Spinning at the Tuesday Ceilidh

Almost all of us had a go at spinning at the ward ceilidh at Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, today. Some of us were better than others!  ‘Some’ perhaps being a Minister in Carloway, who was amazing and ‘others’ being myself, and nobody could have knitted anything with what I produced, which wasn’t much as I even managed to reverse the wheel a few times!

Chris Hammacott patiently taught us how to spin with extremely good humour. I actually found it hilarious how rubbish I was at spinning, but I can’t be good at everything, now, can I?

We tucked in to a seasonal blackberry cake, teas and coffees and chatted about where we live and who we know.

I brought along some seasonal squashes from the Veggie Box stall in town, too. We passed them around along with Chris’s gorgeous yarn and fleece from her Hebridean sheep. There was much sniffing of yarn and fleece, everyone seemed to enjoy that. The smell of the blanket woven from yarn ends from tweeds, too.

Chris looked right at home, spinning next to Alex Boyd’s image of the abandoned croft house at Balallan. The gentle sound of the spinning wheel hummed along with the chatter, which is always a friendly and welcoming feature of the Tuesday Ceilidh.

5 people from the wards, two staff members, Ellie from Alzheimer Scotland and a volunteer joined myself and Chris Hammacott for the session, along with three visitors, making 13 people today.

Me Time Textiles

On Weds 25th Nov, Chris Hammacott led a Me Time day at An Lanntair with textiles projects. Two people came along and stayed all day, enjoying a lovely lunch at An Lanntair’c cafe bar and two people dropped in for a chat and to see what it was like before arranging to come to the next one.

Chat included driving buses, a shared home island of Aran, varying degrees of girliness, a few Gaelic songs even made their way across the room. We chatted about caring at times and it was noted that one striking thing about these days is the ‘drop in or stay all day’ approach, being helpful for caring roles.

I started a sensory cushion, plus we had two bedside table mats completed and the front of a cockerel cushion was neatly stitched.

Chris displayed many of her colourful art pieces on the walls and these provided a literal backdrop for the day.


Cultural Movement in Tarbert

Friday afternoon saw traditional music and playful movement taking place at Harris House in Tarbert.

Cathy came along and was the star of the show, leading a beautiful rendition of ‘Eilidh’ and dancing for over an hour with residents, Louise Davidson and Maggie Smith.

Maggie played her Melodeon and sang with residents. Louise had traditional music on her ipod and she created playful movements and engaging dance related cultural ceilidh style movement, based on the participants responses.

Immediately, one lady was enthusiastically shaking her shakers, waving scarves and encouraging everyone to enjoy the session fully.

In the spirit of Harris Ceilidhs, Louise joined scarves to pass around and move together, as a nod to the tradition of linking hands and to make it easier for everyone to participate, according to variations in grip and proximity to each other.

Every person participated, some only for a little while but every person joined in.

Enthusiastic whoops came from the corner, the bright colours of the scarves caught the eye of those with partial sight, the music engaged everyone and the singing especially. One lady came through towards the end, and although unable to open her eyes, she smiled at the music and one of the staff supported her to hold and feel the shaker in her hand.

There was a more traditional ceilidh at the end, with people piping up with remembered fragments of songs that we all hummed or sang to as we remembered what we knew.

I wore spotty shoes by way of visual cue but I needn’t have worried as the scarves were so colourful! My own scarf became envious and had to join in with the rest in the tying up and being passed around session.

We all had a thorough workout and I’m still exhausted!

The DEEP funded dance sessions are coming to Dun Berisay care centre shortly.


Cyanotype Glasses

We were fortunate to have the pleasure of photographer Mhairi Law’s company all day on Thursday 26th October.

We spent some time in the morning at Dun Eisdean Care Centre in Stornoway, working on cyanotypes. The image of the day was the playful print of a lady’s glasses.

The session was very playful and the instant reaction of the (safe) chemicals under UV light in Mhairi’s light box was immensely welcomed. We were able to wash and present the images back to residents immediately.

We also printed feathers for the memory of so many feathers on the croft, and another lady wanted to print snowflakes. Mhairi had a little boat, which left ghostly images as though it was sailing in fog. Very appropriate for the season!

We passed around and discussed Mhairi’s collection of images created with cyanotype process, salt printing and albumen printing. The abstract prints were discussed with curiosity and the more recognisable prints such as hands and nets were instantly picked up and enjoyed.

Mhairi experimented with different colour papers this time and we were able to leave two completed trays of A5 prints behind. I’ll drop some frames around, shortly, for them.

Comments included:

‘well, you think there is nothing new under the sun, don’t you? And then this…’
‘so it’s like an x-ray?’
‘oh it’s a fishing net, he is mending it, I see his hand’
‘we had so many feathers on the croft, for brushing, for stuffing pillows and cushions…’
‘I can’t see the pictures, you are printing my glasses! I can’t see! (giggle)’
‘I enjoyed that’

Photography Walk

We held our first photography walk on Thursday afternoon (26th October). The idea is to support people with getting outside and to support a sense of place, belonging and self by reconnecting people with much loved landscapes through a photographer, in order to achieve some top quality images, which could be used to personalise spaces, or simply to offer a daily reconnection.

Mhairi Law supported Bella to image the pier at Point. The film images will arrive in a couple of weeks but in the meantime, I took a few shots of the process of Bella and Mhairi working together.

Bella took some images with Mhairi’s support and Mhairi took images of Bella enjoying a quiet moment, reconnecting with the sea.

The sun shone, the sea sparkled, the sand dazzled. It was a lovely trip. We met a couple of dogs on a walk, too, which prompted lots of conversations about dogs and walks.

The Power of Spontaneity

At Chris Hammacott’s textiles session last week, Cathy asked about my plans for the week and mentioned that she hadn’t been to Harris in a long while, when I mentioned the dance session coming up at Harris House.

I was, because of the nature of this work, able to agree that we would go together.

We set out for Tarbert on sunny Friday 27th October and had to stop to take some photographs on the way. Aren’t Cathy’s pictures wonderful? I had no idea what they would be like until I uploaded them to the laptop and sent them on to her. I took some images of the moment, myself, by way of diarising the day.

I’m so grateful that Cathy came along – you will see in a new post and set of images shortly just how valuable Cathy’s contribution to the dance day was. And of course, these images serve as a powerful memento.

I’m also immensely grateful for the spontaneity that this project allows me. The freedom to say ‘yes’ is overwhelmingly important for me to be able to effectively support people in the moment.

I love the purple ray of light, too, invisible through the lens at the time. It’s as though it was pointing out the value of one person. You. You are important. You are going to make some peoples’ day in a short while. Thank you for coming.

This moment and the moments that followed wouldn’t have happened without the freedom to be spontaneous. Thank you to Life Changes Trust, to DEEP and to An Lanntair for the power of spontaneity.


NB: DEEP funded dance project session at Harris House, my time and all the knowledge gained through the project funded by Life Changes Trust and everything else by An Lanntair.

Printmaking with Gill Thompson 18th Oct

On Weds 18th October, we held an Art Ceilidh day at An Lanntair in the art room.

You may have seen the current exhibition of Gill’s evening class students’ work in the Mezzanine Gallery at An Lanntair – this was a supported day to try Gill’s techniques out for free, funded by Life Changes Trust and the William Grant Foundation under our Me Time set of projects to support people with unpaid caring roles by offering supported sessions and relaxed days to drop in or stay all day and try working with current artists for free.

Gill walked us through creating a lino cut print from start to finish and then talked about the different inks available and how long they take to dry.

We had a go at printing one of Gill’s designs to start with and then worked on our own designs drawing them, or tracing them, then using a white transfer paper to mark the tile surface to guide our cuts. We experimented with different tools and pressures.

There were a few Christmas cards, wrapping bags, tags because of the season but there was also a glorious two-colour floral card created, which was to be used as a beautiful, incredibly personal condolence card.

Comments from the day included
‘I can’t believe it, how good it is turning out!’
‘I made that!’
‘It’s brilliant, isn’t it?’
‘I didn’t think mine would turn out so good’
‘I’ll give this card to my Grandson, hand made by Granny!’

Throughout the day, we had ten people participate, plus some children after their dance show next door. Bellann from the Volunteer Centre came along, Kelly-Anne from Tagsa Uibhist, George Pazio, our Post Diagnostic nurse and the morning and afternoon sessions were equally busy, with three people staying for lunch.

Have a look at our creations!

Installing the Erisort DEEP vinyl

Here we are getting some hand hygiene training and a work permit to install the vinyl that people in hospital created with Alex Boyd

Roddy and Donald did an excellent job with the installation , supervised and assisted by the fantastic Murdo Finlay.

This vinyl was funded by DEEP and it is going to be extremely supportive to everyone in hospital but especially to people with more advanced dementia.

Living an outdoor life, wanting to feel ‘outside’ in the landscape has been a strong theme throughout conversations for this project.

I have already noticed people sitting, looking ‘out’. 

Promotion will happen through the NHS Western Isles Communication team shortly.

Thanks to everyone involved, including everybody in hospital past and present, the NHS team, An Lanntair team, DEEP for funding this project work, Alex Boyd for his gentle and sensitive approach to the work, Life Changes Trust for funding our staff time and expenses, to the printers and to everyone who supported us.