, intergenerationally sharing weaving and rope making techniques, which we started at Iochdair School in South Uist earlier this year. Being a teacher, Kate is particularly qualified for her post as Intergenerational Artist Practitioner, and as you will all know, her post was funded in part by Alzheimer Scotland, Lewis & Harris Branch, as well as by Life Changes Trust.

Speaking of intergenerational working, Paula has just completed the International Certificate in Intergenerational Working online.

The Memory Boxes have made their way to Barra on a bakery van, via Heb Haulage and via staff relay transport efforts on a ferry. We have two memory boxes so far, a crofting box and a sensory box for people more advanced with sensory needs. They have been launched in Benbecula, South Uist, Barra and are about to be brought back to Stornoway for a launch via Taigh Chearsabhagh and Tarbert. We are working on a transport memory box as well as one for fishing and another for crafting, which will be filled with patterns, knitting and crochet supplies, knot making information, printmaking and many other craft opportunities. Watch out for more launch dates coming to Stornoway Library, Tarbert Library and Taigh Chearsabhagh. The library tablet computers are also available to borrow, much like a library book, from the libbrary service. The tablet computers are filled with local and archive film.

Gill Thompson has been working on Clisham and Eriosort ward with people to create bird collages to print for the Memory Garden. Her exhibition has recently been at An Lanntair and I think you can still catch some of her work at the Morven Gallery.


We are looking for volunteers to support maintaining the lovely Memory Garden at the NHS Western Isles hospital in Stornoway. Please get in touch with